Climate deniers fog up the works

KAREN ELIAS

Lock Haven

Climate deniers are once again dragging out the tired old water vapor argument to fog up the works.

In his recent letter to the editor titled “Green house gases and how they work,” Romuald Andraka claims that the real reason our planet is heating up is the presence of water vapor in our atmosphere. By focusing on the fact that water vapor does indeed function as a greenhouse gas, he would like us to believe that C02 is essentially a “benign” gas whose “effects are negligible . . . on our climate.”

The idea that water vapor is the primary driver of climate warming is a myth.

Climate scientists are clear: although C02 concentrations in the atmosphere are relatively small, their increasing numbers are responsible for driving up the earth’s thermostat. As carbon dioxide levels rise, so does the planet’s temperature. Since warmer air holds more moisture, water vapor levels begin to rise as a result. This creates what is called an “amplifying feedback loop,” with increased water vapor, in turn, raising our temperatures even further.

Thus, water vapor is the product of rising temperatures, not their primary driver. Water vapor does not control earth’s temperature. It is controlled by earth’s temperature. The only way we can keep our water vapor levels low is to control our C02 emissions.

Interestingly, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere varies, typically lasting for only a few days at a time before it condenses and becomes rainfall — which brings us to our local weather conditions. According to official measurements, our area experienced the wettest summer on record this year, with 20.72 inches of rain falling since June 1st. Additionally, our rainfall is 16.7 inches above average for the past 365 days. The recent National Climate Assessment report [NCA], prepared by the federal government, looks at the effects of climate change on the Northeast and indicates that “excess moisture is already a leading cause of crop loss” in our area. Condensing water vapor functions here as the immediate catalyst, but our fossil fuel emissions are the real culprit.

Unlike water vapor, carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries. Its effects – as both the NSA and the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tell us – are already being felt and will be further amplified unless we take “unprecedented” action to get our carbon emissions under control over the next 12 years. “Humans are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at a rate far greater than it is removed by natural processes, creating a long-lived reservoir of the gas in the atmosphere and oceans that is driving the climate to a warmer and warmer state,” according to the NSA.

The good news is that these reports are getting long-overdue attention from both the media and Congress. As we get closer to taking appropriate action, it’s probable that “confirmed deniers” such as Mr. Andraka will try their best to distract us with fuzzy logic and foggy thinking.

We have known about the warming effects of C02 for over two hundred years, and our response so far has been dangerously inadequate. The time to act is now.

What you can do:

– Take climate change seriously. Don’t take my word for it. Look at the science.

– Educate yourself by reading all you can. Here are two good websites. On the IPCC Report: www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/10/ipcc-report-climate-change-impacts-forests-emissions/. And on the National Climate Assessment: www.nytimes.com/2018/11/23/climate/us-climate-report.html

– Think about the future you want to leave to your children and grandchildren and talk to everyone you know about how we can make that future possible.

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