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Mission of the York Energy Efficiency Committee

Our mission is to respond to the global warming crisis by promoting energy efficiency, alternative energy, and environmental initiatives throughout the town of York, Maine.
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[Source: The US Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)]

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2011: Earth’s 11th warmest year, Part 3 of 3

Are scientists divided about the existence and causes of climate change?

Some scientists have proposed that previously unknown natural causes could be responsible for global warming, such as a decrease in cloud-producing galactic cosmic rays. Others have proposed that the climate may be responding to the heat-trapping effects of carbon dioxide by producing more clouds, which reflect away sunlight and offset the added heat-trapping gases. These theories have little support among actively publishing climate scientists. Despite public belief that climate scientists are divided about the human contribution to our changing climate, polling data show high agreement among climate scientists that humans are significantly affecting the climate.

A 2008 poll of actively publishing climate scientists found that 97% said yes to the question, “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?” In my personal experience interacting with climate scientists, I have found near-universal support for this position. . .

It is good that we have scientists skeptical of the prevailing consensus challenging it, though, because that is how scientific progress is made. It may be that one of the scientists making these challenges will turn out to be the next Einstein or Galileo, and overthrow the conventional scientific wisdom on climate change. But Einsteins and Galileos don’t come along very often. The history of science is littered with tens of thousands of discredited scientific papers that challenged the accepted scientific consensus and lost. If we rely on hopes that the next Einstein or Galileo will successfully overthrow the current scientific consensus on climate change, we are making a high-stakes, low-probability-of-success gamble on the future of civilization.

The richest and most powerful corporations in world history, the oil companies, have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to push us to take this gamble, and their efforts have been very successful. Advertising works, particularly when your competition has little money to spend to oppose you.

Masters points out how a warmer atmosphere has more energy to power stronger storms, hotter heat waves, more intense droughts, and heavier flooding rains.

Natural weather patterns could have caused some of the extreme events we witnessed during 2010 – 2011, and these years likely would have been naturally extreme years even without climate change. But it strains the bounds of credulity that all of the extreme weather events–some of them 1-in-1000-year type events–could have occurred without a signicant change to the base climate state.

And this is all a sign of things to comes.

Extreme weather years like 2010 and 2011 are very likely to increase in frequency, since there is a delay of several decades between when we put heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere and when the climate fully responds. This is because Earth’s oceans take so long to heat up when extra heat is added to the atmosphere.

The longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to mitigate the damages.  “Every dollar we invest in alternative energy before 2020 will save $4.30 later.”

Read the rest of Dr. Masters’ blog for more details on where the climate is heading.

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