Cher Gilmore: Tackling climate change with a plan

By Signal Contributor

Last update: Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

We can fix global warming.

An absurd claim, you say? Not so! The world has been faced with a similar environmental problem in the past, identified its source, found a solution, and with the cooperation of national governments, the United Nations, corporations and the public, solved it.

Or I should say we’re in the process of solving it. The damage we caused to our planet’s ozone layer between about 1950 and 1990 with the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Like climate change, it can only be repaired over a long period of time.

However, the latest reports indicate that the ozone hole, formerly the size of the continental United States, is no longer growing, but has stabilized and is actually shrinking. It’s expected to close entirely by 2050 or so if we stay on course.

Some would say that climate change/global warming is a much bigger problem, and that, unlike fossil fuels, CFCs – primarily used in refrigeration and aerosol cans – weren’t crucial to our survival.

The stories of ozone and climate change have so many of the same elements, though, that the main difference seems to be one of scale. We could rightly consider the handling of the ozone crisis as practice for solving climate disruption.

In 1974, two independent scientific studies found that a chemical used in refrigerants and cleaning solvents was likely destroying the protective layer of ozone around the earth. Because of the projected damage to human health from increased UV radiation, more research was soon undertaken.

In May 1985, a paper published in Nature announced an “ozone hole” in the Southern Hemisphere, which shook the scientific world.

It wasn’t until 1988 that CFCs were definitively linked to destruction of the ozone layer, but in the meantime scientists alerted Congress and well-organized environmental groups educated the public about the issue. Consumers pushed for banning CFCs in aerosol cans.

The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) played an active role in the international political process, even without definitive proof of causation, and in 1987 representatives of 47 nations signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer.

The negotiating process was challenging, and major CFC-producing nations predictably tried to block cutbacks in CFC use.

In 1991, new satellite measurements found the ozone layer was depleting twice as fast as expected over the Northern Hemisphere, and countries were spurred again into action.

UNEP led several more negotiating sessions, strengthening and tightening the original protocol. Some developing countries refused to sign unless an international fund was established to help them with the technological shift to CFC alternatives, and although the U.S. balked, the fund was ultimately created.

By 1996, 157 nations had signed on to the strengthened agreement.

By 2000, world production of CFC gases had fallen from over a million tons to less than 100,000 tons/year, and industry had developed alternatives to CFCs – at much less expense than they had feared.

The global warming story follows a similar trajectory. In the 1960s, scientists were discussing the greenhouse effect caused by excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and in the ‘80s, Dr. James Hansen created and used one of the world’s first climate models to predict most of what has happened in the climate since.

By the 1990s, partially as a result of improved computer models, scientists reached a consensus: greenhouse gases were significantly implicated in most climate changes. And human-caused emissions were causing measurable global warming.

Fossil fuel companies mounted campaigns to cast doubt on the science, confusing the public and delaying action, but as multiple studies have warned that warming is happening even faster than predicted, environmental activists, governments and the United Nations have stepped up efforts to address the issue.

The Paris COP 21 climate conference made great strides in getting international agreement and eliciting promises of action, but much more needs to be done to bring emissions down enough to slow the warming.

Today, we have 97 percent agreement among scientists that global warming is real and human caused, and we have a solution that 98 percent of economists dealing with climate change agree on: putting a price on carbon.

That is, charging fossil fuel companies a fee for the greenhouse gas emissions they’re responsible for. We have all the information we need to act now.

Climate disruption won’t stop overnight. After all, it’s taken more than 100 years for carbon emissions to overheat the Earth.

But we’ve fixed big problems before, and we can fix this one, too. Get cracking, Congress! We can do this. We must do this.

Cher Gilmore lives in Newhall and is a member of the Santa Clarita Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (www.citizensclimatelobby.org).

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Cher Gilmore: Tackling climate change with a plan

iStock photo

We can fix global warming.

An absurd claim, you say? Not so! The world has been faced with a similar environmental problem in the past, identified its source, found a solution, and with the cooperation of national governments, the United Nations, corporations and the public, solved it.

Or I should say we’re in the process of solving it. The damage we caused to our planet’s ozone layer between about 1950 and 1990 with the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Like climate change, it can only be repaired over a long period of time.

However, the latest reports indicate that the ozone hole, formerly the size of the continental United States, is no longer growing, but has stabilized and is actually shrinking. It’s expected to close entirely by 2050 or so if we stay on course.

Some would say that climate change/global warming is a much bigger problem, and that, unlike fossil fuels, CFCs – primarily used in refrigeration and aerosol cans – weren’t crucial to our survival.

The stories of ozone and climate change have so many of the same elements, though, that the main difference seems to be one of scale. We could rightly consider the handling of the ozone crisis as practice for solving climate disruption.

