Reasonable Americans recognize that protecting the environment from the impact of our civilization is in our own best interest.
An important global environmental protection issue is the possible harmful environmental impact of the abnormally high and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration. The high and rising CO2 concentration constitutes an environmental security threat because there is no scientific certainty that this is not harmful. Essentially, humanity is overdosing the atmosphere with excess CO2 without knowing what the environmental consequences could be.
The two-minute video below explains the CO2 issue.
As seen in the video, a primary contributor to the rising CO2 concentration is fossil fuel’s carbon dioxide emissions. As everyone understands, fossil fuels contain carbon from ancient plants and animals deposited into geologic storage hundreds of millions of years ago. The carbon in the ancient plants and animals came from CO2 in the atmosphere long ago. Nature uses geologic storage to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Over long periods, temperature and pressure converted this carbon into what we call fossil fuels—such as oil, natural gas, and coal.
When these fossil fuels are burned, the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere as CO2. With the growing large-scale use of fossil fuels—required to power our industrialized society and sustain our population—CO2 is now being added to the atmosphere at a rate greater than nature is able to remove. This imbalance causes the atmospheric CO2 concentration to rise.
The only way to halt the contribution of fossil fuels to the rising CO2 concentration is to end their use. For this to happen, while maintaining our industrialized society, new sustainable energy sources must be built to replace fossil fuels.
To meet our moral and legal obligation to protect the environment from potential harm caused by the abnormally high and rising atmospheric CO2 concentration, the America must, in an orderly manner, transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy. We must call on President Trump to champion this effort.
What about the global temperature?
CO2 is a greenhouse gas, along with water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. These gases block some of the heat radiating from the ground and the ocean into space. Some scientists estimate that the Earth’s surface is, on average, now about 60 degrees (F) warmer due, in part, to the presence of these gases in the atmosphere. This warming is called the greenhouse effect because greenhouse glass roofs act in a similar manner to reduce heat transfer to the sky, keeping the greenhouse warmer, while letting sunshine in to warm the greenhouse during the day.
A reasonable expectation is that as the atmospheric concentration of these greenhouse gases increases, more heat should be blocked from radiating to space, making the Earth warm. Some scientists have created computer models to test this expectation by predicting future temperature changes. However, experience over the last twenty years has shown that these models do not adequately predict global temperature changes, This indicates that the CO2 greenhouse effect is likely just one of many natural processes affecting the global average temperature. However, this does not exclude the possibility that abnormally high CO2 concentrations may adversely affect the environment. Scientists simply do not know.
Further research is needed to identify the natural processes impacting the Earth’s global average temperature. Natural processes may, at this time, be working against the CO2 greenhouse effect—hiding the impact of the abnormally high concentrations. In the future, these other natural processes may reverse to work in concert with the CO2 greenhouse effect, possibly magnifying its impact.
What is now apparent is that measuring temperature change is not currently a valid means of judging the environmental impact of the abnormally high and rising atmospheric CO2 concentration. The absence of temperature increases may provide a false sense of security that no harm is being done. It is better to focus on what can be directly measured—the atmospheric CO2 concentration.
What about the Paris Climate Agreement?
Examination of the Paris Agreement shows that it is deficient in addressing the possible environmental security threat caused by the abnormally high and rising atmospheric CO2 concentration. One deficiency is its focus on using temperature as the key measure for assessing the effectiveness of steps taken to address the rising CO2 concentration. As discussed above, temperature is an unreliable measure of effectiveness. What the agreement should have done is use the actual atmospheric CO2 concentration as the key measure of effectiveness.
A second deficiency is the agreement’s failure to identify what maximum CO2 concentration is environmentally acceptable. As discussed in the video, the maximum natural value of the past 800,000 years has been around 300 parts per million (PPM) by volume. Today, the concentration is above 400 PPM and climbing 2-3 PPM each year. The agreement should have identified what concentration is OK to guide the actions to be undertaken.
A third deficiency was the agreement’s failure to identify a technological path to halt the rise in the CO2 concentration as the first step in returning this to an acceptable value. How to end the global use of fossil fuels by transitioning to sustainable energy should have been a major element of the agreement, yet sustainable energy was only briefly mentioned—almost as an afterthought.
A final deficiency was emphasizing reductions in the use of fossil fuels in developed nations, such as the United States, while permitting continued growth in consumption by developing nations without tying these reductions to an orderly worldwide transition to sustainable energy. Forced reductions in fossil fuel use, without an orderly transition to sustainable energy, will reduce America’s prosperity and middle-class standard of living. American economic hardship will not benefit America’s transition to sustainable energy.
Calling on President Trump to fix the Paris Agreement
A new agreement is needed that sets the world on a technological path to halt fossil fuel carbon emissions by transitioning to sustainable energy. This would be the first step in returning the CO2 concentration to a safe value.
In his June 1, 2017 announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, President Trump made clear that he is very much in favor of protecting the environment and negotiating a better agreement. The following four-minute video is excerpts of his remarks.