In a recent issue of DCI, there were two letters that touched on climate change. One encouraged Tri-State Generation and Transmission to transition more quickly to renewables and the other shorter one repeated debunked climate denier talking points. Those were: 1. We had a wet winter so long-term changes in climate were somehow cancelled out. 2. There is not a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and only some (132 ppm of 412 ppm currently) was placed there by humans. No big deal.

Of course, this ignores that without carbon dioxide, the primary driver of the greenhouse effect, the Earth would be a frozen ball of ice. Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen dioxide, and a few other greenhouse gasses that are only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere make life on earth possible. In the right amounts they are a good thing. The GHCs keep earth warm and that warmth raises the amount of water vapor (water) in the air, which warms it further. A nice positive feedback effect. So far so good.

Along comes the industrial age and the burning of coal, oil and gas, which are essentially ancient sunshine stored in the form of hydro-carbons in geologic formations. Burning them not only gets the energy from the ancient sunlight, it also releases carbon in carbon dioxide form and releases a lot of it very fast. So fast that most of nature will not be able to adapt and civilization itself may be challenged. The earth is heating rapidly and many no-so-nice positive feedbacks are beginning to occur that will add to the warming.

According to science we will continue to have wet years and dry years, and ones that are hotter or cooler, but the trend in our region is steadily upward, towards the hotter and dryer.

Thomas Wills


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