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Understanding Climate Change and the Political Ramifications for 2020

William B. Morton
Written by William B. Morton, Understanding Climate Change and the Political Ramifications for 2020 is a political call to action to elect an environmentally friendly President in 2020 before climate change is irreversible. Mr. Morton, who worked as a Senior Environmental Analyst for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Water, from 1964-2003, graduated from Colorado State University with a BS in Fisheries Science in 1961 and with a MS in Natural Resources Administration in 1971. Having previously published Stream Corridor Management: A Basic Reference Manual and Controlling Stormwater Runoff from New Development, Mr. Morton has served as a Village Trustee in Middleburgh, New York since 2012. He previously served in the United States Army as Military Police from 1961 to 1963. 


With the ongoing debates between climate change supporters and deniers, which clearly has political implications, I decided to jump into the fray and write a paper entitled, Understanding Climate Change and the Political Ramifications for 2020. My sense is that it is vitally important for mankind, including our youth and adults, to understand the devastating consequences that global warming can have on "mother Earth." The paper begins with a description of the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency graph shows three of the greenhouse gases, which for 1,800 years generally projected a straight line until the Industrial Revolution (circa 1760-1820), at which point each greenhouse gas turned abruptly upward. In the case of carbon dioxide (CO2), its atmospheric level was about 280 parts per million (ppm) prior to the Industrial Revolution. It now ranges between 400 and 412 ppm. The Pliocene Epoch, which was Earth about three to five million years ago, was very different from the Earth we now inhabit. But, in at least one respect, it was rather similar. This is the last time that CO2 levels were as high as they are today. The Pliocene Earth was much hotter and dryer. If mankind were to extract all coal, oil, and natural gas from the Earth, which is the goal of the fossil fuel industry, atmospheric CO2 levels would reach 2000 ppm, which would be similar to that of the Jurassic Epoch between 180 to 135 million years ago. With industry, transportation, and heating of buildings, including homes, driven by fossil fuels, we are trending toward the Jurassic Epoch.
Currently, mankind has entered a new Geological Epoch referred to as the Anthropocene, a human epoch wherein human beings are having major and lasting impacts upon the planet. Whereas all Epochs have phased in and out over the duration of many thousands to million of years, the Anthropocene Earth has taken root over a mere 150 to 200 years. 
Nature is sending all kinds of signals to us about the effects of global warming including, but not limited to: hurricanes of increasing intensity, more flooding, droughts and heatwaves, increasing forest fires, destruction of wildlife habitat, rising sea levels, glacial retreat, and decreased snow cover. Of all the consequences of greenhouse gases and global warming, one in particular stands out as being very alarming: ocean acidification. When atmospheric CO2 mixes with water (H2O) it forms carbonic acid (H2CO3). Acidity of surface ocean waters has increased about 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution. Ocean acidification contributes to stress and mortality of fish populations and reduction of coral reefs which many fish species are dependent upon. Ocean acidification is toxic to phytoplankton floating near the surface of the water which produces approximately 60 percent of Earth's oxygen. In a recent article in Forbes magazine, February 5, 2020, Ariella Simke reported that Dungeness crabs, a commercial fishery in the Pacific ocean, are literally dissolving as the ocean becomes more acidic. A recent published study, according to Ariella, found that as the waters become more acidic, Dungeness crabs have a hard time building and maintaining their shells, impacting their ability to survive and function as crabs. 
The 2020 presidential election presents the voting public with two distinct paths to the future: one path leads to planetary destruction, and that is the path toward unrestrained extraction and use of fossil fuels. The other path leads to a more sustained Earth for plants, animals, and humans, that is, the path seeking to expedite the transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and water, to meet the climate goals established during the Paris Climate Agreement of 2016. There are certain greenhouse gas reductions actions which must be taken within the next 12 years to begin meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. If humans fail to effectively act within this time frame, it will become extremely more difficult to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement. This paper concludes with a discussion of the approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions proposed by presidential candidates for the 2020 election. Owing to its destructive impacts on the Earth, global warming transcends all other issues, and each voter should decide which path to take and vote accordingly. 
It is important for each reader to share this paper with others, to spread the word as quickly as possible before election time, November 3, 2020. 


