WSW: Global Warming, a Question of Degrees

Jan 26, 2015

Graph provided by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Credit IPCC/Wikimedia Commons

Western Michigan University Professor of Biological Sciences David Karowe says the best alternative is to now allow any further global warming. 

But he says without some major changes in how we get and use energy, the average temperature of the planet will increase about four degrees Celsius (more than seven degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. Karowe says warming of two degrees is seen by scientists as something "we have a chance to do." Karowe will discuss the difference between two degrees and four degrees warming Wednesday afternoon. His address at noon in the Lee Honors College Lounge is part of the Lyceum Lecture Series at Western Michigan University. 

Karowe says there are consequences to two degrees warming, but he says there are much bigger problems related to disease and drought if the Earth gets four degrees warmer by 2100. He says there is much to be gained by by limiting warming to two degrees. Karowe says there should be more focus on the benefits of limiting warming, rather than just the cost of a transition to more carbon-free forms of energy. 

Limiting warming to two degrees by the end of the century is something that Karowe says will take a global effort. He says it will require a world-wide coalition in part because developing countries are also emitting carbon. But Karowe says the technology exists now to get most of the energy we need from alternative, non-carbon sources. He says the question is having the political will to get it done.

If the Earth were to get two degrees or four degrees warmer, Karowe says there are  some theoretical solutions. But he says the "geo engineering" methods are nowhere near close to being ready for use. Karowe says those technologies include reflecting sunlight back into space. But he says there are better ways to limit warming on Earth that can be done.