In 1974, two independent scientific studies found that a chemical used in refrigerants and cleaning solvents was likely destroying the protective layer of ozone around the earth. Because of the projected damage to human health from increased UV radiation, more research was soon undertaken.

In May 1985, a paper published in Nature announced an “ozone hole” in the Southern Hemisphere, which shook the scientific world.

It wasn’t until 1988 that CFCs were definitively linked to destruction of the ozone layer, but in the meantime scientists alerted Congress and well-organized environmental groups educated the public about the issue. Consumers pushed for banning CFCs in aerosol cans.

The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) played an active role in the international political process, even without definitive proof of causation, and in 1987 representatives of 47 nations signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer.

The negotiating process was challenging, and major CFC-producing nations predictably tried to block cutbacks in CFC use.

In 1991, new satellite measurements found the ozone layer was depleting twice as fast as expected over the Northern Hemisphere, and countries were spurred again into action.

UNEP led several more negotiating sessions, strengthening and tightening the original protocol. Some developing countries refused to sign unless an international fund was established to help them with the technological shift to CFC alternatives, and although the U.S. balked, the fund was ultimately created.

By 1996, 157 nations had signed on to the strengthened agreement.

By 2000, world production of CFC gases had fallen from over a million tons to less than 100,000 tons/year, and industry had developed alternatives to CFCs – at much less expense than they had feared.

The global warming story follows a similar trajectory. In the 1960s, scientists were discussing the greenhouse effect caused by excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and in the ‘80s, Dr. James Hansen created and used one of the world’s first climate models to predict most of what has happened in the climate since.

By the 1990s, partially as a result of improved computer models, scientists reached a consensus: greenhouse gases were significantly implicated in most climate changes. And human-caused emissions were causing measurable global warming.

Fossil fuel companies mounted campaigns to cast doubt on the science, confusing the public and delaying action, but as multiple studies have warned that warming is happening even faster than predicted, environmental activists, governments and the United Nations have stepped up efforts to address the issue.

The Paris COP 21 climate conference made great strides in getting international agreement and eliciting promises of action, but much more needs to be done to bring emissions down enough to slow the warming.

Today, we have 97 percent agreement among scientists that global warming is real and human caused, and we have a solution that 98 percent of economists dealing with climate change agree on: putting a price on carbon.

That is, charging fossil fuel companies a fee for the greenhouse gas emissions they’re responsible for. We have all the information we need to act now.

Climate disruption won’t stop overnight. After all, it’s taken more than 100 years for carbon emissions to overheat the Earth.

But we’ve fixed big problems before, and we can fix this one, too. Get cracking, Congress! We can do this. We must do this.

Cher Gilmore lives in Newhall and is a member of the Santa Clarita Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (www.citizensclimatelobby.org).

About the author

Signal Contributor

Signal Contributor

  • Brian Baker

    “We can fix global warming.”

    Don’t you mean “climate change”? Didn’t you get the memo? Since the climate hasn’t warmed in almost two decades now, the meme’s been changed.

    So… how are you going to “fix” a natural process that’s been going on for… oh, about 4 billion years? You gonna pass a law prohibiting the sun from going through its cycles? Ban assault volcanoes? Stop the tectonic plates from moving? What?

    You people are nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake.

    • indy

      What I find fascinating is that some Americans believe climate change is simply based on one’s ‘beliefs’ and not science.

      We all know about earth’s history including the ‘fact’ that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that does trap solar radiation that keeps this planet warm. Without this, we’d be living on a ice ball in space . . .

      The problem is that we’re increasing the CO2 very very quickly.

      But first, the simple chemistry:

      C + O2 = CO2

      When we burn fossil fuels, we are taking carbon from the carbon chains in the fuel, combusting it with oxygen in the air, using the heat and exhausting the combustion products that include CO2.

      How much of the CO2 is being emitted to the atmosphere?

      Consider the following just for the USA:

      – we burn about 1.1 BILLION tons of coal each year (about 3 tons per American)

      – we burn about 7 BILLION barrels of oil each year (about 22 barrels per American)

      – we burn about 26 TRILLION cubic feet of natural gas (80,000 cubic feet per American)

      All of this carbon is being ‘dug out of the ground’ and reintroduced to the atmosphere. This is causing the concentration of CO2 to raise from preindustrial levels of about 280 ppm (parts per million) to now going into the 400+ ppm range.

      This has caused the mean thermal temperature of the earth to raise about 1.5 degree Fahrenheit (read global warming).

      So the science is well understood and we can see that ‘humans’ are burning more and more carbon raising the concentration.

      The question is what will all of this mean?

      Well, more energy on the planet will create changing weather patterns (aka ‘climate change’) as the heat absorbed raises both the air and water temperature.

