Tag: #climate

The Climate Revolution

For me, 2016 has been the year of thinking about the climate. Climate has been a big topic in many realms, such as my schooling and in politics. For example, in my Weather, Climate, and Society class, we learned all about the controlling factors of climate, such as humidity, convergence and divergence, and types of clouds. Also, with the election of President Elect Donald Trump, who believes that climate change is a myth perpetuated by the Chinese, many people fear for the future of climate policy. Having learned much about the scientific and social sides of climate change, it was very refreshing to learn about the history of climate revolutions from Dr. Kerry Emmanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT.

Dr. Emmanuel explained that the “Climate Revolution” wasn’t one large revolution, but a collection of small revolutions and individual efforts to make the field a reality. In the beginning, the field of climate science started with several curious scientists who wanted to learn more about hoe the surface temperature of the Earth is regulated. This lead to the discovery of ice sheets, which led to them understanding the periodic shifts in Earth’s temperature from ice age to warming, which lead to the discovery of greenhouse gases. Dr. Emmanuel also pointed about that in the 19th century, when the field was first being established, there were contributions made by scientists who specialized in all different fields, such as, geology, physics, chemistry, and more. This helped me to understand that climate science is the culmination of many different fields and that the climate also has an effect on more than just one thing.

One thing that I also found interesting was that Dr. Emmanuel claimed that the concept of “climate change” isn’t a new thing. He told us that people have always been concerned with the change in weather patterns, but only now, with the increased accuracy of observational data, are we able to make easier conclusions about climate which can lead to more changes in policy. This lead to climate science transforming from a field mainly rooted in traditional weather observation to using mathematically based data and observations.

Overall, Dr. Emmanuel’s lecture helped me to learn even more about climate change, which I didn’t think possible. It made me see the importance of climate science, which helps us to understand why climate change occurs, but also who sea levels rise, why oceans become more acidic, why storms become more powerful, and why weather patterns having been changing over the years.


A Continuous Revolution

Dr. Kerry Emanuel’s talk on Revolutions in Climate Science showcased the many individuals whose efforts contributed to the development of the field. His collection of little revolutions made me question the limitations of the word ‘revolution.’ If the field of climate science came about due to multiple simultaneous revolutions, can one concrete set of revolutionary criteria explain all of the changes in the field?

Emanuel traced the roots of modern climate science back into the 19th century through multiple other fields. Advancements in fields including geology, physics, and chemistry all contributed to the development of climate science. Taking out any of those important contributions would render the future of climate science in a different way, but can each moment be counted as revolutionary? Is it possible to pinpoint one discovery or contribution as THE revolutionary moment, the spark of the revolution?

Perhaps a revolution is best considered on a large timescale, something like 300 plus years. Viewing the development of climate science as one continuous revolution means that it is in a constant revolutionary state. How does one pinpoint the exact moment of revolution? After all, each discovery is built on the thoughts, ideas, and coincidences that came before, building up a sequence of knowledge.

According to theorist Thomas Kuhn, paradigm shifts occur in scientific theory after a critical mass of new data or ideas constitute enough evidence to overturn the previously held beliefs. Under this conception of science, the development of any field is a series of revolutionary changes. If we apply this mode of thinking to climate science, what are the paradigm shifts? It is difficult to identify them from the overview that Dr. Emanuel gave, although he undoubtedly would be able to identify them.

In contrast to the increasing specialization of many fields, it seems that climate science is continually dependent on information from many different disciplines. In order to account for all of revolutionary moments in climate science, one would have to document all of the small moments in all of the fields that lead to the intellectual growth of the scientists and the public growth of perception surrounding the information.

Dr. Emanuel really made me think about all of the small moments that went into the lives of all of the scientists who collectively developed the field. Perhaps pinpointing a revolution is beside the point. A revolution does not need to have a distinct beginning or end. The climate scientists of today have a vast history to look back on, a long, revolutionary history, which gives legitimacy to their field in the face of the doubts that some have against their work.   It truly is a continuous revolution. Who knows what the next phase of the revolution will hold?

Consequences of Coastal Living

Professor Kerry Emanuel of MIT was an interesting view from a very committed climate scientist. I found his work very interesting and look forward to what he continues to publish about climate change and hurricanes. The most interesting parts of his talk for me were about the coastal living. As someone that has a family house on Cape Cod, I have always been on the look out for sea level rise predictions for the area, as it is in such a vulnerable location on the coast. Not only is it exposed, it is also entirely on a pile of sand instead of bedrock.

Professor Emanuel spoke to the coastal destruction that was executed in areas such as Florida and Louisiana. It was interesting to hear why these places are continuously destroyed and rebuilt. I have never understood d why people would remain in a place that they had had their house destroyed. This is because coast are a place where culture seems to grow and thrive. Little thought is put into building somewhere it is safer inland. Along the coast of Florida and Louisiana, houses are constantly being destroyed and rebuilt in the wake of devastating Hurricanes. People still decide to take the chance of building in those locations, which seems extremely risky to me as someone who lives in New Hampshire (not at risk of getting a hurricane anytime soon).

I guess that even though hurricanes can destroy and devastate entire coastal developments, sea level rise is even more of a risk that we will be forced to face in the coming years. There is no rebuilding after sea levels rise, you can only move further inland to prevent further flooding and destruction of your home. There are also unforeseen consequences with sea level rise that are not just the flooding of settlements. One of these consequences is the contamination of the water supply. Even houses that are inland can be effected by this because their water supply may be effected from water table changes. Houses on the Cape that currently have clean drinking water from wells and underground water sources may struggle with contamination from salt water. Contamination from salt water will then render the water sources unusable by contamination from salt water.

These are some of the scary realities that Professor Kerry Emanuel of MIT made my think about. I think that being a climate scientist sounds extremely  interesting and useful in the coming years as we see our planet greatly effected by climate change. This is something that we will have to address in the coming years as the coast lines will be drastically changing. People will have to move, entire families will loose their homes. Many people will not be able to sell their houses for profit because no one will want to buy them. Climate change has many, many unforeseen consequences we will have to adress as a country in  order to make sure it does not continue at the rate it is currently going at.