The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change

Author: Robert Henson

Part 1 - The Basics - Global Warming in a nutshell

Chapter 1 - Climate Change: A Primer

The spectrum extends anywhere from 0.4° to 2.6°C (0.7°–4.7°F) by 2046–2065 and from 0.3° to 4.8°C (0.5°–8.6°F) by 2081–2100. Importantly, this would be on top of the warming of about 0.6°C (1.1°F) that occurred from the 1850–1900 period to the 1986–2005 comparison period.

There’s nothing magic about the 2°C value, as we’ll see in chapter 14, but it serves as a “do not exceed” guidepost in the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change.

Together, the United States and China account for an ever-increasing slice of the globe’s greenhouse emissions—more than 40%, as of 2014.

Kyoto agreement was binding, but the US and China were not a part of it.

The Paris agreement is self enforced, so is a step back.

Chapter 2 - The Greenhouse Effect

Good analogies: think of temperatures on the moon, which doesn't have an atmosphere. Similarly, a car left in the sun gets really hot. Similarly, the atmosphere traps heat. CO2 is 96 percent of Venus's atmosphere. 0.04 percent off ours. Also it's 25 percent closer to the sun than us. Surface air temperature of 460 degrees celsius. Mercury, although much closer to the sun, has a much lower average temperature due to its thin atmosphere.

Unlike a glass box, the atmosphere doesn't trap heat. It mainly absorbs infrared radiation rising from the earth:

Positive feedback loop makes it worse: more CO2, more warmth, more water evaporating from oceans, and that doubles the impact.

Water vapour: less greenhouse effect compared to CO2 and methane, but large quantity. If temperatures increase, the air can hold more vapour, which again traps more heat.

Since 1958, measurements have been taken in Hawaii's Mauna Loa. Being remote and high, it is far enough away from industrial effects that it serves as a global measurement of CO2 increase.

Todo explain why the stratosphere has been cooling while the surface has been warming.

Chapter 3 - Who’s Responsible?

Emissions breakdown:


CHAPTER 4 - Extreme Heat

Heat affects mortality because high temperatures generate more ozone.

It irritates the lungs and makes people more vulnerable to other pollutants.

PM2.5 and PM10 particles also accumulate during a heat wave. Heavy metals, sulphates, nitrates etc bypass the respiratory filters, causing lung problems and increasing the risk of heart attacks.

Measuring deaths from heat waves: not easy since it's indirect. It mainly claims lives of the very young or very old. But if tje argument was that the very old simply doed a bit before their time, we should see that the mortality numbers dipped by a similar percentage after the heat wave. But what we observe are that there are 3xcess deaths above what we'd expect if some deaths were simply happening earlier. I.e. there are people who are dying before 'their time'.

How to measure: things like absolute values don't give a good sense when comparing different cities across the world. Monthly max / min doesn't capture a week long heat wave. And so on. So a good measure is 'Percentile departure' i.e. the number of days that land among the hottest of all days in that month's long term record, based on percentage (i.e. Hottest 10 %, hottest 5%, 1% etc.)

Chapter 5 - Floods and Droughts

Chapter 6 - The Big Melt

Chapter 7 - Oceans

Chapter 8 - Hurricanes and Other Storms

Chapter 9 - Ecosystems and Agriculture

Part 3: The Science - How we know what we know about climate change

Chapter 10 - Keeping Track

Chapter 11 - The Long View

Chapter 12 - Circuits of Change

Part 4 - Debates and Solutions - From spats and spin to protecting the planet

Chapter 13 - A Heated Topic

Chapter 14 - The Predicament

Chapter 15 - Political Solutions

Chapter 16 - Technological Solutions

Part 5 - What Can You Do? Reducing your footprint and working for action

Chapter 17 - Getting Started

Chapter 18 - Home Energy

Chapter 19 - Transport and Travel

Chapter 20 - Shopping

Chapter 21 - Offsetting