What Should We Do Now?

We humans caused the world to warm ~0.6oC from 1970 to 1998. We halted the human-caused increase in ozone depletion by reducing emissions of CFCs via the Montreal Protocol. We need to continue to strengthen the prohibition against manufacturing gases that deplete ozone and to seek ways to remove these gases from the atmosphere. As long as ozone remains depleted, the ocean will continue to absorb increased ultraviolet-B solar radiation. Earth’s thermostat is being reset. The only natural way to lower the thermostat is through increased numbers of major explosive volcanic eruptions.

We also need to understand better exactly how volcanoes deplete ozone and what our options will be if the rates and types of global volcanism should suddenly change.

Increasing anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases do not appear to influence global warming directly as currently assumed. Reducing these emissions is unlikely to reduce global warming, but may slow ocean acidification.

Rapid increases in pollutants such as black carbon formed by incomplete combustion, sulfur dioxide from burning fossil fuels, and ground-level ozone formed as a result of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and other pollutants occurred 30 years prior to major warming , suggesting that they do not have much effect on global warming other than absorbing some ultraviolet-B radiation. But these pollutants do have major deleterious effects on public health and many cause acid rain. Most developed countries have reduced pollution to relatively healthy levels, but improvements are still possible and of value. Developing countries rapidly increasing energy use, such as China and India, need to put major emphasis on reducing pollution for the health of their citizens and others living downwind. Concentrations of corrosive sulfate in acid rains that reach the western United States from Asia and from ships at sea sometimes exceed US maximum allowable emission levels (Lin et al., 2014).

Plot of energy use in the United States estimated by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Energy use in the United States estimated by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Dark gray shows energy actually utilized (39%) and light gray shows energy lost (rejected) (61%). Much of the loss is inevitable, but much could be conserved. This energy flow chart shows the relative size of primary energy resources and end uses in the United States, with fuels compared on a common energy unit basis.

Our modern lifestyles depend heavily and increasingly on the availability of inexpensive energy. Sources of fossil fuels are limited. Currently, of the energy we produce for consumption, 61% of that energy is wasted. While much of this waste is inevitable, much can be conserved. Conserving energy not only makes good economic sense, but it also extends the long-term availability of fossil fuels.

Last updated 27-Jan-2016    © 2015 Peter L. Ward. All Rights Reserved