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Unaddressed, Global Warming Will Be Local News...Everywhere

John Shields, our environmental columnist, interviews a global warming expert. You just might be shocked at what he has to say.

It struck me recently that while I strive to bring you practical reminders about living more environmentally minded—driving more efficiently, insulating your home and reducing the miles your food travels—the greatest impact I can hope to make is to demystify the sometimes clouded realities about global warming.

That's because once you grasp the gravity and immediacy of the issue, you can't not feel compelled to become an active part of the solution. For the sake of future generations, take the time to comprehend the fundamentals, and if something seems unclear, go explore it with someone who knows.

I did just that by reaching out to Ed Stern. A longtime Cinnaminson resident, 84-year-old Stern had a past life in clinical sociology, but in his later years has transformed into a whiz on the science of climate change. He's taught courses through Burlington County College's L.I.F.E. program for retirees on the topic, as well as at the . I visited Stern in his home, and among a collection of science volumes old and new, we dove headfirst into the facts.

What is global warming?

Global warming is a trend that has taken place since the Industrial Revolution, as evidenced by a worldwide rise in the average surface temperature (of about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit). It is a result of the greenhouse effect, which describes the way carbon dioxide in our atmosphere holds in the planet's heat. The right amount of it makes it habitable for life—the great excesses we've released in the past 30 years specifically is set to leave us sweltering.

What is causing it?

To a small degree, warming (and cooling) happens as part of the planet's natural cycles, but the significant changes right in our face tell us the pace is quickening to a degree there must be an exogenous cause. That cause is us, and the vast systems that comprise our grand industrial machine. Greenhouse gas emissions—mostly from energy production, namely the burning of coal—are toxifying our one livable ecosystem.

Meanwhile, rampant deforestation is the speeding up the process, as trees are nature's way of collecting and storing carbon dioxide. Slashing forests debilitates Earth's mechanism for balancing itself.

Where's the evidence?

The reason the average person should believe in man-made global warming is the same reason we believe our cardiologist—we trust experts. But this is like having many thousands of cardiologists all poring over your charts. Every climate scientist is studying the matter, and they no longer seriously debate the theory's validity. Stating it conservatively, more than ninety percent of the experts agree on this one.

And the hard evidence is all around us, starting with the warming temperatures and creeping seasons, but also direct observation of the world tells us something just ain't right. The ocean's pH levels are trending too far toward acidic, ice sheets are melting as though in fast-forward, and the bleaching (i.e., dying) of coral reefs are all symptoms of the disease.

We can study nature's time capsules like tree rings and ice cores, and know what the world was like throughout thousands of years. We know, for instance that in pre-Industrial times, there used to be 280 molecules that were carbon dioxide out of a random sampling of a million. That number swelled throughout the past two centuries as we burned fossil fuels, and today there is about 391 parts per million.

Stern addresses a grim figure: "If we reach 450, that's the breaking point—there will be loads of human misery. There will be dislocations, there will be floods; all the symptoms we're seeing now will be much worse."

He refers to the refugees that will emerge as metropolitan areas are submerged by rising sea levels and as rural regions become drought-ridden. It's the likely repercussions of severe climate change, and frankly it's the path we're on.

What can be done?

Stern addresses this just as any trained clinical psychotherapist would:

"Human beings are designed to act on things they see, things that are palpable. We see things in front of our noses, but we hide from ourselves what's in the future," Stern says. "And [because of that], we're not doing enough—we're 'hypoactive.'"

The answer is simple, but the will to implement it herculean. It is:

  • to power our planet with renewable and environmentally benign energy sources
  • to shift to a transportation system that is sustainable and clean
  • to rein in a consumption disorder that perversely lets us view finite resources as boundless and thus disposable
  • to intelligently and ethically manage our growth in both population and carbon footprint at the personal, corporate and institutional, and national level (and don't forget !)

Stern's outlook included advice that's worth heeding:

"One of the primary things we should do is keep after our governments, and keep after the UN and the international movements, and get in touch with our legislator every time something comes up. Because individual actions are essential to creating bottom up pressure for institutional change, because that's what we need, institutional change."

Here at Patch, we focus on the local. And we should: local legislation, commerce and socialization drives the ebb and flow of our daily lives. But in 2012, with the science settled on global warming, we also need to think like a global village. So the question is: will this village band together and defend its home turf?

