The power of sun, people and politics. The climate depends on the 3


In 1856, an amateur scientist named Eunice Foote placed two glass jars in the sunlight and measured the rate at which their internal temperature rose. In one jar, it trapped only air and in the other, it pump carbon dioxide.

After about 10 minutes, the air temperature difference between the two jars was 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Once removed from the sunlight, the jar containing the carbon dioxide, the one that warmed up the fastest, also took much longer to cool down.

Science was not amateur. This was the first known experiment to prove that certain molecules, now called “greenhouse gases” because of their ability to absorb and trap heat from the sun in an enclosed space like a greenhouse, could be the only due to prolonged increases in air temperature.

But it was considered amateur science because Foote was a woman. A few years later, a noted scientist by the name of John Tyndall conducted a similar experience (no nod to his earlier work) and was remembered by history for it.

Still, Foote’s results were considered important enough at the time to be published in the American Journal of Science and Arts and presented that year at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science by his male colleague, Joseph Henry, although neither the paper nor its presentation was checked in in the proceedings of the conference.

Over the next 165 years, many other scientists have harnessed advanced technologies to conduct much more sophisticated experiments that essentially tell us exactly the same thing. And we kind of listened to them too.

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Latest climate report details key concerns

Last Monday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tried to tell the world, for the sixth time, that rising carbon dioxide emissions, largely due to the burning of fossil fuels, are raising the earth’s average temperature to a level that will become increasingly more uncomfortable, then unlivable.

The new report from the 270 international scientists who make up the current Expert Group Working Group II, focused on detailing expected climate impacts, adaptation opportunities and specific vulnerabilities, rather than simply repeating the conclusions that the climate is warming due to human activity.

A scan of Foote's paper

Some of the expected impacts include increased uncertainty over water and food supplies resulting from persistent drought, further crop failures and declining viable fisheries and livestock production. Extreme storms will become more frequent and intense, contributing to economic losses, supply chain disruptions and exacerbated hardship for Indigenous and low-income communities.

The report also found that between 3.3 and 3.6 billion people live in places highly vulnerable to climate change, such as rapidly warming cities like Phoenix that are already experiencing spikes in heat-related deaths. Humans suffering from temperature increases in already extreme environments where not everyone has access to shade or air-conditioned spaces are expected to worsen.

Through 37 pages, the Summary for Policymakers describes the complicated effects of climate change and “global weirdness”, another term for the erratic results of increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, and how they may not always manifest in expected or linear ways.

“Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climate and non-climate risks will interact, compounding overall risk and cascading risks across sectors and regions,” the summary states. title statements document reads.

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What is Arizona doing about climate change?

The solution, however, is as simple as collectively agreeing to pump less carbon dioxide into the earth-like glass jar that heated too quickly and cooled too slowly after Foote placed it. under the sun.

“Rapid and deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are essential to keep the maximum number of adaptation options open,” Debra Roberts, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II, told a conference. release on the day of the report’s publication. “So how can we accelerate and sustain adaptation? Political commitment and monitoring at all levels of government is essential.”

Some Arizona cities have climate action plans in place, and state universities are home to a legion of ready-made sustainability scientists. They offer solutions ranging from transforming urban spaces so they retain less heat and reintegrate natural vegetation to reducing carbon dioxide emissions with a shift to renewable energy technology.

But in January, Ryan Randazzo of The Republic reported that “three Republican utility regulators have rejected a 100% carbon-free power proposal in Arizona that has been vetted, debated, workshopped, and offered for public comment for more than five years.”

Representatives from Arizona who voted against the proposal, which failed 3-2, cited concerns about the cost to ratepayers and a sense that “utilities are serious and sincere in their energy commitments.” own” and “do not need these energies at the state level”. rules right now,” Randazzo wrote.

This example was just one example of a similar rollback of state energy policy, which as a whole does not even allow greenhouse gas emissions to follow.

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Last week the panel announced at their press conference that the costs of mitigating climate change now would be up to 20 times cheaper than the consequences later, and also that utilities certainly don’t care. not enough already. The report concluded that a transition to more renewable, resilient and reliable energy systems is both highly feasible and one of our most promising adaptation options, if local and national governments could one day organize themselves to achieve it.

Solar is just one of these renewable, resilient and reliable sources of energy. Here is an option, with technology that already exists, to harness the powerful energy of the sun in a way that has the power to help reduce the amount of this energy that is retained as heat by carbon dioxide molecules additional issues. But in this case, the political powers of Arizona have obscured this possibility.

Politics play a role in climate change

As the climate report suggests, more work needs to be done to balance the heating and energizing power of the sun with the power of political will. People have power too, as a climate rally held last Friday along Camelback Road in Phoenix aimed to relent. Activists marched from the Phoenix office of US Senator Kyrsten Sinema to the local office of Senator Mark Kelly in support of “bold investments in climate, jobs and justice”.

Sinema and Kelly co-sponsored a climate action bill, the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which passed the US Senate last year and aimed to provide “economic opportunity for Arizona farmers while creating a cleaner environment. But local activists say progress in limiting greenhouse gas emissions, which this bill did not focus on, has been far too slow.

“There has been a lot more climate talk and a lot less climate action in the U.S. Senate overall,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club and organizer of the rally. last week. “That’s not to say Senator Sinema and Senator Kelly haven’t done anything. We’re just saying it’s not enough, and we need you to be leaders. They’re state senators. who has seen the impacts of climate change significantly.”

Climate action happening too slowly is not a problem unique to Arizona. But, with Arizona in the bullseye of anticipated vulnerabilities related to urban heat, water scarcity and affected food systems, it may be a place where the impacts of solar warming are felt more quickly and more intensely if the solutions stagnate.

At the press conference ahead of the release of her latest report, Rachel Bezner Kerr, professor of global development at Cornell University and coordinating lead author of the new chapter on food systems, reiterated the widespread need for action:

“We find that each increase in warming will increase the risk of serious injury. So the sooner we can take strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the less severe the impacts will be,” she said. “And there are solutions. But for the moment, no transformation strategy is adopted.”

In 1856, after documenting rapid warming in the sunny jar she had filled with carbon dioxide, Eunice Foote wrote that “an atmosphere of this gas would give our earth a high temperature.”

Tuesday was International Women’s Day, which falls on March 8 every year. This week, then, may be a good time to posthumously recognize Eunice Foote for her contributions to science and her predictions about our current greenhouse gas debacle.

The opposite of posthumous is antemortem, meaning before the death of, in this case, the well-being of life imprisoned inside this sun-warming sphere. Now would be a good time to make some changes here.

Joan Meiners is the climate news and storytelling reporter at The Arizona Republic and azcentral. Before becoming a journalist, she completed a doctorate. in Ecology. To follow Joan on Twitter at @beecycles or email him at [email protected]

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