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The Whole Story of Climate

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Published on Nov 18, 2012

The Whole Story of Climate by E. Kirsten Peters. Published by Prometheus Books. I'm a geologist by training but a writer by inclination.
Since around 1850 the Earth has been getting generally warmer, except perhaps from the 1940s to the 1970s when the Northern Hemisphere cooled. The general warming trend is due at least in part to human activities, namely our burning of fossil fuels and associated production of greenhouse gases (GHGs). We've created a lot of GHGs. It would be amazing if they had NO effect on climate. But I also believe Earth history makes it clear that climate is always changing for natural reasons. In other words, even without people in the picture, climate right now would be getting warmer or cooler, wetter or drier, and doing so on both a regional and global level. Climate can also change on a dime! It can "flip" to a substantially different regime in as little as 10-20 years Because climate is going to change no matter our energy policies, we should reserve a good measure of our climate change dollars for efforts for adaptation. There's a lot of bad news when it comes to climate. Climate changes, both regionally and globally. It can do so rapidly and it can do so in ways that are detrimental to us and our interests. But there is one piece of good news about climate, and it's something geologists know about. We could reduce global GHG production by about 2% in a way you likely have not heard of and in a manner that would not harm the global economy. That fact hinges on unwanted coal fires that are burning around the world. They burn like forest fires, but year round. Some have been burning for decades. In total, they produce about as much carbon dioxide as is made by cars in the US each year. We could combat these fires, we have the technology. And doing so would not harm the still fragile global economy the way that taxes or caps on carbon would do.

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