Potential New Evidence Linking Extreme Weather And Global Warming
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
In the keynote address at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia, Nobel Laureate Mario J. Molina stressed that the latest scientific evidence has only strengthened the link between human activity and extreme weather events and global warming.
Molina has some experience in working with human-atmospheric interactions on a global scale. The University of California, San Diego professor won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his key role in research that linked the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica with the emission of chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs).
“People may not be aware that important changes have occurred in the scientific understanding of the extreme weather events that are in the headlines,” Molina said.
“They are now more clearly connected to human activities, such as the release of carbon dioxide ― the main greenhouse gas ― from burning coal and other fossil fuels.”
Although Molina conceded that the scientific community cannot say with “absolute certainty” that global warming is causing extreme weather, he did say that study results during the last year or so reinforced the link.
He also said that the general public, which may not keep tabs on the latest studies, has been feeling the tangible effects of global warming and extreme weather in the form of droughts, heat, and severe storms.
“It’s important that people are doing more than just hearing about global warming,” he said. “People may be feeling it, experiencing the impact on food prices, getting a glimpse of what everyday life may be like in the future, unless we as a society take action.”
“The new agreement should put a price on the emission of greenhouse gases, which would make it more economically favorable for countries to do the right thing,” he added. “The cost to society of abiding by it would be less than the cost of the climate change damage if society does nothing.”
Molina’s past work led to similar actions and restrictions on the use of CFCs. In the 1974, Molina, along with Frank Rowland, unveiled studies that established CFCs in aerosol spray cans and other products could destroy the ozone layer.
When it was established that the hole in the ozone layer was caused in part by CFCs, scientists, policymakers and industry representatives around the world worked together to solve the problem. The resulting Montreal Protocol, which phased out the use of CFCs in 1996, can be traced directly back to the work done by Molina.
“Climate change is a much more pervasive issue,” he said, explaining the complexities of climate change. “Fossil fuels, which are at the center of the problem, are so important for the economy, and it affects so many other activities. That makes climate change much more difficult to deal with than the ozone issue.”
In addition to a new international agreement that penalizes heavy emissions of greenhouse gases, the UC San Diego professor suggested the scientific community needs to improve their communication of the scientific facts that drive climate change. He also noted that the community should actively pursue and develop cheap green energy sources to reduce society’s dependence on fossil fuels.