Climate – Is our climate changing?

By Lucia Valente – September 2019

Recently Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate activist has received significant media coverage as she brings her activism to the US. She met with officials and spoke in Congress. The highlight was the demonstrations in cities across the world by young students. There is a movement afoot whereby students take Friday’s off school to demonstrate and protest against the lack of action on climate change. They want their voices and their concerns to be heard. Is that not a fundamental aspect of democracy?

There has been some negative commentary in the media about Greta Thunberg which is quite unfair. She is a young girl and yet she is making a powerful statement; taking a stand about the total lack of leadership by most governments on the vitally important issue of climate change.

There is a lot of debate as to the ‘reality’ of human impact on climate. Yet 99% of scientists state clearly – and these are reputable scientists – validate that the climate is changing and that we are causing it.

I have found it quite fascinating that people with a certain ideology and loud voices call this vital issue a ‘hoax’ and directly blame China for the ‘hoax.’

Several years ago, I had conversations with people who worked for the Fraser Institute in Canada and they were adamant of the hoax. What struck me was that none of these people are climate and research scientists. They believe that by stating their ‘views’ it makes it real. It reaffirmed that I must continue to read the reports from scientists and weigh up their findings. I wondered about such adamant statements that were so directly opposite to all my own readings and research. I took time to look into the Fraser Institute and discovered that much of their funding is from the Charles and David Koch and the oil Industry – all of whom have a vested interest in denial of climate change.

‘The Institute has received donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars[15] from foundations controlled by Charles and David Koch, with total donations estimated to be approximately $765,000 from 2006 to 2016.[16] It also received US$120,000 from ExxonMobil in the 2003 to 2004 fiscal period.[17] In 2016, it received a $5 million donation from Peter Munk, a Canadian businessman.[18]

In 2012, the Vancouver Observer reported that the Fraser Institute had “received over $4.3 million in the last decade from eight major American foundations including the most powerful players in oil and pharmaceuticals”. According to the article, “The Fraser Institute received $1.7 million from ‘sources outside Canada’ in one year alone, according to the group’s 2010 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) return. Fraser Institute President Niels Veldhuis told The Vancouver Observer that the Fraser Institute does accept foreign funding, but he declined to comment on any specific donors or details about the donations.’

In my own readings I discover that climate science is extremely complex. The weather systems that govern our climate are exponentially intertwined, inter-related, variable, dynamically changing, longitudinal, unstable and chaotic. The issue is complex enough from the scientific viewpoint; let alone the climate deniers who create confusion and misinformation.

Read some of the scientific findings. Educate yourself – it all starts with taking time to be educated and read studies from credible scientists. I bias towards NASA scientists who I tend to believe do not have an agenda. Take time to understand the science:

NASA climate scientists issue reports along these lines:

‘The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.1

Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate. The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.2 Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.’

I love science and reading about research and scientific discoveries and climate science interests me for so many reasons; mainly because we have only one Earth and it’s our home. As Greta Thunburg says, ‘there is no planet B.’ And yet, we are so very destructive; we all share responsibility for this destruction.

The Earth Observing System era

‘Grace, one of NASA’s more recent Earth-observing missions, has revealed unexpectedly rapid changes in the Earth’s great ice sheets.

Fast forward to 2007, and NASA had 17 space missions collecting climate data. Today, it runs programs to obtain and convert data from Defense Department and NOAA satellites as well as from certain European, Japanese and Russian satellites. NASA also sponsors field experiments to provide “ground truth” data to check space instrument performance and to develop new measurement techniques.

Instruments on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites have provided the first global measurements of aerosols in our atmosphere, which come from natural sources such as volcanoes, dust storms and man-made sources such as the burning of fossil fuels. Other instruments onboard the Aura satellite study the processes that regulate the abundance of ozone in the atmosphere. Data from the GRACE and ICESat missions and from spaceborne radar show unexpectedly rapid changes in the Earth’s great ice sheets, while the Jason-3, OSTM/Jason-2 and Jason-1 missions have recorded a sea level rise of an average of 3 inches since 1992. NASA’s Earth Observing System’s weather instruments have demonstrated significant improvements in global forecast skill.

These capabilities — nearly 30 years of satellite-based solar and atmospheric temperature data — helped the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change come to the conclusion in 2007 that “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” But there’s still a lot to learn about what the consequences will be. How much warmer will it get? How will sea level rise progress? NASA scientists and engineers will help answer these and other critical questions in the future.’