Many are coming to the realization that planet Earth is under assault from climate related events, both natural and man-made, which, if ignored, we do so at our own peril. The purpose of this paper is to facilitate a better understanding of climate change so that you and I can properly influence our elected leaders to initiate programs which effectively protect “mother Earth.” Many people throughout the world increasingly regard climate change as the most pressing issue facing mankind. This paper argues that unless we begin to take deliberate and effective action to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement, Earth's ecological support base for plants and animals will eventually become unsustainable for human habitation. It also presents a pathway for taking meaningful action.

The Greenhouse Gases

Climate scientist have determined that the major factors causing current climate change are greenhouse gases, land use changes, aerosols, and soot. The two main greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change are methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Nitrous oxide is a third contributor to climate change, albeit not on the scale of methane and carbon dioxide. Atmospheric methane concentrations are of interest because these are 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  Methane remains in the Earth's atmosphere for about 12 years.(1) On the other hand, carbon dioxide, which is not nearly as potent as methane, remains in the atmosphere for 100 years.(2)
  • Water vapor (H2O). The most abundant greenhouse gas which acts as a positive feedback loop to climate. Water vapor increases as the Earth's atmosphere warms, but so does the possibility of clouds and precipitation, making these some of the most important feedback mechanisms to the greenhouse effect.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2). A minor but very important component of our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is released through natural processes such as respiration and volcanic eruptions and through human activities including deforestation, melting of permafrost, land use changes and burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. Humans have increased atmospheric CO2 concentration by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution began. This is the most important long-lived “forcing” of climate change. Cement manufacturing contributes to greenhouse gases both directly through the production of carbon dioxide when calcium carbonate (limestone) is thermally decomposed, producing lime and carbon dioxide, and also indirectly through the use of energy, particularly through the combustion of fossil fuels in the production of cement.
  • Methane (CH4). A hydrocarbon gas produced both through natural sources and human activities, such as the decomposition of wastes in landfills, agriculture, and especially rice cultivation, as well as ruminant digestion and manure management associated with domestic livestock. The thawing of permafrost in the arctic tundra, which is rich in organic matter, will become a more important source of methane to the atmosphere as decomposition takes place. On a molecule-for-molecule basis, methane is a far more active greenhouse  gas than carbon dioxide, but also one which is much less abundant in the atmosphere.
1. How Long do Greenhouse Gases Stay in the Air? The Guardian, Clark, Duncan, Jan 16, 2012
2. Ibid.                                                                
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O). A powerful greenhouse gas produced by soil cultivation practices, particularly the use of commercial and organic fertilizers, fossil fuel combustion, nitric acid production, and biomass burning, such as forest fires. 
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs are synthetic compounds entirely of industrial origin that have been released into the atmosphere since the 1930s in various applications, such as air conditioning, refrigeration, blowing agents in foams, insulation and packing materials, propellants in aerosol cans, and solvents. CFCs released to the atmosphere absorb some of the infrared radiation emitted by the Earth's surface, thereby effectively heating the Earth's surface. 
  • Soot. Soot from chimneys, forest fires and diesel exhausts may have twice the impact on global warming than previously thought. The "black carbon" is said to be an important man-made agent of climate change. Soot particles are enigmatic substances, with warming and cooling properties which depend on the atmospheric conditions encountered as these drift upwards. In the upper troposphere at tropical and middle latitudes, these have the potential to absorb and emit heat and solar radiation. But if they do not rise that far, they may stabilize under lower-lying clouds that block the sunlight, so as to reduce temperatures.(3) Soot from Australian fires is expected to go around the globe and overlap smoke from the continuing Australian fires.
Under the auspices of the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from all over the world, concluded that industrial activities which our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million or ppm to 400 ppm in the last 150 years. The panel also concluded that there's more than a 95 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases have caused much of the observed increase in Earth's temperature over the past 50 years.(4)

We live in a Greenhouse

Life on Earth depends on energy coming from the Sun. About half of the light reaching Earth's atmosphere passes through the air and clouds where it is absorbed and then radiated upward in the form of infrared heat. About 90 percent of this heat is then absorbed by the greenhouse gases and radiated back towards Earth's surface. Scientists attribute the global warming trend since the mid-20th century to the human expansion of the “greenhouse effect.” Figure 1 shows the rapid upward trend of greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution.   

