I would like to address common myths and misconceptions about Climate Change.
Mythconception #1: “Climate Change used to be called ‘Global Warming’ but the Earth hasn’t been warming, so it’s called ‘Climate Change’ now.”
Global warming is a term describing the overall impacts of atmospheric and oceanic temperatures as a result of greenhouse gases on Earth. As time progressed and evidence poured in, one of the now solidly known results of a warming Earth is climate change.
Mythconception #2: “Climate Change and Global Warming is the same thing.”
Global warming begets climate change, i.e., climate change is a result of global warming. Both are happening simultaneously and are effects of increased greenhouse gas entrapment.
Mythconception #3: “The Earth’s climate has always been changing, therefore, no big deal.”
While it’s true Earth has experienced major climatic changes in its geological history, geologists (myself included) warn that it is a big deal. Past climate events have led to catastrophic extinctions around the world. Humans weren’t yet present for most of these major changes, particularly the “Great Dying,” Earth’s most massive extinction event 251 million years ago, which was brought about by enormous floods of lava in what is now Siberia. So, what about volcanoes today?
Mythconception #4: “Volcanoes like Mount Pinatubo produced more CO2 in a single eruption than humans since the dawn of Man.”
This topic is of great interest to me because I acquired my geology degree from the University of Hilo, which is cradled between the most massive and active volcanoes in the world. To address this outrageous idea that Mount Pinatubo produced more CO2 than all humans since the “dawn of Man” would be my pleasure.
Mount Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano in the Philippines. On June 15, 1991, after days of comparatively mild explosions from the summit, Mount Pinatubo released an enormous blast of ash more than 22 miles into the sky. The eruption resulted in 0.05 billion metric tons of CO2 injected into the atmosphere at one time. This may seem like a lot of CO2 until one recognizes that in 2015 humans produced roughly 40 billion metric tons of CO2. That’s a four with ten zeros! In other words, it would take 800 Pinatubo-sized eruptions to equal the amount of anthropogenic (human-originating) CO2 released in 2015 alone. The total CO2 emissions from all volcanoes on the planet release a relatively miniscule 0.6 billion metric tons annually. In 2015, CO2 output by humans surpassed the total CO2 emissions produced by all the volcanoes on the entire planet in the year’s first 5 ½ days.
Mythconception #5: “Earth has had 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 before. Our current 410 ppm isn’t significant, i.e., humans can’t cause climate change.”
As I explained in my article “Devil’s Advocate…410” water vapor makes up the largest percentage of the world’s greenhouse gases, but it’s the CO2 influx which increases the amount of water vapor able to be held in the atmosphere, and therefore the driving force behind global warming and, subsequently, climate change.
To illustrate this, imagine one cubic meter full of pure water (one metric ton). Now, consider the fact that one metric ton of pure CO2 (at room temperature) would take on the volume of 12½ large tanker trucks. Multiply that by estimated human CO2 emissions in 2015, 40 billion. That’s about 500 billion large tanker trucks of CO2 in one year. Human CO2 emissions are significant.
Mythconception #6: “Climate change won’t affect us.”
It already is. In 2018, Harmony broke the all-time Minnesota record for greatest rainfall in a single year. Harmony received 60.2 inches from January to December; nearly double the average. Caledonia and Mabel were second and third respectively in rainfall amounts. This was 3.6 inches more than the last record holder, Waseca (2016) which, in turn, was nearly 3.2 inches more than the record holder prior (St. Francis, 1991). In 27 years the record rainfall amount has been smashed by 6.6 inches. As cold as it may seem at times in our immediate region, the world has experienced 18 of its 19 warmest years since 2000. We are witnessing climate change and more extreme weather conditions more often as a result of global warming.
Global Warming: https://climate.nasa.gov/resources/global-warming/
Volcanoes CO2: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/vhp/gas_climate.html?fbclid=IwAR2UIy5pdRMJbUqbNIzi0Nsz0fx6epGHXP6naO9PPIvBUesLDySGKHqQg-I
Pinatubo Eruption: https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1997/fs113-97/
Permian Extinction: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/prehistoric-world/permian-extinction/
Human CO2 Output: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-qa/which-emits-more-carbon-dioxide-volcanoes-or-human-activities
Hottest years: https://www.sciencealert.com/the-planet-s-hottest-five-years-on-record-are-the-last-five-years?fbclid=IwAR3RTgQJvJrxvzHhPSirGAEpiYMmWDtdWHfWe5zvtTUn2ZLNsXNiN_ZAVrI
Harmony Rain: http://www.startribune.com/new-minnesota-state-precipitation-record-in-2018/504100692/
Waseca Rain: http://www.startribune.com/new-minnesota-state-precipitation-record-in-2018/504100692/