Seletha Michael March 27, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Isn't it the Lord's 2nd comiing? I mean all what describes global warming is basically is whats described in the bible(revelations).
Dan Reynolds March 28, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Fairy tales holds no truths for me.
Cindy Pierson March 28, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Regardless of whether or not you think global warming is an iminent threat, common sense should lead all of us to work towards reducing our carbon footprint and striving towards a sustainable future. The best way to do that is to work together and welcome every opportunity that will help to ensure that our children and grandchildren will have a safe and healthy environment in which to thrive. Thank you for the article, John, and keep up the good work.
Dan Reynolds March 28, 2012 at 03:08 AM
No reason to be wasteful, the only thing we pass on is the ground we walk on. That third bullet point is my biggest issue with how a lot of people view the world. When confronted with the very idea of "gee, do you need that?" you are instantly crushed and called a job killing liberal. I often don't buy things unless I really need them (need being a 1st world problem.. like a new cell phone). I drive a 10 year old car. I don't but new stuff all the time. Stuff I do buy I buy as quality, durable products with good design, sustainability, and value. I repurpose a lot of things, free cycle things I don't need, recycle things that can't fit into either category. I've upgraded my house to all LED/CFL lighting, installed updated doors and windows for better efficiency. Maintain items rather then let them break and then toss them...
Dr Imposter March 28, 2012 at 11:00 AM
We should produce all the CO2 we can. It is a benefit to the planet, and will only lead to a slight rise in temperature since positive feedbacks are not in evidence over the 0.6 degree rise already seen.
Chuck L March 28, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Please, can one of these so-called experts provide even a shred of SCIENTIFIC proof that increasing CO2 causes global warming? PS. Scientific proof does not include computer models
Dan Reynolds March 28, 2012 at 03:22 PM
http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2008/10/what_is_the_evidence_that_co2.php\ Yes, they can. And they are experts, historical records show and prove this.
Paul J. DiBartolo March 29, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Hey Dan, have you seen this one from the Investor's Business Daily? http://news.investors.com/article/605815/201203271858/medieval-warming-period-is-no-myth.htm How did we get Global Warming back before the man-made C02-emitting internal combustion engine was invented and is touted as the root of all the Global Warming evil we hear about today? Quoting a blog to prove a point leaves something to be desired.
Dan Reynolds March 30, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Hey Paul have you seen the 15 Irrefutable reasons from Business Insider? http://www.businessinsider.com/climate-change-global-warming-scientific-evidence-2011-8 Ignoring the fact that we pump billions of tons of CO2, and saying it does nothing to an eco system is just sheer ignorance. Why not try, TRY to cut back? Or should we just keep buying like we will never see the end? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Warm_Period Take a look at that chart, take a GOOD look. See the Medieval warming period, now look at 2004. We are talking the last 100 years.. not the past ten thousand. And yes, there was a mini-ice age too. But this is a much harsher event. So if you think this is normal - can you point to an article where it says this is good for all of us?
Paul J. DiBartolo March 30, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Dan,no one of any intelligence is disputing climate change; the dispute is over the cause of climate change. Everything I've read suggests that the warming period is over though and we're already entering into a cooling period. So, does solar activity effect climate change more than human activity? Additionally, why is the 'only answer' to the so-called human-caused climate change such a big business? Follow the money. I remind you that some of the same people who are telling us that we are frying ourselves were convinced in the seventies that we would soon starve if we didn't freeze first. You send me to look at "the 15 Irrefutable reasons from Business Insider" but all I see is a poorly written, biased paragraph that sends me to a "Climate Change 2007 Synthesis Report," a large fifty page report. I'd love to know who pays the guys who write that stuff. Anyway, it is true arrogance to label these views irrefutable when scientists who disagree with such conclusions refute them every day. I'll stop here because I know we'll never agree. Frankly, however, I'm tired of all the so-called experts who think they know so much better than the rest of us how we all should live. I do not make it a practice of wasting resources and/or wreaking havoc on our environment; I've raised six children who need to live here with their children (my grandchildren), so just because I don't buy the conclusions of the self-named know-it-alls doesn't mean I don't care.
Dan Reynolds March 30, 2012 at 11:33 PM
I hear you Paul. But to be clear - the so called experts are the ones who got us to the moon, keep the paint on your car shiny, created operating systems, and invented LCD flat screen TVs. Yes, there are theories that the Earth is in a cooling phase. But its hard to prove since data is short. We have a better track record of warming (climate change) data, and it seems to point to the last 100 years or so. Scientists disagree, true. But more and more of them are proving that it (climate change) is a real problem, a threat to our current way of life. As for "follow the money". What money? Can you give examples? That 50 page report was not written by high schoolers. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Core Writing Team, Pachauri, R.K. and Reisinger, A. (Eds.) IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland. pp 104 http://www.ipcc.ch/ Please, point to all the money they make...
