Climate Change for Idiots

CC4I Logo First Cut With Idiot Pic

Welcome to the Cleantech Guide’s Climate Change for Idiots section.

Unless you had been living under a rock – and even then it is unlikely – you would have heard and read about climate change and global warming.

Of course, most of you would have had some vague idea of what it is.

Well, the two terms – Climate Change and Global Warming – sound simple enough, don’t they?

Climate change obviously has something to do with a changing climate and global warming most probably refers to the fact that the temperature all over the earth is getting hotter every succeeding year. Aren’t these as simple as these?

Well, sort of Yes, but not a complete Yes.

Climate change and global warming are a bit more nuanced.

And, you would have doubtless read and heard about the negative consequences of climate change and global warming – rising seas, hot temperatures, floods…But do global warming or climate change really cause these, or is it just fear-mongering by vested interests?

Once again, the answer is not a straight-forward yes or no.

Essentially, what I’m saying is this: Climate Change and Global Warming are really super big threats to our planet’s very existence – at least its current form of existence – but both these concepts are only vaguely understood by the non-scientific community.

At the same time, there’s significant interest and motivation among the general public to know more about these.

This section, Climate Change for Idiots, from the Cleantech Guide, is for the ordinary me and you.

I have put together 70 questions that encompass most aspects of climate change and global warming that are of interest and relevance to the common person. And provided concise and easy-to-understand answers.

I hope you find Climate Change for Idiots useful and interesting.

Narasimhan Santhanam

PS: Why Idiots? Well, I am not implying you are an idiot, though you might well be if you are  willing to spend time to read my stuff. All right. Look. Let me just say that we are all idiots in front of nature. Does that soothe your bruised ego?

THE TOP 5 QUESTIONS…

  • Are climate change and global warming one and the same? – Seriously, is there any difference between the two terms? Answer
  • If global warming is real, why is it so cold this winter? – I had thought of this a few times last couple of years, and it appears to contradict what folks say about the earth getting warmer! – Answer
  • Is it too late to prevent the disastrous effects from climate change? – What really is the hurry? Why can’t we wait until someone comes up with an amazing solution? – Answer
  • Has any island or land already disappeared due to global warming? – My friend tells me it is just fear-mongering, and that no island is ever gonna disappear because of global warming. My friend is not exactly super intelligent, but I tend to believe him on this. Prove him wrong, if you can! – Answer
  • What are the various avenues to reduce CO2 emissions and reduce global warming? – Looks like a really difficult challenge to solve, this CO2 emission reduction thing, as there are 7 plus billion folks responsible for this! What are the frameworks and tools being used to tackle this? – Answer

THE NEXT 10 QUESTIONS…

  • How do we know humans are causing climate change? – Aren’t natural cycles responsible for climate change too? Why are we so insistent that we are to blame? – Answer
  • How can we predict climate 100 years in future if we can’t even reliably predict the weather next week? – Really, and I really meant to ask this! – Answer
  • Why does CO2 get most of the attention when there are other greenhouse gases? – OK, if there are greenhouse gases other than CO2, why are we talking only about CO2? – Answer
  • How much CO2 does the world emit? – How many billion tons of CO2 do we emit every year? Really curious to know! – Answer
  • Which are the top CO2 emitting countries? – I can kinda guess the top culprits but I would still like a confirmation! Answer
  • Is global warming contributing to extreme weather events? – Is it just me, or is it true that floods and droughts are happening more frequently? And is global warming the reason? – Answer
  • Why can’t we simply grow more trees, absorb the extra CO2 and reduce global warming? – Honestly, this seems to be the smartest way to get out of global warming. Just keep planting trees all over the place, and that should be that. Am I correct? – Answer
  • Can we capture CO2 from power plants and reduce global warming? – Sounds like a nifty thing to do – if we can’t stop them, at least capture them! But what indeed is the ground reality on CO2 capture? – Answer
  • What are the world’s large and powerful governments doing about Climate Change? – Well, are they doing anything at all other than big talk? – Answer
  • What is the automotive industry doing about Climate Change? – Are they improving the efficiency and mileage of automobiles? Are they shifting to cleaner fuels and electric vehicles? – Answer

