August 21st, 2012 by Joshua S Hill
The 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) has already revealed several big stories regarding alternative fuels for transport, but it has also given Nobel Prize winning scientist, Mario J. Molina, Ph.D. a platform from which to explain why he believes there is new scientific proof linking extreme weather to climate change.
“People may not be aware that important changes have occurred in the scientific understanding of the extreme weather events that are in the headlines,” said Molina, who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for helping save the world from the consequences of ozone depletion. “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.”
Molina was clear from the get-go to ensure people knew there was no “absolute certainty” that global warming is causing extreme weather events, however, he did say that scientific insights during the last year or so have strengthened the supposed link between the two.
Even if the scientific evidence continues to fall short of the absolute certainly measure, the heat, drought, severe storms and other weather extremes may prove beneficial in making the public more aware of global warming and the need for action, he said.
“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.”
Molina, who is with the University of California, San Diego, suggested a course of action based on an international agreement like the Montreal Protocol that phased out substances responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer, and which benefited hugely from work done by Molina and his colleagues.
“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. The cost to society of abiding by it would be less than the cost of the climate change damage if society does nothing.”
“Climate change is a much more pervasive issue,” he explained. “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,” which he noted involved only a small set of substances, making it easier to get everyone on the same page.
Molina believes that, in addition to a new Montreal Protocol-style pact, other things must happen. He believes that scientists need to be able to better communicate the scientific facts underlying cliamte change, and that scientists and engineers mst also develop cheap alternative energy sources to ensure our reduced dependency upon fossil fuels.
Molina said that it’s not certain what will happen to the Earth if nothing is done to slow down or halt climate change. “But there is no doubt that the risk is very large, and we could have some consequences that are very damaging, certainly for portions of society,” he said. “It’s not very likely, but there is some possibility that we would have catastrophes.”
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