            3.  Hodnebrog, Oivind, The Guardian, September 26, 2014
            4.  Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Figure 1. These curves show that for the past 1760 years to a point where the Industrial Revolution began, the three greenhouse gases generally followed a straight line with CO2 at about 280 ppm. The industrial activities that our modern civilization depend upon have rapidly raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 ppm to 400 ppm in the last 150 years.(5)  
The amount of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere has surpassed levels seen in the entirety of human history, topping the highest point previously record in 800,000 years of data by more than 100 ppm.(6)
5.   Figure 1.  Contact USEPA –
6.  NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, November 2019

Increasing Greenhouse Gases and the Effects on the Environment

Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th  century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions discharged into the atmosphere. Most of the warming has occurred in the past 35 years, with the five warmest years on record taking place since 2010. Not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up the year --- from January through September, with the exception of June --- were the warmest on record for these respective months. Warming effects that scientists had predicted in the past resulting from man induced raises in greenhouse gases are now occurring as follows:(7)
  • Frost-free Seasons (and Growing Season) will Lengthen - The length of the frost-free season (and the corresponding growing season) has  been increasing with the largest increases occurring in the western United States, affecting ecosystems and agriculture. Across the United States, the growing season is projected to lengthen.
  • Changes in Precipitation Patterns: Projections of future climate over the U.S. suggest that the recent trend toward increased heavy precipitation events will continue. This trend is projected to occur even in regions where total precipitation is expected to decrease, such as the Southwest.          
  • More Droughts and Heatwaves: Summer temperatures are projected to continue rising. A reduction of soil moisture, which exacerbates heat waves, is projected for much of the western and central U.S. over summer months. By the end of this century, once-in-20-year extreme heat days (one-day events) are projected to occur every two or three years over most of the nation.
  • Hurricanes Will Become Stronger and More Intense: The intensity, frequency and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency and duration of the strongest hurricanes (Category 4 and 5), have all increased since the early 1980s. The relative contributions of human and natural causes to these increases are still uncertain. However, hurricane-associated rain intensity and rainfall rates are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.
  • Sea Level Will Rise 1-4 feet by 2100: Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record-keeping began in 1880.  It is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100. This is the result of added water from melting land ice, compounded by the expansion of sea water as it warms. In the next several decades, storm surges and high tides could combine with sea level rise and land subsidence to further increase flooding in many regions. Ocean waters will therefore continue to warm and sea level will continue to rise for many centuries at rates equal to or higher than those of the current century.
  • Arctic Likely to Become Ice-Free: The Arctic Ocean is expected to become essentially ice free during summer before mid-century. This will have profound negative effects on polar bear, fisheries, seals and whale populations.
7. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory / California Institute of Technology, Jackson, Randal     December 13, 2019
  • Warming Oceans: The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of  more than 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969. Warming oceans increase the frequency and intensity of hurricanes which contributes to coastal erosion, as well as coral die-off upon which numerous fish species are dependent.
  • Shrinking Ice Sheets: The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show that Greenland has lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016, while Antarctica has lost about 127 billion tons of ice per year during the same time period. The rate of Antarctica ice mass loss has tripled in the last decade. This will contribute to rising sea levels and loss of wildlife habitats in the polar regions.
  • Glacial Retreat: Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world including the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. Glacial retreat has contributed to declining water supplies in cities in western U.S., as well as elsewhere wherein glacial retreat diminishes water availability during dry seasons. Water supplied by glaciers are critical water sources in such western U.S. cities as Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California.
  • Decreased Snow Cover: Satellite observations have revealed that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier.
  • Ocean Acidification: Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, circa 1800, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and subsequently, causing more CO2 to be absorbed into the oceans. When water (H2O) and CO2 mix, they combine to form carbonic acid (H2CO3). The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year. Ocean acidification contributes to stress and mortality of fish populations, and to the reduction of coral reefs and fisheries dependent upon the reefs. Ocean acidification is toxic to phytoplankton which floats near the surface of the water and produces approximately 60 percent of Earth's oxygen.(8) Scientists already know that ocean acidification reduces the mineral content of  water, making  it harder for certain creatures to build their shells, thereby rendering corals more vulnerable. Ocean acidication is putting algae at risk, threatening the foundation of the entire marine food web. The losses in silica production could have far reaching consequences for the biology and chemistry of the oceans, ultimately leading to a decline in marine diversity. Most alarming, there is a growing body of evidence which shows that significant ecological implications of climate change will take effect much sooner than previously anticipated.(9)
  • Extinction of Plants and Animals: Up to half of plant and animal species in the world's most naturally rich areas, such as the Amazon and the Galapagos, could face extinction by the turn of the century due to climate change, if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked. Even if the Paris Climate Agreement of 2 degrees Centigrade target is met, these places could still lose 25 percent of their species according to a landmark study conducted by the University of East Anglia, the James Cook University and the World Wildlife Fund. Up to 90 percent of amphibians, 86 percent of birds, and 80 percent of mammals could become locally extinct in the Miombo Woodlands in Southern Africa. The Amazon could lose 69 percent of its plant species. In southwest Australia, 89  percent of amphibians could become locally extinct. In Madagascar, sixty percent of all species are at risk of localized extinction.(10)
Taken as a whole, the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.(11)     