And the Rest…

CONCEPTS – THE WHAT AND HOW OF CLIMATE CHANGE & GLOBAL WARMING

  • What is climate change? – Is climate change just hotter temperature, or is it more? – Answer
  • What causes climate change?  – How much of it is caused by natural factors, and how much because of human activities? – Answer
  • How do we know climate is changing? – Are there scientific tools & methods through which we can figure out that climate is changing and the extent to which it is changing? – Answer
  • What is global warming? – Does global warming simply mean that next year will be hotter than this year, or is the concept more nuanced? – Answer 
  • What causes global warming? – So it is just CO2 emissons, right? – Answer
  • Is earth getting warmer at the same rate everywhere? – Or, if some places getting more warm than the rest, what is the reason? – Answer
  • How can a small proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere have such a large effect on our climate? – If the CO2 amount in atmosphere is just a few hundred parts per million, how can it result in so much harm? – Answer
  • Why is a small change in global temperature a concern? – A couple of degrees warming should not really matter, right? Or should it? Answer 
  • Why are climate change and global warming serious problems? – Are these really as seriously threatening as they are made out to be? Answer
  • Could there be benefits too from climate change and global warming? – A warmer climate could actually benefit folks in the colder regions, couldn’t it? – Answer 
  • How long have scientists been investigating human influences on climate? – Is this research just a decade old, or have the scientists been investigating this for much longer? – Answer
  • Isn’t there disagreement among scientists about the causes and effects of global warming? – I heard some experts are not convinced about climate change and global warming… – Answer
  • Couldn’t the sun be the cause of the recent global warming? – Sun causes all the warming anyway, so shouldn’t it be responsible for the increased warming and higher temperatures too? Answer
  • Could the ozone layer depletion be causing global warming? – Does the ozone hole have any effect at all on global warming? Answer
  • Does air pollution affect global warming? – Air pollution and higher temperatures seem to go together. Surely air pollution should have a hand in the increased temperature and global warming? Answer
  • Do volcanoes contribute to climate change and global warming? – Volcanoes spew out so much hot lava into the atmosphere. Surely these should also be contributing to the warming? Answer
  • What does eating meat have to do with global warming? – Come on, you just don’t want us to enjoy life! Or, hold on, is there any truth at all to this? – Answer
  • What kinds of data do scientists use to study climate? – What kind of data and inputs do scientists use to arrive at the results and predictions? And where do they get these from? – Answer
  • How reliable are computer models of the Earth’s climate? – How can anyone be certain that these models are not just theoretical stuff? – Answer

GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS

  • What are the main greenhouse gases? – I thought CO2 was the only greenhouse gas. Are there more? – Answer
  • If water vapour is a key greenhouse gas, why is its abundance in the atmosphere not causing any concern? – I heard water vapour contributes to the highest amount of greenhouse effect. If true, it is shocking that, nobody, absolutely nobody, is talking about it. Strange world! – Answer
  • How much CO2 is currently in the atmosphere? – What is the cumulative amount of CO2 in the atmosphere? – Answer
  • How much of the other greenhouse gases does the world emit? – And to what extent do the these gases contribute to the greenhouse effect? Are their contributions only a small % of what the contribution from CO2 is? Answer
  • Which activities and industries emit the most CO2? – Is it just our cars and coal power plants, or do the industries and factories emit a good lot of CO2 too? – Answer 
  • How much CO2 is emitted owing to power generation? – And do different types of power plants (coal-based, natural gas based, nuclear…) emit different amounts of CO2 per unit of electricity generated? – Answer
  • How much CO2 is emitted owing to transport? – Must be a heck of a lot?? Answer

