Topic Overview In the first week of the course we examined some key reasons why it is useful to study geology. Among these reasons was to develop an operator’s manual for planet earth. Many earth scientists study the complex and interacting systems of the planet (the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, and biosphere). Understanding how these systems interact to sustain life on earth is critical if human society is going to use our resources wisely and inhabit the planet in a long-term sustainable way. Earth’s climate changes in response to shifts in response to many mechanisms. Changes in earth’s orbit, the amount of ice on the planet, the amount of particulate matter in the atmosphere, and the composition of gasses in the atmosphere all influence climate. Humans have been changing the composition of the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) thereby increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means it traps heat and keeps the atmosphere warm. Increasing concentrations of CO2 trap more heat and cause global temperatures to rise. In this section of the course we will consider the natural and human-caused sources of climate change and compare recent warming to climatic changed that have occurred in the geologic past. Read the assigned chapter of the textbook (available for free at Opengeology.org/textbook) and watch the supplemental videos before completing the assignments and discussions. This week’s readings and videos focus on human-caused global climate change. Chapter 15 in your textbook is the main reading for this week and covers global climate change. Textbook Readings • An Introduction to Geology: chapter 15 https://opengeology.org/textbook/15-global-climate-change/ Videos The following video is a supplement to the textbook chapter. It explains the scientific evidence for human-caused climate change (6:50 min. in length, CC available): You should also watch the following video from the outstanding climate change video series Global Weirding. This video addresses the difference between weather and climate (8:03 min. in length, CC available): To understand the impacts of anthropogenic climate change you should watch one of the following videos from the same series. These videos discuss the impacts of climate change in different regions of North America: • • • • • • The Arctic (7:22 min. in length, CC available) Canada (9:23 min. in length, CC available) The Pacific Northwest and Alaska (13:53 min. in length, CC available) The Eastern United States (9:23 min. in length, CC not available) The Midwest and Northern Great Plains (9:21 min. in length, CC available) The Southern Great Plains and Southwest (10:19 in length, CC available) Assignment 1: Discussion- Carbon Footprint Individual or Collective Action on Climate Change? A lot of information about mitigating anthropogenic climate change involves the idea of a personal carbon footprint—the amount of carbon emissions produced through the activities of one person during their daily life. There are numerous online calculators and many books and articles about reducing individual carbon emissions. An individual can take many actions to reduce their carbon emissions through their buying habits. For example, eating less meat, avoiding air travel, driving a smaller vehicle, or driving fewer miles. However, some climate change advocates have argued that the personal carbon footprint concept and the focus on personal behavior is often used in a cynical way by big polluters like fossil fuel companies to avoid responsibility for carbon emissions and climate change. These critics of personal action contend that carbon emissions must be reduced by policymakers and regulations. They argue that consumers cannot make big reductions in their carbon footprints unless they have more options (e.g., vehicles with lower emissions, access to public transportation), and that those options will only be possible through policy change. In this discussion post compose an evaluation of the utility of the concept of a carbon footprint. Is the carbon footprint and personal responsibility for emissions useful in reducing climate change, or does it stifle debate and delay action? Use evidence to substantiate your position. In addition to making your own post, please post a short response to one of you classmates’ post. Classmate’s posts: Week 7 Discusison Larry Moore posted Apr 19, 2021 9:41 AM The carbon footprint of a country refers to the flow of CO2 emissions caused by domestic absorption (i.e., consumption and investment) activities. British Petroleum, which is the second-largest non-state-owned oil company in the world promoted the term “carbon footprint” and emphasized how the majority of carbon emission can be reduced on individuals. By doing this, BP indirectly blamed the carbon pollution issue on the individual of a country rather than the real emitters, which was BP and other carbon fuel-producing agencies. Soon after this, BP cleverly launched their “carbon footprint calculator” that was used to calculate individual carbon emissions. These tactical moves that BP used ended up building an idea in people’s minds that they are really the ones who are responsible for the carbon-related pollution. Benjamin Franta, who researches law and history of science, as a J.D.-Ph.D. Students at Stanford Law School, stated: “This is one of the most successful and deceptive PR campaigns ever,” (Kaufman, n.d.). However, this ingenious propaganda is and always has been a sham. This has been proven by the recently hit coronavirus that agitated the entire world and its activities. The evidence, unfortunately, comes in the form of the worst pandemic to hit humanity in a century. We were confined. We were quarantined, and in many places still are. Forced by an insidious parasite, many of us dramatically slashed our individual carbon footprints by not driving to work and flying on planes. Yet, critically, the true number global warming cares about — the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide saturating the atmosphere — won’t be impacted much by an unprecedented drop in carbon emissions in 2020 (a drop the International Energy Agency estimates at nearly eight percent compared to 2019). This means bounties of carbon from civilization’s cars, power plants, and industries will still be added (like a bank deposit) to a swelling atmospheric bank account of carbon dioxide. But 2020’s deposit will just be slightly less than last year’s. In fact, the levels of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere peaked at an all-time high in May — because we’re still making big carbon deposits. Kaufman, M. (n.d.). The carbon footprint sham. Mashable. Retrieved from https://mashable.com/feature/carbon-footprint-pr-campaign-sham/ M
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