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):  The Paris Climate Agreement

The UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty adopted on May 9, 1992 and opened for signature from 3 to 14 June 1992 at the Earth's Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This treaty entered into force on March 21, 1994 after a sufficient number of countries had ratified it. The UNFCCC objective is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent anthropocentric (man-induced) interference with the climate system.” 

The framework sets non-binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms. Instead, the framework outlines how specific international treaties (called “Protocols” or “Agreements”) may be negotiated to specify further action towards the objective of UNFCCC. The UNFCCC had 197 parties as of December 2015. The convention enjoys broad legitimacy, largely due to its nearly universal membership.

In 2010, the United Nations Climate Change Conference produced an agreement stating that future global warming should be limited to below 2.0 degrees Centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) relative to the pre-industrial level. In 2015, the Paris Agreement was adopted, governing emission reductions from 2020 on through commitments of countries in Nationally Determined Contributions, with a view of lowering the target to 1.5 degrees Centigrade (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The Paris Agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016.
8. Ibid. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
9. Acid oceans are shrinking plankton, The Conversation, Petrou, Katherina, et. al., August 30, 2019                                                                                                                                           
10Half of plant and animal species at risk from climate change in world's most important natural places, Media contact: Melanie Gade and Audrey Payne, World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th Street, N.W. Washington, DC  20037  
11. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  
The Geological Context, What the Future Portends if Emission Reductions are Not Met

Imagine a planet where the sea level is about five to 40 meters (131 feet) higher than today. Imagine a planet that is hotter and dryer. Imagine, worldwide, it's roughly 3 to 4 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than today, and that the North and South poles are even warmer still --- as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than today. Imagine a planet that has no people.

Welcome to the Pliocene Epoch. That was the Earth about three to five million years ago, a very different place than the Earth we now inhabit.(12) But, in at least one respect, it was rather similar. This is the last time that CO2 levels were as high as they are today. Figure 1, together with data from Hawaii's Mauna Lao Observatory, shows that CO2 emissions currently are in the range of 400 ppm to 412 ppm. In November 2019, CO2 concentrations at Mauna Lao Observatory topped 412 ppm.

The climate of the Pliocene is thought to have been much warmer and dryer than it is today. The warmest phase was in the middle of the epoch, the interval between three and four million years ago. Less ice at the poles resulted in a sea level that is thought to have been about 30 meters (98 feet) higher than today. Chart 1 shows that toward the end of Pliocene there was a cooling trend which was followed by the ice ages of the Pleistocene Epoch from 10 million to 1 million years ago.(13)

To some, crossing the threshold of 400 ppm is a signal that we are now firmly seated in the “Anthropocene,” a human epoch wherein people are having major and lasting impacts on the planet. Because of the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, to others, it means we are marching inexorably towards a “point of no return” into a territory that is unknown to the human race. 

Notice on Chart 1 that during the Mississippian Epoch, 350-300 million years ago, coal forming forests were widespread. Under immense pressure from shale and soil overburden 4,000 feet or more in depth, immense heat was generated, converting deposited organic matter from dead forests, plants and animals to coal, oil and natural gas. If humans were to burn all the remaining fossil fuels sequestered in the Earth, and this could happen over the next two centuries at current rates of extraction, researchers predict that the planetary atmosphere would match that witnessed during the days of the dinosaurs at the dawn of the Jurassic period, when atmospheric CO2 was 2000 ppm. Currently, mankind is trending in that direction. Without human intervention, life on Earth will become unsustainable, most likely long before all the fossil fuels are extracted from the Earth by 2250.(14) Clearly, most plant and animal ecosystems with which we are familiar will disappear.

