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Speaking Truth to Power

February 28, 2017 by Tony Noerpel filed under Columns, Sustainable Planet No Comments
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“With public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed.” Abraham Lincoln

On Thursday evening, February 23, I requested the Board of Supervisors pass a proclamation resolving to support the March for Science on Earth Day, April 22 [1]. The resolution would be non-binding but would reflect our growing concern with the denial of reality.

Since Thursday I’ve learned that ocean oxygen levels have fallen over the last couple of decades by 2% [2]. This result was predicted by climate models but had not yet been observed. Another troubling phenomena is that though carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and cement manufacture have been stable during the last two years [3], atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen 3 ppmV each year which were records [4]. This suggests either additional carbon is being released by deforestation and other land-uses, or from permafrost or other surface reservoirs, or due to unaccounted fossil fuels emission such as methane leaks from fracking, or simply that oceans and the terrestrial biosphere have become saturated and are no longer absorbing as much of our carbon dioxide emissions as they had been previously. It is likely some combination but none of this is good news.

In the meantime we are like a bunch of drunks who refuse to admit we have a problem which leaves engineers like myself frustrated. I have been asked to talk about solutions but if we continue to deceive ourselves about the problem I find that pointless. In 1980, when there was already enough evidence of human-caused climate change the solutions would have been easy but that is no longer true. I recommend listening to talks by another engineer Kevin Anderson to get an idea what we are up against [5]. One thing we are not going to do is save ourselves by escaping to Mars or the three habitable Earth-like planets recently discovered orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1 Figure 3 [6].

What follows is the e-mail text I sent to the board followed by the attachment which contains a draft proposal for a resolution in support of science. I have a great deal of respect for our county supervisors. Even when we may disagree, I recognize and admire their service to our community. This respect extends to past boards as well. On the matter of my resolution proposal, one supervisor has already privately indicated support. I’m hopeful that they will consider it and support it.

Dear Supervisors and Staff

As many of you know I’m a research engineer and inventor with 37 patents in wireless communications, mostly with satellites. I apply atmospheric physics and radiation physics which works across all spectra from microwaves to light. So I know human caused climate change is real and entirely consistent with physical reality. We are injecting about 1 million years’ worth of sequestered carbon directly into the atmosphere from the lithosphere every single year. Calling it a hoax is the same as calling your smart phone a hoax. Quantum physics tells us that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, radiation physics informs us how it will absorb infrared photons and reradiate them and chemistry tells us that it is long lived in the atmosphere and is non-condensing on a planet like Earth. This is all confirmed by experiment and observation. This same scientific knowledge enables engineers like myself to invent the communications systems you find convenient.

On April 22, Earth Day, citizens will March for Science to encourage evidence-based policy. It is appropriate for the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to resolve to support this action and thus to support scientific literacy. As Richard Feynman said “Science is what we do to keep from lying to ourselves.”

Attachment

The black curve in Figure 1 shows the global annual (February to January) temperature anomaly since 1970 inclusive of January 2017. These data are normalized to the 1880-1910 average. The dotted grey line shows the forecast I presented to the board of Supervisors in August, 2015. The green line is the linear trend of the data between 1979, the beginning of the satellite era, and 2015 (0.16 degrees per decade). All temperatures are in Celsius or Centigrade.

The claim that global warming stopped in 1998 was always an alternative fact, or fake news. There are other lines of evidence besides the temperature record.

Last December I discussed the plight of the Earth’s coral reefs with the Board. I pointed out that mass coral bleachings were observed for the first time in the early 1980s. I’ve added a dotted orange line at about 0.6 degrees to indicate this threshold. Global multi-year mass bleaching events began in 1997 and I’ve added a dotted red line to indicate that threshold. It appears that we may be permanently above the threshold for global mass multi-year events.

We are therefore experiencing coral mortality much earlier than scientist expected and corals may no longer be able to recover. In 2015 I forecast that a strong El Nino, which we did experience in 2015/2016 would be followed by a strong La Nina and that this would cool the surface somewhat giving the corals some relief. But NOAA is now forecasting a weak La Nina and as shown in Figure 2 is issuing warnings, and alerts for much of the world’s coral continuing through at least June, 2017. Corals are getting no relief and this is occurring with only 1 degree of warming much earlier than the limits agreed to in Paris in December, 2015 of 1.5 and 2 degrees.

Now the earth biosphere is resilient but individual species are not.

On April 22, Earth Day, citizens will March for Science to encourage evidence-based policy. It is appropriate for the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to resolve to support this action and thus to support science literacy and truth. As Richard Feynman said “Science is what we do to keep from lying to ourselves.”

Possible text for the proclamation:
 
WHEREAS human emissions have increased the Earth’s atmospheric concentration of its non-condensing greenhouse gas by 45% in just 100 years; and WHEREAS the evidence for human-caused climate change shows up not just in the temperature record but also in harmful impact on the Earth’s biosphere; and WHEREAS this impact is evidenced by massive global multi-year coral bleaching events and mortality; and WHEREAS denial of human-caused climate change is baseless and unsupported by evidence; and WHEREAS the same science which provides for us so many conveniences such as smart phones also warns us about dangerous inconveniences such as global warming; it is therefore important that we recognize the value of science and science literacy. American Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman reminded us that “science is what we do to keep from lying to ourselves.” He was also fond of reminding us that nature cannot be fooled. Evidence matters. THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors does hereby proclaim support for science literacy and evidence-based policy and support for the MARCH FOR SCIENCE on Earth Day, April, 22, 2017.

Figure 1.  Global temperature anomaly from NASA GISS http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata_v3/GLB.Ts+dSST.txt

Figure 1. Global temperature anomaly from NASA GISS http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata_v3/GLB.Ts+dSST.txt

Figure 2 https://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/analyses_guidance/global_coral_bleaching_2014-17_status.php

Figure 2 https://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/analyses_guidance/global_coral_bleaching_2014-17_status.php

Figure 3 Trappist-1 planetary system 39 light-years away with 9 Earth-like exoplanets; three with liquid water.

Figure 3 Trappist-1 planetary system 39 light-years away with 9 Earth-like exoplanets; three with liquid water.

[1] https://www.marchforscience.com/

[2] Sunke Schmidtko, Lothar Stramma & Martin Visbeck, Decline in global oceanic oxygen content during the past five decades, Nature, 16 February, 2017, Vol 542.

[3] Carbon emissions data from Global Carbon Project http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/16/infographics.htm

[4] Atmospheric carbon data from NOAA https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/gr.html

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBtehlDpLlU

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnKFaAS30X8

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