Climate Change Is Real
To the Editor,
I was taken aback in reading a recent Letter to the Editor that referred to the phenomenon of global warming as a “fraud.” The issue of the plastic bag ban was not driven by worries of climate change. Secondly, the phenomenon of human-caused global warming is not a fraud, is not controversial in the scientific community, and is supported by solid evidence.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Without it, the Earth would have no liquid water, and life could not exist. This idea was first postulated by Joseph Fourier in 1822, and carbon dioxide’s heat trapping properties were confirmed through experiments by John Tyndale in the 1850s. Carbon dioxide allows visible light to enter the atmosphere, but it absorbs the heat created by that light being absorbed by the Earth’s surface in much the same way that a car’s windshield allows light to pass through but traps heat in.
Carbon dioxide is also a gas that makes up an extremely small part of our atmosphere. Our atmosphere by dry volume is about 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen. Of the remaining one percent, 93 percent is argon. Carbon dioxide 0.04 percent of the gases in our atmosphere. Ice core sampling shows that carbon dioxide levels have not risen above 300 parts per million in the past 800,000 years. Now, CO2 occurs with a frequency over 400 parts per million.
This increase in carbon dioxide is almost certainly caused by humans. We know this because we can calculate the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere, which the EPA estimates to be 527,075,000,000 metric tons in 2017 for the United States alone. We can also tell that this shift is due to humans by tracking the isotopes of carbon in atmospheric CO2. Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope that has a half-life of about 5,750 years, which is extremely short in terms of the age of the Earth. Carbon-14 is formed in the atmosphere as a byproduct of cosmic radiation from the sun. Fossil fuels have little to no Carbon-14 in them because they are underground where the sun’s rays cannot convert the Carbon 12 to Carbon 14 and have been underground for so long that any Carbon-14 in them has decayed. A study conducted by Hans Suess in 1957 found that the ratio of carbon isotopes in the atmosphere was shifting towards more Carbon-12 and less Carbon-14. This shift is expected if the carbon being added is coming from fossil fuels.
Climate change is real; it is happening. It is up to all of us to support policies that decrease its effects. My 4-year-old and 2-year-old are relying on my generation and the ones before to do the right thing before we leave them a planet in which scarcity and political instability are the norm.
The views expressed in the letter are my personal views and do not reflect the views of the entire Legislative Council.
Legislative Councilperson, District 1
Chair, Finance and Administration Committee
44 The Old Road, Newtown June 17, 2019
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