As a point of illustrating, residents of Schoharie County, New York should note in Chart 1 that Howe Caverns was formed during the Pliocene Epoch. Also noteworthy is that one of the world's earliest forests, now known as the Gilboa Fossil Forest, became established in the Schoharie County Town of Gilboa during the Devonian Epoch 400-350 million years ago.
12. To Schoharie County, New York residents, note in Chart 1 that Howe Caverns was formed during the Pliocene.
13.  University of California Berkeley,The Pliocene Epoch, Polly David, et. al.,
14. Climate News Network, CO2 levels heading back to days of dinosaurs, Radford, Tim, 

Geological History

Global warming and cooling has an interesting geological history. Perhaps the best way of looking at and gaining a basic understanding of this history is by looking at Earth's history within the context of geologic epochs or periods which occurred from the time earth formed 4.6 billion years ago to the present. Chart 1 provides the geological timing.


                                            Cenozoic Era:        66 Million Years Ago to Present

 10,000 -- present

 1 million -- 10,000
 10-- 1 million
 25 -- 10 million
 40 -- 25 million
 60 -- 40 million
 66 -- 60 million

 Iron, Bronze, New and Middle
         Stone Age:  Lake Schoharie
 Ice Ages: Humans appear, Old Stone Age
 Howe Caverns form
 Mammals diversify, age of mammals
 Grazing animals spread
 Primitive horses, extinction of dinosaurs
 Mammals develop rapidly

                                           Mesozoic Era:  245 Million to 66 Million Years Ago

 135 -- 66 million
 180 -- 135 million
 245 -- 180 million
 First flowering plants appear
 Dinosaurs, conifers (trees), first birds
 Volcanoes, dinosaurs dominate, mammals appear
                                           Paleozoic Era:   570 Million to 245 Million Years Ago

 270 -- 245 million
 300 -- 270 million
 350 -- 300 million
 400 -- 350 million
 440 -- 400 million
 500 -- 440 million
 570 -- 500 million


 Many reptiles, extinction of many marine species
 Swamps, warmth, large reptiles
 Coal forming swamps and forests widespread
 Amphibians; Gilboa Fossil Forest
 Fish, first land plants appear
 Algae and seaweed
 Marine invertebrates, first organisms with shells
 Precambrian Times: 4.6 Billion to 570 Million Years Ago Earth's crust, oldest rocks, earliest life form, single-cell organisms first appear.  Precambrian comprises about 88% of geologic time.
            Chart 1.  Geologic time.  The time divisions are epochs in the Cenozoic Era,  periods in the Mesozoic and earlier.(15)
 15. The Schoharie County Historical Society, The Sloughters's History of Schoharie County, Hendrix, Lester E,. 1994

Strategies and Solutions for Achieving the Paris Agreement Emission Reductions

Lately, we've been hearing variations of the phrase “The world only has 12 years to deal with climate change.” But where does this idea of having 11 or 12 years remaining come from, and what does it actually mean?

The number began drawing attention in 2018, when the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report describing what it would take to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The report explained that countries would have to cut their anthropocentric (human caused) carbon dioxide emissions, such as from power plants, and vehicles, to net zero by around 2050. To reach that goal, CO2 emissions would have to start dropping “well before 2030” and be on a path to fall by about 45 percent around 2030 (12 years away from that time). Mid-century is actually the more significant target date in the report, but acting now is crucial to being able to meet that goal.(16) “That's a huge transformation, so that if we don't make a good start on it during the 2020s, we won't be able to get there at reasonable cost.”(17)

In some ways, the “12 years” narrative may set up a deadline that's too lenient, because some key parts of the climate system may already be past tipping points.(18) Studies show that some parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet are unlikely to recover, and some parts of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet may also be at or very near a tipping point to rapid disintegration. The world will still exist if we breach 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius, but the climate impacts and risks will be higher and the temperature will be higher (19). “But in terms of deadlines, we have already missed the deadline.  We should have started mitigating decades ago, then we would have the problem solved.”(20)

“Solving the problem by 2030, 2040 or 2050 requires a new global energy infrastructure strategy, which is arguably easier and less expensive than past infrastructure shifts such as indoor plumbing, rural electrification, the automobile and paved roads, telecommunications, computers, mobile phones and the internet. All these past changes cost tens of trillions of dollar, adjusted for inflation.(21)

