Q&A with Author David Archer Why do you think global warming is an important issue?
Global warming is an important issue because its impacts can be pervasive, rearranging patterns of rainfall, agricultural viability, and the natural landscape. Also, the impacts of releasing CO2 in particular as a greenhouse gas are persistent; they won't just go away after a few years. What is the one thing you wish more people understood about global warming?
That there really isn't any doubt that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, that adding CO2 to the atmosphere is already changing Earth's climate, and that there's no real scientific reason to hope that climate impacts in the future won't be severe, and worth avoiding. When did you first become interested in the subject matter you teach?
I am interested in the cycles and balances of chemicals through the environment, the way that the natural world keeps itself regulated and in balance. I went to oceanography school from my native Indiana without knowing much at all about the science of the oceans. My work in oceanography pertains to the carbon cycle; for example, how the CO2 concentrations of the air and water interact with each other. I started teaching this class to non-science majors, and found that non-scientists can understand the science, down to the fundamentals, if we start from the beginning. What would you say to people who don’t believe global warming is real and dispute the scientific evidence that backs it up?
If there were scientific arguments on both sides, then they should be considered. But most of the arguments disputing a present and future human impact on climate seem to be constructed specifically to fool non-scientists, or to give them an excuse to discount the issue. What are the biggest contributors to global warming and is it possible to reverse the process?
The biggest contributors to the problem are the people of the United States, who emit more CO2 per capita than just about anyone in the world. If the whole world were to adopt the American lifestyle, the rate of CO2 emission would increase by a factor of about five. We are leading the world to ruin. What can we expect in the next 100 years going forward, if global warming continues?
I think droughts and storminess would be the most noticeable differences.
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