Climate Change and USA: What is happening?

Last Tuesday I came across an article on national geographic magazine stating that

Only 40 percent of Americans, according to the most recent poll from the Pew Research Center, accept that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming.

An explanation was given as well in the article:

The “science communication problem,” as it’s blandly called by the scientists who study it, has yielded abundant new research into how people decide what to believe—and why they so often don’t accept the scientific consensus. It’s not that they can’t grasp it, according to Dan Kahan of Yale University. In one study he asked 1,540 Americans, a representative sample, to rate the threat of climate change on a scale of zero to ten. Then he correlated that with the subjects’ science literacy. He found that higher literacy was associated with stronger views—at both ends of the spectrum. Science literacy promoted polarization on climate, not consensus. According to Kahan, that’s because people tend to use scientific knowledge to reinforce beliefs that have already been shaped by their worldview.

Americans fall into two basic camps, Kahan says. Those with a more “egalitarian” and “communitarian” mind-set are generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it’s up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they’re likely to see the risks of climate change. In contrast, people with a “hierarchical” and “individualistic” mind-set respect leaders of industry and don’t like government interfering in their affairs; they’re apt to reject warnings about climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to—some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.

I tried to test this, and my findings were similar. I asked 10 of my friends who are American and half of them are involved in scientific research work. I asked them whether they believe climate change is caused by humans for the last 200 years. Interestingly the answer came up ‘no’ in 8, even though I gave 6 of them agreed there is scientific evidence.

One of the common reason came out, is—the record keeping. We have been keeping records from 1659 and a clear warming trend since 1880, when modern scientific instrumentation became available to monitor temperatures precisely. So, to them it’s not long enough to say humans are reason for global warming or climate change. According to one of my friend and participant:

Who knows this maybe a cyclic process, that happens every few thousand years, I believe it’s natural, we are not effective enough to change the course that god decided for us.

But most valuable comment came from a professor, when he told personally he believes that it is not caused by humans, but his research arena is climate change and he wants the funds to keep coming in.

That brings me to my focal point: Is not America suffering themselves from Climate Change?

Let’s just look at California for instance, facing it’s worst drought in 1200 years. Now, if you don’t want to believe science, stop believing in all the technology and medicines. Oh, I forgot 1 in 5 Americans do believe vaccine causes autism (Kahan Strikes in this case, as the 1998 research paper that set off a sharp decline in vaccinations in Britain after the paper’s lead author suggested that vaccines could cause autism. Kahan: Science can’t not take away the core believe you often have).

Ukiah in California, 2013 annual rainfall lowest of all time. Source: http://www.savingwaterpartnership.org

20 hours ago, standing in a brown field that would normally be smothered in several feet of snow, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered cities and towns across California to cut water use by 25% as part of a sweeping set of mandatory drought restrictions, the first in state history. Well, this is not just it. Let’s have a look at US overall Water Stress Index:

Water Stress Index of USA, Source: Averyt et al. 2011
Water Stress Index of USA, Source: Averyt et al. 2011

As you can see most of the west of severe water problem. Here is a comparison with the World on water Stress Index:

World Water Stress Situation Source: UNEP

So, United States faces environmental problems. Whether you agree it’s you or not causing it (as human). Let’s look overall disasters. In 2014, there were 8 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $8 billion across the United States. These events included a drought event, a flooding event, 5 severe storm events, and a winter storm event. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 53 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

Now, Most countries are concerned about climate change and they want to know what is going to happen in their own country first and are funding work for their specific area.  So how much money does US spend on fighting climate change, is a question I asked my self, here is what I got from a simple Google search:

Estimates reveal that the federal government will spend more money on fighting global warming than it will on tightening border security. Global-warming spending is estimated to cost approximately $22.2 billion this year and $21.4 billion next year which is .57% of the total federal budget, twice as much as the $12 billion estimated for customs and border enforcement.Oct 30, 2013

I then tried to look at how much US contribution is in mitigating climate change effect. Turns out they are second in line contributing around 1.9 billion dollars:

Contributors
Source: http://www.climatefundsupdate.org

There is also the spending on clean energy, US have spent 7.9 billion dollars in the clean energy field in FY 2014 and the overall R&D in USA is predicted to be declining:

R&D Crash Prediction Source:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/26/the-coming-rd-crash/
R&D Crash Prediction Source:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/26/the-coming-rd-crash/

All these brings me to again Kahen’s second type of Americans again. If you look at the Social Safety Net spending and climate change spending, that will tell you which side US government is working towards.

Now, in June 2014, EPA released the Clean Power Plan — the first-ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants on the path toward a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from the power sector by 2030 from 2005 levels. But here is the catch:

The good news is that U.S. emissions are already about 15% below those 2005 levels — so we’re halfway there.

So, stats matter, as 30% sounds better than 15%. And there are states which have to work towards making a plan by 2016 for cutting emission and there is flexibility. There are states that are already not willing to go down easy with EPA. Since 1992 (Earth Summit), the world can see the political play of global warming  at state and federal level in the United States

The United States, although a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has neither ratified nor withdrawn from the protocol. In 1997, the US Senate voted unanimously that it was not the sense of the Senate that the United States should be a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol.

So, what has changed over time? Except for industrialization and population? I agree with gapminder regarding population, it will balance by 2100. But, the climate change will not, unless we work together. We have unearthed so much in the last 200 years that it will take centuries or even millenniums to restore it, or may not be ever possible. But right now what we can do is fight, fight climate change.

As I write, reports come in  of 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit shines on Antarctica, the chilly continent recorded the temperature (15.5 degrees Celsius) on March 24, possibly the highest ever recorded on Antarctica. As the temperature rises across the globe, so does the energy consumption, disease and other side effects.

Many in USA will agree with me, while trying to balance power the system is almost failing. In short run, states may face loss economic and other sides, but in the long run, this can restore the balance.  It was truly said,” Government by the people, for the people, of the people”, at least in this case. As the opinion is divided, people needs to understand the shear consequences of human activity on climate change. Otherwise, it might be too too late.

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