November 16, 2016, by Tim Radford
A message to Donald Trump at the current UN climate change conference in Marrakech, Morocco. Image: Takver via Flickr
Despite overwhelming historical evidence that human-induced climate change is happening now, Donald Trump is apparently still refusing to face the facts.
LONDON, 16 November, 2016 − China can proudly claim many inventions − but certainly not the concept of global warming that US president-elect Donald Trump has accredited to it.
When Trump wrote on Twitter on 6 November, 2012, that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”, he was either ignoring or ignorant of the hard historical facts.
- In 1859, scientist John Tyndall calculated the capacity of atmospheric gases – among them water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane − to absorb infrared radiation.
- In 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrenhius formulated a relationship between levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in temperature.
- In 1938, British engineer Guy Stewart Callendar looked at the relationship between carbon dioxide and temperature, and confirmed Arrhenius’s calculations.
- In 1958, Charles David Keeling, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the US, started measuring carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere at one location – at 3,400 metres altitude on the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa.
- In 2001, US president George W Bush awarded Keeling the President’s National Medal of Science.
What is now called the Keeling Curve describes the steady rise of CO2 in parts per million in the last six decades.The ratio before the Industrial Revolution is put at around 280ppm. It is now at or above 400ppm.
And in that time, global temperatures have risen steadily. The world is now at least 1°C warmer than it was a century ago, and 2016 has already been declared the warmest year since records began. Sixteen of the last 17 years have been the warmest recorded.
So the link between atmospheric global temperature and greenhouse gas levels has been examined and tested for more than a century.
Measurements are calculated by, among a number of agencies, the US National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration, the US space agency NASA, the UK Met Office, the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK, and by the World Meteorological Organisation.
“The US National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine have made it clear that climate change is happening − and that human action is responsible”
The link between the human combustion of fossil fuels, the destruction of the forests and the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been repeatedly confirmed and attested separately not just by oceanographers and meteorologists, but less directly by glaciologists and foresters and naturalists who measure, on an annual basis, the timing of the seasons.
Glaciers are melting fast in the northern hemisphere and in the southern hemisphere. Global sea levels are on the rise, and oceans have become more acidic in response to rising carbon dioxide levels.
Researchers have repeatedly warned that extremes of heat and drought could be linked to conflict and the international refugee crisis.
The Royal Society of Great Britain, one of the most distinguished of the world’s learned societies, has called for a zero carbon world, in which energy is derived from sun, wind and other renewable sources.
And the US National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine have made it clear that climate change is happening − and that human action is responsible.
The US is the nation that releases the most greenhouse gases per person, while China is the nation that emits the most carbon dioxide overall. The two nations jointly announced their intention to work together to combat climate change in 2014.
In December last year, at the UN climate change conference in Paris, 195 nations agreed to limit global warming to 2°C at the most and, if possible, 1.5°C. That agreement has already been ratified by 110 nations.
Altogether, according to research, 97% of scientists worldwide think climate change is a reality. And research also shows that nearly half of all US citizens think global warming is a reality and humans are responsible, while a similar proportion think it is either from natural causes or not happening at all.
International scientists have warned that climate change is happening now, and faster than anyone expected. Yet within days of the US election, president-elect Donald Trump is reported to be seeking a way out of the Paris Agreement. – Climate News Network
Tim Radford, a founding editor of Climate News Network, worked for The Guardian for 32 years, for most of that time as science editor. He has been covering climate change since 1988.