A new analysis finds that coal, oil and gas already under lease on public lands as well as in oceans of  the United States, will last far beyond the point scientists predict the world will exceed the temperature targets set out in the global climate agreement that was reached in Paris. The findings supported  the growing call to President Obama by hundreds of organizations to immediately halt new federal fossil fuel leasing – a step that would keep up to 450 billion tons of potential tons of carbon pollution from reaching the atmosphere.(22)
16. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, Shin dell, Drew, a lead author on the   mitigation chapter of the report. 2018
17. Center for Climate and Weather Extremes, UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric   Research. Swain, Daniel, 2018.
18. Climate Research Center, Oslo, Peters, Glen, Research Director.
19. Ibid.
21. Colorado State University, Genning, Scott. Atmospheric Sciences,
22. Study Supports The Calls to President Obama to 'Keep' it in the Ground, Friends of the Earth,
Letter to President Obama, September 1, 2015                                            

Federal Mitigation Initiatives for Curbing Greenhouse Gases: A Comparison of Two Policy Initiatives 

Obama's Clean Power Plan (23): The Clean Power Plan was an Obama administration policy aimed at combating anthropocentric climate change (global warming). That was first proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency in June 2014. The final version of the plan was unveiled by the President on August 3, 2015.  

Following are the key measures: 
  • Invest $3.4 Billion in a Smart Growth Grid: This provision would affect 49 states and has the potential to reduce electricity use by more than 4 % by 2033. The provision would invest in renewable energy/efficiency, and job preservation. 
  • Create a Research Projects Agency: – Energy Department: This would provide a “self-sustaining” house energy retrofit industry,
  • Establish new efficiency standards for house appliances
  • Establish national fuel efficiency policy: Applies to cars from model years 2012-2016. Requires cars to have an average fuel efficiency of 35.mpg by 2016.
  • Establish three measures to increase the production of bio-fuels: biomass crop, assistance program, and bio-fuels working group.
  • Establish inter-agency task force: Develop a federal strategy for carbon capture and storage,
  • Develop a New Environmental Agency rule called the Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases: Requiring the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by major emitters in the U.S.
  • Halt new coal mining on federal lands: In January 2016, the Obama Administration ordered a halt to new coal mining on federal lands.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (24): The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009,  an economic stimulus package to end the Great Recession, was enacted by the 111th U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Obama in February 2009.  

Relative to controlling greenhouse gas emissions, the Act provided:
  • $111 billion for the Smart Grid to connect rural energy-producing sites with cities and to promote smarter use of energy within houses.
  • $55 billion to weatherize low income homes.
  • $45.5 billion to reduce the federal government's own energy use by making federal buildings more efficient.
  • $62.3 billion to support State and local energy efforts.
  • $6 billion to train people for “green” jobs.
  • $29 billion to promote investments in battery storage technologies.

The ARRA also:
  • Extended investment tax credits for solar energy.
  • Extended the production tax credit for wind energy.
  • Allowed utilities to participate in income tax credits.
  • Allowed renewable energy developers to receive government grants instead of tax credits.

President Obama called for a goal “by 2035, that 80 percent of American electricity will come from clean energy sources.” Furthermore, the Obama administration established standards that would:
  • Increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light trucks by model year 2025,  saving American families more than $1.7 billion dollars in fuel costs, resulting in an average fuel cost savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 over the lifetime of the vehicle.
  • Reduce oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day by 2025.

The State of California and other key stakeholders supported the announcement and were integral in developing this national program. Thirteen major automakers, which together account for 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the US, agreed to comply with the standards.
23.  Climate Change: Obama Unveils Clean Power Plan,  BBC  August 3, 2015
24.  Wikipedia,>wiki>American_Recovery_and_Reinvestment_...

President Trump's Climate Programs

As a backdrop, President Trump has repeatedly expressed skepticism about the scientific consensus that global warming is human-caused. On numerous occasions he has stated that the influence of  mankind on global warming is a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese. It must be understood that Mr. Trump is beholden to the fossil fuel industries. As his first pick to head the EPA, Mr. Trump chose Scott Pruitt, from the oil producing State of Oklahoma. Previous to this appointment, Mr. Pruitt had filed seventeen law suits against the EPA. It was Mr. Trump's intent to instruct Pruitt to drastically curb EPA's  rule-making authority. Pruitt was ultimately forced to resign under a cloud of ethics scandals involving spending abuses, first class travel, cozy relationships with lobbyists, and enlisting aides to obtain special favors for himself and his family, in particular reaching out to the chief executive of Chick-fil-A, Dan T. Cathy, to assist Mr. Pruitt's wife with the opening of a franchise of the restaurant.

