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This is not climate change.
This is not climate change.
Remember the term “global warming?” That’s what it used to be called. But right-wing think-tanks and their press outlets didn’t like that term, so they, since they are allowed to frame most conversations these days, chose “climate change” as a more innocuous term. Most people would agree to changing their climate. But saying “global warming” still dissociates the issue from reality, a “globe” is that big round thing at libraries with oceans and countries printed on it. What we really have is a planetary energy imbalance, more heat being retained than is being radiated out into space. And the consequences of that are far more serious than just some “warming.”
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Professor Frank Fenner (21 Dec 2014 - 22 Nov 2010) of Australia states:
"Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years. A lot of other animals will, too. It's an irreversible situation. I think it's too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off." This from an interview with The Australian in 2010.
Think about that last sentence - "they keep putting it off" - while you go about your daily routine enhanced by the cheap energy provided by liquid fuels and you might realize why the World doesn't want to hear this message. But something has to be done to avoid the complete collapse of civilization and all other life. Dr. James Hansen gives some options. He is adamant that all remaining coal be left in the ground - not just for now - but forever. To that end, all industrialized countries must be completely off the use of coal by 2020, and all other countries by 2030. As well, all the unconventional oil sources such as the Alberta and Orinoco tar sands and the oil shales and gas shales (as in northeast B.C.) must be left in the ground. Forever. But what to do about energy?
Yes, the remaining carbon, especially coal, must be left as is, properly sequestered in ground. Especially if coal use ceased immediately, there would be time to properly reduce other fossil fuel uses. Bear in mind that the entirety of civilization has been built upon the use of fossil fuels and the promise of their enduring availability. If the use and availability should cease, we would see that civilization no longer has any support and will enter free-fall. Notice that the ramping up of the use of fossil fuels coincided with the winding down of human slavery; we could shift our source of slave energy from human to fossil sources, similar to how we shifted transportation vehicles from horses to automotive. Could society endure without energy slaves? Certainly it would be the demise of cities and massively overpopulated regions.
Rather than people seeking ever more energy from ever more sources, they (especially in global North) need to drastically cut back all energy use to world per-capita usage (or less) - choose a simpler life!
Where is the political leadership to secure an actual future for humanity and the rest of Life on this planet? As Dr. Hansen shows (In Storms of My Grandchildren, 2009), one of the main hangups is moneyed interests pulling the strings behind the scenes in politics. Somehow this connection between big money (Business, in other words) and government must be broken if civilization and the planet are going to survive the inevitable. Remember what John Dewey said in 1905: “Politics is the shadow cast upon society by big business.” If that money connection can be broken, then there remains the monumental job for our leadership to bring the problems of population/consumption down to the level of each person's understanding of the errors of their lifestyle that the older generations have pounded into their heads over the years and realize that virtually everything you have been taught was a mistake. As well, there is people's fondness for history - they go all mushy when they see historical buildings such as Parliament Hill, when instead, I think they should be taking on the big job of removing all human artefacts from the Great Lakes watershed.
The preservation of ocean and land life systems is actually far more important than what is going on with human destruction of the atmosphere - it is these living environments which give the planet its resiliency and we go about destroying that capacity day by day. There was no capacity in previously existing biosystems to act as "carbon sinks"; that fact is borne out by the direct correlation between global temperatures and historic CO2 level records - the forests were ALREADY being used to capacity as carbon storage BEFORE mankind began burning coal and oil AND at the same time destroying the forests and the seas, the lungs of the planet.
Complete biosystems are failing, the ocean has absorbed all the CO2 that it can, the ocean is becoming too acidic, a species goes extinct every 20 minutes - do you really think that humans are going to be the last species to go extinct?? Do you say "Oh well, another life form has been destroyed, but I will still get my paycheque from my office, there will be food at the store, and the lights will be on in my condo, right?" - WRONG!
The humans have blown it multiple times, at various conferences. The Bali Conference on the environment came and went without even considering the most important agenda for this planet: 1) Immediate cessation of air travel worldwide; 2) World-wide criminalization of road building and human encroachment on living soils and 3) Cessation of mining of coal, oil and methane. That would have been an important first step, and show people around the world that the environmental catastrophe is a serious matter. However, no action was taken, just business as usual.
