by Pro­fessor Kenneth Hayes

We are in a moment of awak­ening about the climate crisis. As of today, there are 334 towns con­taining a total pop­u­lation of 33 million people that have passed a climate emer­gency dec­la­ration. Most of these dec­la­ra­tions have been passed since the Inter­gov­ern­mental Panel on Climate Change issued a stern report in October 2018 sum­ma­rizing the dif­ference in climate impacts between an increase in Earth’s average surface tem­per­ature of 1.5 Celsius versus 2.0 Celsius rel­ative to the average surface tem­per­ature at the start of the indus­trial rev­o­lution. The warming trend over the past several decades is very clear: On our current tra­jectory Earth’s tem­per­ature will cross 1.5 C warming around 2040 and 2.0 C warming around 2060. The con­se­quences to humans and other life on the planet of 2.0 C warming are severe.

The first three Mondays in Feb­ruary, I pre­sented three lec­tures on climate change. The first lecture was on the physics that deter­mines the average surface tem­per­ature of planets with and without atmos­pheres. The physics that deter­mines the tem­per­ature of planets without atmos­pheres is very simple: a one-line formula cor­rectly pre­dicts the average tem­per­ature of planets and moons in the solar system that lack atmos­pheres. The atmos­pheric green­house effect increases the average surface tem­per­ature of planets that have green­house gases in their atmos­phere. Cur­rently, the green­house effect on Earth increases the average planet surface tem­per­ature by 33 C (60 F) from what it would be if there was no atmos­phere, and this is why the oceans are not frozen. The second lecture pre­sented some of the con­se­quences of the global warming occurring on Earth due to our emis­sions of green­house gases pro­duced pri­marily by the burning of fossil fuels. Our emis­sions have increased the con­cen­tration of carbon dioxide in the atmos­phere by 46 percent since the start of the indus­trial rev­o­lution. The third lecture dis­cussed pos­sible solu­tions.

The climate problem is very well under­stood. Cur­rently there are a large set of solu­tions to the problem that could be imple­mented. The essential chal­lenge is getting people to act. Trag­i­cally, there is a vast amount of dis­in­for­mation in the media and on the Internet about the climate issue. The people who have the most to lose by a con­version of the world’s energy systems from fossil fuels to renewable energy under­stand that the most effective way of slowing this con­version is to spread doubt about the science and the con­se­quences of global warming. One of the main goals of my three lec­tures was to provide enough knowledge of the physics — including a demon­stration of the striking effec­tiveness of carbon dioxide to trap infrared radi­ation — so that anyone who fol­lowed the lec­tures would under­stand what is going on and would thus be insu­lated from the massive amount of dis­in­for­mation on the climate issue.

The most important things you can do to work towards a solution are to educate yourself and talk to others about the climate problem. Vote for politi­cians who under­stand the problem and who are com­mitted to working towards a solution. Learn about your carbon foot­print, and take action to reduce it. I have included in my lecture slides many links to web resources at various levels from the most intro­ductory to recently pub­lished peer-reviewed sci­en­tific papers. These links are a good place to start expanding your under­standing. If you wish to get access to the Pow­er­Point slides I pre­sented in these lec­tures, please contact me.

  • sherlockh2

    Dear Col­legian, Thanks for printing this concise and insightful treatment of the climate change problem by Hillsdale physics pro­fessor Dr. Kenneth Hayes. Now, if you could please correct the attri­bution in the by-line; it is in fact NOT by student Abigail Liebing.

  • Sandy Daze

    Ash, trash, and balderdash!

    I’m willing to admit that we may be warming, but I have no con­fi­dence in the under­lying tem­per­ature data-sets.

    Would someone — please – just tell us what is the ‘correct’ tem­per­ature… ?

    There are just too many vari­ables which aren’t given enough emphasis or thought.

    Global warming, as it is cur­rently explained, is full of political pro­jection, manip­u­lation, and bias.

    How can anyone have con­fi­dence in the CO2 expla­nation of warming?

    There are many pos­sible reasons for a change in climate, bad data, urban heat effect, poor location or con­dition of reporting sites (par­tic­u­larly those near air­ports), changes in land use that effect albedo, the dif­ference between con­crete and asphalt roads, black or white roof shingles, etc.

    The under­lying data-sets are spotty at best, and have been water-boarded so long as to make any desired answer pos­sible. Climate sci­en­tists have homog­e­nized each data set to make it com­pa­rable to other data sets in order to develop an overall master data set. Strangely, the homog­e­nization process seem­ingly always results in all earlier tem­per­a­tures being lowered, and all more recent tem­per­a­tures being raised.

    Each homog­e­nization intro­duces addi­tional bias. Each sub­se­quent adjustment intro­duces more bias. If I were the King, and being unable to val­idate the quality of the homog­e­nization process, I would ban the use of only adjusted data in all charts or studies. Use both sets. If sci­en­tists want to show a chart built of adjusted data put a raw chart next to allow for com­parison.
    (East Anglia emails, anyone??)

    There may be many pos­sible reasons for a change in climate, but the left, The LEFT, demand only one outcome. AOC has a plan – too many babies and too much cow flatulence.Seriously. You gotta be kidding me. We know where this is headed.

    Guess it’s off to the re-edu­cation camp for me.

    I prefer the old days when the King ordered the weather to be perfect:

    It’s true! It’s true! The crown has made it clear.

    The climate must be perfect all the year.

    A law was made a distant moon ago here:

    July and August cannot be too hot.

    And there’s a legal limit to the snow here in Camelot.

    The winter is for­bidden till December

    And exits March the second on the dot.

    By order, summer lingers through Sep­tember in Camelot.

    Camelot! Camelot!

    I know it sounds a bit bizarre,

    But in Camelot, Camelot

    That’s how con­di­tions are.

    The rain may never fall till after sundown.

    By eight, the morning fog must dis­appear.

    In short, there’s simply not a more con­genial spot

    For happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot.

    Camelot! Camelot!

    I know it gives a person pause,

    But in Camelot, Camelot

    Those are the legal laws.

    The snow may never slush upon the hillside.

    By nine p.m. the moon­light must appear.

    In short, there’s simply not a more con­genial spot

    For happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot

    • Sandy Daze

      Said dif­fer­ently, I believe the earth has been warming, more or less, since the last ice-age… And after this winter, I think the next ice-age may not be too far away.

      Happy March the second.

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis