Climate Science and Solutions

2014 was the hottest year on record globally, and 2015 broke
that record. Fourteen of the fifteen hottest
years on record have fallen since 2000.

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”

(American Chemical Society Public Policy Statement: Climate Change (2010-2013)

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.”

(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 5th Assessement, 2015)

Here is all you really need to know:

Over the past 3 million-plus years, CO2 and surface temperatures have tracked along almost identical paths. (See graph below.) Now, because of large-scale human combustion of fossil fuels, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are far above historic levels, exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm), a 42.8% increase above the 280 ppm that existed before the industrial revolution! And because CO2 and temperature track, scientists know we are headed for a much, much warmer planet. Today, most of the heat is going into the oceans. But that buffer won’t last forever. The only way to maintain conditions similar to those under which civilization thrived is to bring CO2 concentrations back below 350 ppm.


And the temperature is rising, too.  Scientists say that its imperative that we keep global surface temperature rise under 2 degrees C.  A 4 degrees C increase will be “incompatible with any reasonable characterization of an organized, equitable, and civilized global community”  according to Kevin Anderson of the United Kingdom’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. So far, the average global temperature has gone up by about 0.8 degrees C (1.4 F).


The cause

The major source of greenhouse gasses is the burning of fossil fuels.  While fossil fuels have been a positive and transformative factor in global development for hundreds of years, the resulting emissions are now a problem.  If we’re serious about slowing climate change, it’s imperative that we decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and focus on cleaner sources of energy and electricity.

This doesn’t mean we have to freeze in the dark or deprive developing nations of electricity, sanitation, and economic growth. But it does require a global commitment to clean technology and in particular, energy efficiency.

The Sources

Data is for GHG emissions expluding land-use change

Data is for GHG emissions excluding land-use change

The Good News: Clean Energy

Clean, renewable energy is here. It’s time to embrace solar, wind, small hydroelectric, geothermal, and tidal power to transform our energy sector to address global climate change, drive innovation, create long term jobs and improve our health and air quality.  Globally, growth of clean energy generation is outpacing fossil fuel and this gap will only widen, bringing costs down at the utility level and making renewable energy available to everyone.

What about other clean sources of energy that aren’t renewable, like nuclear energy, or coal generation with carbon capture?  The climate problem is so large that we can’t rule out any solution. These sources of energy ought to be allowed to compete in the marketplace.


Source:  Bloomberg New Energy Finance


The Impacts

The winter sports community generates $62 billion annually and supports 965,000 jobs. (OIA. 2012).

The downhill ski resort industry is estimated to have lost $1.07 billion in aggregated revenue between low and high snow fall years over the last decade (2001-2009) (POW 2012)

In the northeast US, only four out of 14 major ski resorts will remain profitable by 2100 under a higher-emissions scenario. (POW 2012)

Park City, UT will lose all mountain snowpack by the end the century while Aspen Mountain snowpack will be confined to the top quarter of the mountain under a higher emissions scenario. (POW 2012)

The current California drought will cost the state $2.7 billion and put some 17,000 agricultural workers out of a job this year.

The northern hemisphere has lost a million square miles of spring snowpack since 1970


snowfall dropoff

Valuable Resources

Fifth Assessment of the IPCC Report:

Check the vital signs of the planet:

Learn more about President Obama’s Climate Action Plan:

For the real scoop on climate change and the myths:

Read the Protect Our Winters/NRDC Climate Impacts Report here.