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Major Health Study Shows Benefits of Combating Climate Change

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Commuters by bike share in New York City

During the holiday season, people often drink toasts to health. There’s something more we can do to ensure that we and others will enjoy good health now and into the future: combat climate change.

Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, and tackling it could be our greatest health opportunity,” according to the medical journal The Lancet.

The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, by 150 experts from 27 academic institutions and intergovernmental organizations, including the World Health Organization and the World Bank, is blunt: “A rapidly changing climate has dire implications for every aspect of human life, exposing vulnerable populations to extremes of weather, altering patterns of infectious disease, and compromising food security, safe drinking water and clean air.”

Decades of Denial and Stalling Have Created a Climate Crunch

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Firefighters spray water on a 2013 bush fire in Australia

In a 1965 speech to members, American Petroleum Institute president Frank Ikard outlined the findings of a report by then-president Lyndon Johnson’s Science Advisory Committee, based in part on research the institute conducted in the 1950s.

The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world's peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out,” Ikard said, adding, “One of the most important predictions of the report is that carbon dioxide is being added to the earth’s atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas at such a rate that by the year 2000 the heat balance will be so modified as possibly to cause marked changes in climate beyond local or even national efforts.”

Many scientists were reaching similar conclusions, based on a body of evidence that had been growing at least since French mathematician Joseph Fourier described the greenhouse effect in 1824. In the 1950s, Russian climatologist Mikhail Budyko examined how feedback loops amplify human influences on the climate. He published two books, in 1961 and 1962, warning that growing energy use will warm the planet and cause Arctic ice to disappear, creating feedback cycles that would accelerate warming.

Ocean Warming Study Criticism Shows How the Scientific Method Works

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Overhead view of shark swimming in the Maldives

Errors in a recent ocean warming study illustrate global warming’s complexity. They also show the depths to which climate science deniers will stoop to dismiss or downplay evidence for human-caused climate change.

The study by researchers from the U.S., China, France and Germany concluded, “ocean warming is at the high end of previous estimates” and global warming might be advancing faster than scientists thought. British researcher Nic Lewis, who has a math and physics background, found discrepancies, which he noted on a skeptic’s blog. The scientists acknowledged the errors and offered a correction to the study, published in Nature.

The controversy illustrates how the scientific method works. Studies are often amended or overturned as new information becomes available or as inconsistencies or errors are pointed out.

Will Energy Efficiency Stall Climate Disruption?

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light bulbs

In the race against the increasingly widespread and devastating consequences of climate change, solutions tend to focus on products and technologies. Renewable energy, electric vehicles, biofuels, carbon capture and storage, and geoengineering get much of the attention, in part because they lead us to believe we can continue acting as usual. Those technologies must be part of the solution, but we must also consider our wasteful behaviors.

Conserving energy means consuming less, which isn’t a hallmark of our consumption-based economic system. Technology also comes into play with cutting energy use. Many experts argue that energy efficiency could play a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially in industrial nations like Canada and the U.S., where we tend to waste a lot. Others point to a paradox whereby climate gains from efficiency are offset by reduced costs that increase energy demand.

Fake Grassroots Campaigns Deserve Uprooting

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Patch of astroturf on real grass

AstroTurf looks and feels like grass—in an all-too-perfect way. But it’s not grass.

Now the well-known artificial turf’s brand name has taken on a new meaning, referring to purported “grassroots” efforts that are actually funded and supported by industry and political entities.

Energy Efficiency and Technology Squeeze the Carbon Bubble

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Homeowner installing programmable thermostat to help weatherize home

The carbon bubble will burst with or without government action, according to a new study. That will hurt people who invest in fossil fuels.

As energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies improve and prices drop, global demand for fossil fuels will decline, “stranding” new fossil fuel ventures — likely before 2035, according to the study in Nature Climate Change, “Macroeconomic impact of stranded fossil fuel assets.”

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