The Copenhagen COP-15 conference in December 2009 was a failure because sitting around the tables were the people who caused the problem. Humans are a small-group animal (see Ehrlich & Ehrlich 2008 The Dominant Animal) and cannot convey their small-group power systems to a planetary system of governance. I think many people realize that with this failure, we are now sailing along in a driverless car and now the steering wheel has been thrown out the window.
Some people are suggesting 350 ppm CO2 equivalent as a target and they are dead wrong. The target should not be above be 280 ppm, because at that level for 650,000 years, the CO2-to-climate relationship was more or less in balance, and remember, that was with the forest, ocean and other ecosystems intact. Now that we have destroyed much of those habitats and forests, even 280 ppm may be way too high, until the lost ecosystems have been regenerated.
Every climate conference has failed by not halting air travel and not taking the consumer's hand off the petrol pumps. Why should there be a direct supply from the planet's petroleum reserves directly to the hand of the consumer at the pumps? Is this truly a less dangerous substance to be mass-distributing than sulphuric acid? Yet there are no sulphuric acid pumps on every corner.
"Planet Earth, creation, the world in which civilization developed, the world with climate patterns that we know and stable shorelines, is in imminent peril. The urgency of the situation crystallized only in the past few years. We now have clear evidence of the crisis, provided by increasingly detailed information about how Earth responded to perturbing forces during its history (very sensitively, with some lag caused by the inertia of massive oceans) and by observations of changes that are beginning to occur around the globe in response to ongoing climate change. The startling conclusion is that continued exploitation of all fossil fuels on Earth threatens not only the other millions of species on the planet but also the survival of humanity itself - and the timetable is shorter than we thought." - Dr. James Hansen, 2009: first paragraph of Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, by Dr. James Hansen ©2009, Bloomsbury USA, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
“Every aspect of the functioning of this planet and the life on it, has been to continually push carbon out of the carbon cycle and into storage, whether that be by plant material being compressed into peat and lignite and coal, or the weathering of rock, or of the condensing of hydrocarbons being released from deep within the planet into storage vaults in the rocky deeps, or by tectonic shifts which bury ocean sediments deep under continental plates.” - from my recent comment on REDD-Monitor.
Yet, we have initiated a slow-motion disaster, second only to a nuclear winter, in this absolutely thoughtless and insane experiment of releasing much of those millions of years’ worth of properly sequestered carbon in about 200 years. The result will be not just a “change in climate”; it will be a total planetary catastrophe that goes on for thousands of years. Have your lovely cities actually been worth it, given the outcome? This is not “climate change,” this is not “global warming,” it is a planetary catastrophe, actually worse than a nuclear winter - the effects of nuclear winter fade faster than this release of CO2.
Dr. Hansen concludes his discussion by talking about the Venus Syndrome, in which runaway heating of the planet ends with Earth in the same condition as Venus. He states categorically that if we burn all the coal, tar sands and oil and gas shales, the Venus effect is a certainty.
I’m feeling the vibrations that you do not believe that we have caused a planetary catastrophe. Can we get away with violating the eons of work by life and this planet to keep the excess carbon level down to where Life can succeed, with no consequences? Magic or trickery does not work here. We broke this delicate balance and the slow-moving consequences will go on for thousands of years if not forever. Look at this data table, below, from Storms of My Grandchildren, page 227. This chart shows the effects of forcings on climate sensitivity. There is a rather wide middle band where there is a normal range of climate, such as during most of the entire evolution of humans. But the left and right sides show how we can get in to runaway conditions with just slight increasing of the forcings (degrees Celsius per Watt per square meter of earth surface). Strong negative forcing pushes the planet into snowball Earth. Large positive forcings (which we have created with greenhouse gases) result in rapidly rising temperatures, the runaway greenhouse effect.
(Above image is from top of page 227 in Storms of My Grandchildren)
Climate forcings are amounts of heat in Watts per square Meter with zero showing energy balance between incoming heat and planet’s radiation of heat. Positive units (as we have at present, out of balance) represent increasing heat in the earth system; negative units show a cooling of the earth system.