Paul J. DiBartolo April 03, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Follow the money? Try to get research money if you don't toe the global warming line. There are professors out there stating that people who don't accept global warming are sick and need medical help. I will tell you who needs medical help. If you are unaware of all the money out there being thrown at global warming studies, I'm not sure what you have been reading. As for irrefutable proofs, climate change, and the like, I made my point in a blog that will be published tomorrow (03 April 2012) at noon on the Gloucester Township Patch. You can see the rest of my blathering on the subject and why I object to those who question the human contribution to global warming being compared to Holocaust Deniers in my blog titled, "Can Global Warming Be All Bad."
Dan Reynolds April 03, 2012 at 01:54 AM
So rather than answer any questions that I raised, you came back with statements that truly hold no value to the discussion. Keep on trucking, Someday in your grandkids digital future they will look back at your statement with humility and confusion.
Paul J. DiBartolo April 03, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Dan, give me a break. This whole conversation is based on generalities, your comments included. Your last post raised one question, what money? you asked, I answered. On the other hand, you point me to "irrefutable" proofs. That is ludicrous to the point of ridiculousness. I am not a scientist so I allow others more qualified than I to refute all the so-called "irrefutables." Others choose to deal in statements that attempt to belittle those who disagree with them prove nothing but their own arrogance: those who deny global warming are equivalent to Holocaust deniers; those who question global warming are mentally off and need to be helped to see the truth. You can't make this stuff up because there are already enough geniuses saying it for us. Keep on keepin' on, Dan.
Dan Reynolds April 03, 2012 at 01:44 PM
So, on the one hand - you say that you answered the question - which you did not - you said " Try to get research money if you don't toe the global warming line. ".. If your not a scientist trying to get said money - then how can you prove this? Can you cite articles? I'm only asking because last summer I was part of two NSA grants/projects, which had nothing do to with global warming - but rather alternative fuels for the transportation industry. (To be clear, it was on bio-fuels, and hybrid vehicles - global warming was never cited as a reason for either of these programs, but domestic energy Independence was). First you call scientists "So called know it all's". And in your last post you claim to leave the results up to them. So which is it Paul? It's a proof that can be replicated in a lab, or model. Again, you say you are not a scientist, fine but when I do give you scientific data - you claim it's false data. Clearly your qualified to make such a call? Wait, no your not - you said that yourself. I'll agree that the Earth changes over time, a long.. long time.. but not 100 years. 100 years is a speck in Earth's timeline. After that you drag in some name calling which I never said, nor support for people who don't agree. Not agreeing is fine, I've said that. But don't change the subject into a cry-baby name calling contest.
Paul J. DiBartolo April 03, 2012 at 02:31 PM
You're right about one thing, 100 years is a speck in time but most of the REAL data being used to prove global warming is just that, a speck in time. Quote by James Spann, American Meteorological Society-certified meteorologist: "Billions of dollars of grant money [over $50 billion] are flowing into the pockets of those on the man-made global warming bandwagon. No man-made global warming, the money dries up. This is big money, make no mistake about it. Always follow the money trail and it tells a story" (http://www.c3headlines.com/quotes-from-global-warming-critics-skeptics-sceptics.html). You write, "...but when I do give you scientific data ..." Are you serious? What scientific data did you provide? Are you seriously trying to say that Global Warming critics have not been compared to Holocaust Deniers? Have you ever heard of Al Gore? "Global Warming Skeptics Linked With Holocaust Deniers, Labeled Violent Threat" (http://www.federaljack.com/?p=19774) "Tolerating Holocaust Deniers and Global Warming Skeptics" (http://blogcritics.org/politics/article/tolerating-holocaust-deniers-and-global-warming/) "Silencing the Global Warming Skeptics" (http://www.akdart.com/warming5.html) This conversation is truly fruitless. BTW, Dan, a short note about your grammar...It's extremely hard to take you seriously when you do not appear to understand the grammatical difference between "you're" and "your". Have a great day.
Dan Reynolds April 03, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Thanks for pointing to blogs. We all know they are ultra trusted reliable sources of information. I do know the difference between your and you're. Sorry was just hammering out text on my phone.
Dan Reynolds April 03, 2012 at 03:01 PM
And "You write, "...but when I do give you scientific data ..." Are you serious? What scientific data did you provide?" - I posed the findings from the IPCC.
Paul J. DiBartolo April 03, 2012 at 03:44 PM
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007 (Errata) Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005). Sentence 1 predicts a 100% disappearance ("...disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner..." - that appears to be a prediction of 100%) of the Himalayan Glacier area by 2035. Sentence 2 backs off to an 80% prediction of disappearance (500,000 km2 to 100,000 km2). Sentence 2 begins with a grammatical error using the word "Its" to refer to Glaciers in the Himalaya mountain range. It has been pointed out that the two sentences appear to have been copied and pasted from two different sources - (very unprofessional). Finally, the actual reported area of the Himalayan glaciers is 33,000 km2 not the 500,000 km2 area found in the second sentence above from the IPCC report off by a factor of 15. The final decreased area of 100,000 km2 predicted for 2035 by the IPCC is actually three times greater than the current Himalayan Glacier area (sloppy to say the least and below the dignity of the highly respected authors of the IPCC report). Thanks to the Yale Climate Media Forum (2010). Give us all a break, Dan, like these guys don't have an agenda.

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