In February 2019, the Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler to replace Scott Pruitt as the administrator of the EPA, giving oversight of the nation's air and water to a former coal lobbyist and seasoned Washington insider.The vote, 52-47, went mostly along party lines and further underscored partisan divisions over the Trump administration's continued commitment to repeal environmental regulations under Mr. Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler as administrator of the EPA has moved to dramatically weaken two of former President Obama initiatives, namely reducing emission standards from power plants and from automobiles, while also proposing fewer requirements to facilitate more rapid approval of new coal-fired power plants. Mr. Wheeler sought  to unwind legal justification for curbing toxic mercury from coal. Mr. Wheeler also sought to relax emission rules from power plants, to limit federal water quality protection rules for small waterways, and, as an aside, he dismissed a panel of  independent scientific advisers. Mr. Wheeler also weakened the EPA's ability to criminally enforce anti-pollution rules. The New York Times reported that to date, 95 environmental rules are being rolled back under the Trump Administration.(25)
Additional anti-climate change measures taken under the Trump Administration include:
  • Revocation in 2018 of California's authority to set auto emission rules that are stricter than federal standards.This is a major step forward by the Trump Administration's wide-ranging attack on government efforts to fight climate change. Xavier Becerra, the Attorney General of California, is fighting back with a law suit along with 14 other States that are parties to the suit.
  • Dismantling of the Sage Grouse Conservation Plans: The sage grouse, an odd looking western bird that has become a symbol of land conflict between environmentalists and energy companies, is again at risk of losing significant portions of its habitat. In 2019, the Trump administration announced it would be dismantling the 2015 Sage Grouse Conservation Plans, which had been negotiated by many stakeholders, such as conservation groups, ranchers, sportsmen, and mining companies. The new directive gives States more control over which habitats they are allowed to open for fossil fuel extraction. Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming and parts of California will be impacted. The National Wildlife Federation cites eight million acres of sage grouse habitat will be potentially at risk.(26)
  • Allowing extraction of coal on public lands: Following a moratorium put in place during the Obama administration to prevent companies from extracting nearly two billion tons of coal on  federal public lands, a judge ruled in April 2019 that the Trump administration violated the law when it opened public lands to coal leasing in 2017. Earth Justice Jenny Harbine argued the case. The judge ruled that the government failed to provide an adequate Environmental Impact Statement, and further, the coal program offered a scant benefit to taxpayers by auctioning mining rights on public lands for a pittance. The moratorium was put in place as part of the Obama administration's effort to keep fossil fuels in the ground in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.(27)
  • Instituting the so-called 'Safer Affordable Fuel Efficiency Rules': In a new plan for fuel efficiency, called the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficiency Rules, the administration outlined nine different alternatives to the Obama administration's rules for increasing auto fuel efficiency. However, the Trump Administration stated that the preferred option was the most complete rollback: freezing the standards at the 2020 level through the model year 2026.
  • Opening up Public Lands to the Energy Industry  Immediately after he took office, on January 20, 2017,  President Trump and his officials began opening up public lands to the energy industry. Two weeks later, Mr. Trump repealed a rule that prohibited mining companies from dumping waste into rivers. Ryan Zinke was confirmed as Secretary of the Department of  Interior, and from there the deregulation pace quickened.(28) Secretary Zinke oversaw the review of national monuments, shrinking the size of two monuments in Utah for exploitation by the fossil fuel industry. Zinke proceeded to streamline oil and gas industry permitting, and among other de-regulating measures, opened Arctic waters to drilling.

25.  New York Times, 95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump, Dec. 21, 2019
26.  Summer for Environmental Regs, But Trump's Biggest Cut is Still to Come, Talking Points Memo, Lafond, Nicole, September 18, 2019.
27.  National Geographic, A Running List of How President Trump is Changing Environmental Policy, May 19, 2019

Current signs of Man-Induced Global Warming: Fires and the “Blob”
During the last four decades, the Earth has been getting warmer, with each succeeding decade becoming warmer than the preceding decades. 

We currently are witnessing massive forest fires in California as well as Australia. If a map of the fires in Australia is superimposed on a map of the U.S. and Canada, the devastation from burning would extend from coast-to-coast and into Canada.(See Figure 2.)

