Climate Change 2015: The Latest Science

West coast of Greenland. The fastest glacier in the world, Jakobshaven Isbrae, moving at 150 feet per day, dumps ice from the Greenland Ice Sheet into Disko Bay. (Photo: Bruce Melton)
Bruce Melton, Truthout, 28/12/15

Climate science is way out in front of climate policy. Commitments at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris pale in comparison to those from the Kyoto Protocol with its beginnings in the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The cheap and unambiguous solution of removing CO2 directly from the sky has been discredited by the perceived debate. Previously assumed stable ice sheets are disintegrating. It is warmer than any time in the last 120,000 years. The Gulf Stream appears to be shutting down. Nearly 100 submarine glacial valleys beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet tunnel warm subtropical Atlantic water 90 miles beneath the ice. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we need to remove more carbon dioxide from our atmosphere than we emit every year (negative emissions). Most importantly, new knowledge about global cooling smog shows that killing coal will create more warming than doing nothing in the most critical decades-long time frames.

The great delay in climate action has dramatically increased climate change impacts and the amount of carbon dioxide that we must now deal with to prevent even greater impacts. Delay has been caused by the debate casting doubt on climate science in ways that have proven to be effective in similar debates about smoking, acid rain and ozone-depleting chemicals. Because of doubt, fundamentally important new climate science has failed to escape the confines of academia and proceed into the public realm where it can move policy - literally - into the 21st century.

Number One: Direct Air Capture

Not new, very real, but often maligned in advocacy and policy discussions, direct air capture (DAC) of carbon dioxide is an important aspect of the failure of traditional climate science education techniques. DAC costs as little as $20 per ton, and once fully industrialized, can remove 50 ppm CO2 from the atmosphere and allow us to approach a safe level of greenhouses gases for less than the $2.1 trillion Americans spent on health care in 2006. (1, 2)