      Higher air temperature causes the air to hold more water and thus rain output will increase the magnitude of rainfall in some areas.

      Higher ocean temperatures will cause storms of greater magnitude.

      What these will be and their aftereffects we’re just starting to understand. But these changes are happening . . . and their consequences could be significant.

      So there’s little doubt that the burning of fossil fuels is having an ‘effect’ and we’re going to have to try to understand what that means long term.

      For links to the rising temperature due to climate change introduction of more CO2:
      But we can see the rising global mean temperatures: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/

      And we can also see the rising concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere as we burn more and more fossil fuels:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mauna_Loa_Carbon_Dioxide-en.svg

      Here’s a good link that clearly explains in the burning chemistry equations of coal and natural gas:

      http://telstar.ote.cmu.edu/environ/m3/s3/09fossil.shtml

      This is something you can again ‘see’ for yourself.

      Interestingly, they start off using my basic equation . . . .

      • Brian Baker

        A perfect illustration of wIndybag’s usual copy-and-paste nonsense.

        So, wIndybag, 10,000 years ago — a blink of the geological eye — the entire North American continent was covered by permanent pack ice over a thousand feet thick all the way down to the current California central coast. What happened? Did those mammoths drive too many SUVs?

        Like I said, nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake.

        • indy

          Suggest getting your climate change information from ‘scientist’ not political pundits who are bathed in rhetoric, superstition, innuendo and mindless speculation from conservative websites like Breitbart, Fox, Townhall or the Federalist.

          Suggested reads:

          Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity Paperback – December 21, 2010
          by James Hansen (Author)

          Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas, and the Weather of the Future Reprint Edition by Climate Central (Author)

          Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World Reprint Edition by Bill Nye (Author)

          If you’re only got the web, try http://www.skepticalscience.com . . . also has all the RNC talking points clarified and rebutted.

          Knowledge is strength.

          • Brian Baker

            “Knowledge is strength.”

            Then you must be one of the weakest people in town.

  • JM

    Wow that easy to fix, just tax it to death! Who gets the tax revenue? Are you good with carbon emissions if the evil polluters can pay the tax? If so then this is called extortion.

    Cher if you really feel that strongly about carbon emissions then why not propose a set limit per person. 100 gallons of gas/ month for example. If serious you would, but you just want the money so a tax is ok…

  • noonan

    “Assault volcanoes”! Now that was funny Brian.

    • Brian Baker

      Thank you, thank you, I’m here all week…

  • phil ellis

    Brian, if Berkeley can ban nuclear weapons, why can’t we ban global warming? While we are at it, I wonder why we don’t ban smog and droughts, as well.

    • Brian Baker

      Phil, I do think you’re on to something!

  • tech

    “…putting a price on carbon.”

    Nope. Americans won’t agree to a tax on all economic activity, Ms. Gilmore.

    A recent survey indicated that people fear creepy clowns more than climate change. That’s what the wingnut alarmism of you and your fellow travelers have accomplished.

  • James de Bree

    I guess after the election we will see more of these articles. I feel like reading these is a Groundhog Day experience.

    • tech

      Isn’t it, though? With a few minor edits, Ms. Gilmore’s columns are repetitive calls for taxation of all economic activity and magical accounting.

  • Nishka

    “Cher Gilmore: Tackling climate change with a plan” Profound and insightful!!!
    The unfortunate thing is that the deniers will continue to deny !!!!
    “We’ve fixed big problems before, and we can fix this one, too. Get cracking, Congress! We can do this. We must do this.”
    How can we depend on the buffoons in the Republican Congress to fix this???
    The wimps can’t even decide what to do with Trump!!!

    • noonan

      Nobody is denying the climate is changing you gasbag! It’s never NOT changed. I would reiterate what the real issue and question is, but like simple traffic signs, you would have a hard time understanding it.

  • robert stauffer

    Hey people! We get the gift of experiencing whatever the climate has to offer. All we need to do is get used to it.

    It’s amazing to think about how big the atmosphere is – and how unpredictable tomorrow is. The weatherman can’t even get current storms right, how is possible anyone knows what things will be like in 30 years?

    The whole idea that ANYTHING can be ‘done’ about the climate, and someone gets to take credit for it – is ridiculous and sophomoric.

    I feel like history is repeating itself – like back I’m back in a time when the village priest was making a ‘sacrifice’ to make it rain.

    This piece is the High Priestess wanting us to sacrifice for the clouds, rain, wind, and sun – which are things that we can get for free – with no sacrifice.

  • nohatejustdebate

    How it is that the climate changes on Mars – with no one to blame?

    • noonan

      Because some of our Co2 is drifting towards the Red planet. Perhaps if they had Indy on Mars to explain simple chemistry it might alleviate some of their weather issues.