Figure 2.  Using a map of North America to show the scale of Australian wildfires.
Figure 3
Then there is the “blob.” The blob is a heat wave in the Pacific Ocean which extends from Alaska along the Pacific coastline to southern California. The blob is responsible for the recent death of over a million sea birds which included 10 to 20 percent of the Common Murre population (Figure 3). These sea-faring birds depend upon fish for their survival. The record warm ocean temperatures of the blob run deep into the ocean, such that the fish are forced to dive deep, out of reach of the sea birds, to find cool water in order to survive. The birds were unable to reach the fish and, subsequently, the birds starved.

As another example of the effects of global warming, a salmon stream in Bristol Bay, Alaska has warmed during the summer months such that it can no longer support a salmon fishery.

Figure 4. Source: Michelle Ma. University of Washington.

What will it take to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit? It will take leadership at the highest level of government: the presidency to lead the world community to achieve this goal.

Paths Moving Forward to the 2020 Election

That the effects of man-induced global warming on the Earth's infinitesimal number of ecosystems and how their failure through climate change can limit the sustainability of the Earth to support mankind makes climate change a political issue which transcends all other issues.

Candidate Donald J. Trump  

President Trump has consistently viewed man-induced climate change as a hoax. Currently President Trump  is in the process of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords, a non-binding forum in which all countries can come together to develop approaches for achieving the Paris Climate Agreement goals. Withdrawal from the Agreement takes one year. The United States will no longer be  a participant in the Agreement on the day after the 2020 presidential election, even though we are the world's second greatest polluter of greenhouse gases following China which is number one. 
Photo Courtesy: Mother Jones, J. Ball. July/
August 2018 Edition.
Clearly, President Trump is not a globalist. He is a nationalist whose primary mission is to “Make America Great Again.” America is at its “greatest” when America provides world leadership such as the leadership provided to defeat the Nazis in World War II. Owing to his unending rhetoric aimed at bashing man-induced global climate change, as well as his environmental regulatory rollbacks, President Trump will have squandered four precious years of his presidency by failing to address the world-wide climate dilemma. With climate change being the most important issue facing mankind, Trump is not suited to be re-elected to the presidency of the United States of America. Another four years of a Trump administration would spell disaster not only for the United States but for mother Earth as well. By pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, President Trump has relinquished the status of the United Sates as a world leader. 

Solar and wind energy are the future if we are to have clean energy sources by the year 2050. Donald Trump in his position of leadership ceded solar energy to China, relinquishing world leadership to the Chinese. And now China is gaining on the West in the most important arena of all: innovation.

Democratic Candidates   

It appears that many of the Democratic candidates for the presidential election have factored climate change into their platforms. Hopefully, one candidate will emerge who has the administrative skills, the scientific knowledge, and the ability to point our country and the world community in the direction of decreasing greenhouse gases so that by the end of this century, the U.S. and the world community will have averted the devastating consequences of climate change.

Voters should insist that the Democratic Party present a presidential nominee for the 2020 election who, among other qualifications, is knowledgeable about the science of climate change and is able to lead us down a path trending toward the goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050. The world community needs informed and persistent leadership to effectively address the climate crisis. Clearly, the United States can and should provide the degree of leadership that is required. No other country can provide the required leadership.

Your Legacy, 2020

There is no more important vote than the one you will take on November 3, 2020. Ask yourself, “What legacy do I wish to leave to my children, my grand children and my great grandchildren?” One path leads to further planetary destruction, the other path leads to a more sustainable Earth for plants, animals and human beings. Climate change is a global, multi-decade challenge that desperately requires solutions. It transcends the short term nature of politics, which is prone to fluctuations in priorities, platforms, and personnel. Consequently, climate change cannot be solved by government alone. It requires watchful attention of voters as well as significant short and long-term investment from the private sector.

Elected leaders must aim toward bringing global net greenhouse emissions down to zero by 2050 according to the world's climate scientists. Electricity is the foundation of a zero-carbon world. Electricity that comes from clean sources, namely the sun, wind and water. It is cheap and abundant. Today it powers our houses, tomorrow it could drive the world. Batteries will hold the power.
As Greta Thunberg, the 17 year old climate activist from Sweden, demanded at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,  all companies, banks, institutions and governments should:

Immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction.
Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies.
Immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels.

Begin investing in renewable energy to facilitate the transition to a clean energy future.

We would all do well to keep in mind that, ”We do not inherit the Earth, we borrow it from our children.” - Native American Proverb.

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