A Warming World: The climate issue
The 9-21-2019 Economist magazine has many articles about climate change. They say their special issue is not all about the carbon-based climate crisis. The June 2019 Time magazine climate change issue had only one article. There is a free work page for students and answer key for teachers at this link for the Time magazine article. I wanted more information and consulted The Economist. Unlike the one time article, however, except for short exerpts, the infomation is not free online. Libraries probably subscribe to the magazine, though
Near the beginning paragraph of the first article, it says:
“From one year to the next, you cannot feel the difference.”
For elementary students, I would say that from similar seasons they have experienced in their short lives, they might not feel much difference. Summer is summer, winter is winter, and so on to children. In summer, we swim and have picnics. In winter we skate and go sliding. On some days, there might be an indoor recess due to rain or snow. The weather might seem different to them, while they are (like us) unaware of global warming. The cover of the September 21st, 2019 edition of The Economist shows stripes on the cover revealing temperatures have risen one degree Celsius.
What is the big deal about a one-degree rise in temperatures? This link is to an info-graphic “Earth Temperature Timeline” that shows in cartoon form why a degree is a big deal. They mean Celsius when they talk about the rise in temperature, not Fahrenheit. For every 1-degree change in Celsius, there is a 1.8-degree change in Fahrenheit. The degree rise information would be a good topic for math class.
Article one in The Economist’s climate issue is about how the changing climate touches everything. They say the issue “must be tackled urgently and clear-headedly.” They state the foundations of the world economy and geopolitics are carbon-based. It is not simple to solve the issues. They think this does not mean “shackling capitalism.” They say climate (alone) is never the entire story. This is why the topic of climate change is so controversial.
Other Background Information to Know
Before I continue the review of the articles, I want to share some information to help put this issue in context, in addition to the Earth Temperature Timeline (link above). The next image is from my free climate change PowerPoint for grades 3-6. Often people think climate change is inevitable due to our position third from the sun. The atmosphere of Venus is 96% carbon dioxide and has a temperature of 467 °C or 872 °F. Yet Mercury is closest to the sun and has an average temperature of 332 °C or 167 °F, and has a very thin atmosphere. Venus should be a lesson to us as we trap more and more carbon dioxide within our own atmosphere.
Back to The Economist Climate Issue
We know what to do about climate change, but the difficulties in implementing solutions are complex. The article suggests using pricing on carbon could help innovations not yet imagined. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. Although some countries have made improvements, it is difficult to know which countries are doing what when emissions in the world-wide atmosphere are considered. Twelve economies cause the most emissions. Capitalism and economic freedom must include global warming solutions.
The next section is Briefing Climate Change. The first part is “What goes up.” The article explains the gasses in the atmosphere and people who discovered them decades ago such as Joseph Fourier (French), John Tyndall (Irish), and Svante Arrhenius (Swedish). None of them foresaw that our emissions are close to 20 times as much as in 1900. The article explains why it has increased so much. Before 1950, scientists though carbon dioxide would be absorbed in the oceans, which Roger Revelle disproved.
“In 1965 the carbon-dioxide level was 320 parts per million (ppm). The carbon-dioxide level is now 408 ppm, and still rising by 2ppm a year.”
Their ice-age chart is helpful in understanding the changes. The chart subject line says it is “like an ice age in reverse.” The scientific information is complex, in-depth, and provided in the magazine. 90% of the warming is in our oceans, but that is not solving the problem, it is warming the earth. A different source online explains that land icebergs reflect sunlight, but when land icebergs melt the water is blue and doesn’t reflect, which means it absorbs heat from the sun.
The United Nations signed the 1972 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since then there are been more emissions. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports there has already been warming of more than 3 °C in the Arctic. The Paris agreement said the rise should be under 2 °C, so that is important to know. Maps and charts help students understand the dense text in the article. There is no certain temperature change that means anything catastrophic will happen to earth, but just as water boils at 212 °F, we are seeing certain heating at this time. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to make the necessary adaptations.
The obstacle course (Green New Deals) article evaluates whether big plans to deal with climate change can make a difference. America stands out as being the largest contributor to global warming and reluctant to address the problems. The article says Americans who believe in climate change outnumber those who do not five to one. It has become a presidential election campaign issue. The many efforts to help the climate in the USA are described. The stances of the Democratic candidates are also described. The rhetoric of some Republicans has begun to change a little, as well. Virginia coal miners are being retrained as beekeepers, for instance, will help the environment, but larger nationwide programs are needed. More about other countries, The Panama Canal, and Bolivia are included in The Americas section.
Planning for rising sea levels: In Deep Trouble is the Asia article in this issue. The picture is dramatic and shows a family in North Jarkarta waist-deep in water carrying some of their belongings and trying to get to safety. Thirteen of the twenty cities predicted to have the biggest increases in annual losses caused by flooding are in Asia. The sea is rising and the cities are sinking in parts of northern coastal Jakarta according to Andreas who is a geologist. Forty percent of Jarkarta is now below sea level. Extensive amounts of money have been spent in Singapore. Systems were built, and as explained in the article, problems persist.
Fires in the Amazon are not the only ones smoldering on Earth. Indonesia, Sumatra, and Borneo have had fires. They need rain. The difficulties of stopping the fires from economic, to location near peat bogs, weather, and unpaid fines are described. Peat fires burn underground much longer than above ground.
In the Asia section, it says China has upheld pledges about greenhouse-gas emissions, but more must be done. It says power firms there proposed 500 new coal-fired power stations that, if built, will damn the planet. The article is very thorough.
Oil markets and the situations in the Middle East and Africa are covered, as well. How climate change makes it harder to reduce poverty in one of the world’s poorest states, Malawi, is explained.
The Europe section begins with “a warmer Russia” which some in Siberia are not against. New shorter shipping routes are opening up, and Russia is spending money on developing the routes. However, calamities due to increased warmth are also happening. Unstable weather problems are happening. However, most Russians are not very concerned with the temperature rise. Germany is reducing reliance on coal with some controversy. Southern Europe is seeing climate change destroy ancient olive groves. Again, the explanation is provided. Lessons from the largest offshore wind market in Britain is featured. Britain’s success is helping other countries who benefit from their experiences.
The International section explains the plight of small islands. I wrote about this in the Time magazine climate change article which is free and online for students and teachers. However, The Economist has an excellent article on this problem. The Business section is about climate change capitalists. The Science and technology section is also about climate change. Like the beginning article states, climate change touches everything the magazine reports on.
Thank you for reading, Carolyn
The video below is a motivational video and is not about climate change. An analogy may be made to climate change, however, as it is about degrees of heat, although we do not need to turn up the heat on Earth. We just don’t know the degree at which problems on earth will be insurmountable. One degree makes a big difference.