A Way Out of the Politics of Climate Change, Part 2

A Root Cause Analysis on the “Failure Mode” of Changing (Increasing or Decreasing) Temperatures.

This is the second article of a five part series.

In the last article I outlined our functional model of the Earth. According to that model to explain why the current temperature of earth is the way it is, we have a primary energy input from the sun, and secondary energy inputs from other astronomical sources and internal energy from the Earth itself. The properties of the Earth that effect the temperature are the reflectivity, the percentage of energy reaching Earth reflected back out into space, and the emissivity, the ease at which the energy Earth contains can be released into space (cooling at night for example). The goal in this series is to address climate change in a real, technocratic, nonpolitical manner to elimate the arguing and posturing, and outline a process whereby people could identify what problem exists and the best most robust solution.

Typically root cause analysis is performed on an undesired event, or a failure mode in engineering-speak. I put the term in quotes in the subtitle above because we have already established that changing temperatures up or down is normal. The Earth experiences cycling throughout its history. It is a problem for the world now only because the population of humans has significantly increased from earlier times, and our civilization is heavily dependent on intensive agricultural practices. Any temperature changes up or down could adversely affect crop yields and lead to famine, or at minimum a huge refugee problem as people are forced to migrate from newly unproductive areas to newly productive areas.

Now, the next step in our process is to examine each of the inputs and outputs in our energy balance model to see whether they could be a cause of temperature changes. Some are clearly more likely than others, but we won’t rule anything out based on probability unless it is next to impossible. Based on what we know today, I think we should keep everything. Next, we want to identify evidence that we can use to determine whether or not each of these items is in fact present and could be contributing to the change in temperatures.

Root Cause Model of Climate Change

For example, studying how the average color of the Earth has changed over time will tell us whether that is a major or minor cause or none at all and can be eliminated. Or, studying how the Sun’s output has changed over time will tell us how significant that factor is in explaining the climate change event we are concerned about. At this point, after identifying possible evidence and where one should look for it, we ought to conduct a determined search to validate or eliminate each of the possible causes to our situation. In all likelihood, our climate change problem will turn out to have several causes of varying degrees of importance. If we collect enough data, we can determine the relative contribution of each of those elements, which will help in a later phase when determining the feasibility and effectiveness of potential solutions.

So, what now? Looking back at my first article on root cause analysis, and keeping in mind that our problem is caused by all potential causes that we find to be present in our research, we would then identify targets for potential solutions. In that original example, one would not have said that the fire was caused by air present in the storeroom even though that was a necessary condition. That is simply because it would not have been feasible to address, not because it was not a cause of the problem. This problem is a little different in that each of our causes could potentiall independently result in climate change, whereas in the fire example, all three causes were required. However, the same rule applies than the more causes that are addressed with solutions, the more enduring the fix will be.

For the purposes of this argument, I am going to assume all causes are present to varying degrees and assign a percentage arbitrarily to each of the causes identified to represent their individual contribution to climate change.

Sun – 20 %
Astronomical Sources – 5 %
Reflectivity – 28 %
Emissivity – 39 %
Internal Energy – 8%

Part 3 in this series will discuss dealing with uncertainty, risk , evaluating data, and severity of the problem.