EFFECTS & POSSIBLE SCENARIOS DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE & GLOBAL WARMING

  • What are the targets for solving climate change? – And what are the benchmarks and metrics used for these targets? –  Answer
  • What are the harmful results from climate change and global warming? – Yeah OK, I have read about some of them, but I would like to know the complete list of what could go wrong! – Answer 
  • What is the effect of climate change on agriculture and food production? – Are we going to have frequent famines? – Answer
  • What is the effect of climate change on biodiversity? – Surely, a lot of critters around us are gonna be affected. But how and why? – Answer
  • How are oceans affected by climate change? – Will the seas swallow all of us soon? – Answer
  • Will climate change lead to more droughts? – Surely, a hotter temperature should mean more drought? Or is it not that simple an equation? – Answer
  • Will climate change lead to more flooding? – Shouldn’t a hotter climate mean less rain and less floods? But I keep hearing about MORE floods. What’s going on? – Answer
  • How is climate change affecting poor countries? – Global warming would not know how to discriminate between the rich and poor, right? So all folks – rich or poor – should be equally affected? – Answer
  • How will climate change affect rainfall? – Will it be less, or more, rain? – Answer
  • How will climate change impact fresh water security? – If there are more floods owing to global warming, then it should mean more water and not less water, am I correct? – Answer
  • Will climate change cause wars? – I thought people fight because they hate each other. What has climate change and global warming got to do with wars, people? – Answer
  • Will climate change affect human health? – Other than hotter temperatures creating health hazards, are there other ways through which global warming and climate change could have adverse effects on human health? – Answer
  • What is permafrost and how does it relate to climate change? – Never heard of permafrost. Let it be whatever it is and wherever it is – why on earth should I care? – Answer
  • What is the economic cost of climate change? – And yes, the money part. This damned global warming, how much is it gonna cost our governments, cities and neighbourhoods? – Answer

EFFORTS & SOLUTIONS – WHAT CAN BE DONE AND WHAT’S BEING DONE TO CONTROL GLOBAL WARMING?

  • What is the United Nations doing to fight Climate Change and Global Warming? – Or does it really have anything to do with this? Answer
  • What is COP 21? – Did anything productive come out of all the government bigwigs hobnobbing for days in Paris in 2015? Or was it all parties and hot air? – Answer
  • What is IPCC? – Hmmm, I seem to have heard about it. What indeed is it, and what is its role in climate change control? – Answer
  • What is the Kyoto Protocol? – Is it the stuff that created the carbon trading market? And what exactly is the current status of the protocol? – Answer
  • What are the benefits of acting on climate change right away, rather than later? – Why can’t we just chill and wait for sometime? Perhaps the whole thing will just blow over? – Answer
  • Can renewable energy sources contribute to reducing global warming? – I hear solar all over the place. Is it going to solve the global warming problem? – Answer
  • Can energy efficiency be a potent tool in our fight against warming? – Energy saved is energy generated. So surely energy efficiency should be an important tool in this fight? – Answer
  • What is geoengineering and is it a possible solution for global warming? – Never heard of this term Geoengineering – sounds quite fancy. What indeed is it? – Answer
  • Can nuclear energy contribute to reducing global warming? – Nuclear energy seems to be everyone’s favourite whipping boy, but it seems to hold significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Is that true? – Answer
  • What is climate finance and its role in fighting global warming? – We can talk all day on how to solve global warming, but nothing is gonna move without the money. Where is all the money to control climate change gonna come from? – Answer
  • What is a carbon footprint and what is its relevance to climate change and global warming? – Can I use this tool to understand how much my contribution to global warming is? – Answer
  • What’s Clean Development Mechanism? – Is it the same CDM I keep hearing about in the context of carbon trading? – Answer
  • What is a carbon price and why do we need one? – Surely, if CO2 is the villain, then it should be penalised! But how much should be the penalty and how can the penalty be imposed? – Answer
  • What are the world’s powerful businesses doing about Climate Change? – Can low carbon processes and profits go together? – Answer
  • What are the world’s power plants doing about Climate Change? – What are they doing to reduce CO2 emissions and do something about capturing the CO2 that does get emitted? – Answer
Climate Change for Idiots - Cleantech Guide