Remember, this is not "climate change"; it is a planetary catastrophe in which a rogue species has pried out millions of years of properly sequestered carbon and burned that in just 200 years, initiating a scale of heating not seen since the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) about 55 million years ago.
There have been "life without us" scenarios written in recent years, and these were plausible as late as the 1970s, but we have now gone too far with an exponentially increasing level of ecosystem destruction since those days. The climate trigger has been pulled and even if all people disappeared tomorrow, the earth's systems of inertia would continue on their present trajectory toward the huge warming that will come. It will be very difficult for the other species to survive. Earth has a built-in time bomb in the form of seabed methane hydrates. Anyone who tries to warm this planet WILL SURELY DIE.
Paleoclimate studies, which have added a lot of detailed information in just the past several years, show that warming has always preceded a CO2 increase in the atmosphere by a couple hundred years or so. But to you this doesn't make sense, since you have been told that our CO2 emissions are causing global warming, and yes, they are causing global warming. But our CO2 emission is only the small one, not the BIG one which will follow the warming that we have initiated. Our CO2 emission is just the trigger, and it causes some level of warming and most of that is going into the oceans. The cold winters in the east are just the normal fluctuation of the arctic oscillation, not an indication that global warming is nonsense. Here is a condensed version of the scenario described in Dr. Hansen's 2009 book:
There is very little multi-year ice remaining in the arctic, and the ongoing warming will cause a lot of ice loss in Greenland and the Antarctic ice shelves. This iceberg activity will cause some localized cooling from the effect of all that ice in the water, but the overall warming continues in the lower latitudes. The difference in temperatures between these regions of the planet will drive the "Storms" part of the book's title. As well, the melting ice reduces the salinity of the sea water, which will diminish the sinking of water in the North Atlantic. The last observation that I had was that there is only one feeble downward whirlpool remaining there. Same is happening in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. When these sources of cold salty water slow down, then the problem begins, because the next heaviest water is in the central Pacific, it gets salty (thus heavier) from evaporation, and the result is WARM water sinking to the ocean floor, with devastating effects on the huge masses of methane hydrates on the ocean floor which have been building up over the last 50 million years. The hydrates time bomb is now fully loaded and capable of a higher level of destruction than happened in the end-Permian extinction in which 90% of life was wiped out. This is the toy we are playing with here, a vast and incredibly stupid uncontrolled experiment with no possible good outcome. And yet, the busivernment (I have to try to make a new word here, which shows the fusion between business and government, the two entities which endure unlike us mortals, with business calling the shots and government doing their enforcement work) fully plans to burn every last fossil fuel they can get their hands on, and extract every last mineral deposit, and catch every last fish, and dam every last river, ruin every last river delta, pull every last drop of water out of every well, etc., until they actually hit some physical barrier that they can't push out of their way with big machines. That simply is how Capitalism works.
Screw the future generations - let’s just keep on living the high life (high energy usage) and burn all the fossil fuels!
Or not. You choose. You can’t push all responsibility for this onto governments; it is your hand on that gas pump.
And yet - society is about to launch the most unneeded act of “Progress” ever, a final rape of the oceans by way of seabed mining. Could there be a better way to accelerate the release of all those seabed methyl hydrates than scrubbing the sea floor for mineral nuggets? Read this from Carbon Brief’s “Cropped” Newsletter, 22 March 2023:
DEEP-SEA SCRAMBLE: In a column for the New York Times, Dr. Diva Amon, a marine biologist, wrote that “mining hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean floor could inflict irreversible damage on ocean health.” Amon, who directs a Trinidad-and-Tobago-based ocean conservation non-profit, noted that approval for mining activity regulations could arrive as early as July of this year. She wrote: “After that, a scramble to mine the deep sea could commence. And once it begins, there will be little hope of reining it in.” Amon called it “deeply worrisome” that those lobbying the ISA for deep-sea mining “don’t appear to prioritise equity in their plans.”
Update 30 March 2023: Please see Straits Times report on Antarctic ocean currents.
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