Thought Archive

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Global Worry

I believe that the Climate change is happening, despite my aversion to a current spin. What’s more – I believe also that it is tied to human activity, at least in parts. There are several reasons that I – as a scientist became supportive of this trend. None of them involves Al Gore movie.

The Earth's climate changes in response to external forcing, including variations in its orbit around the sun (orbital forcing),[6][7][8] volcanic eruptions, and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. The detailed causes of the recent warming remain an active field of research, but the scientific consensus[9] identifies elevated levels of greenhouse gases due to human activity as the main influence.

1. The Earth is currently experiencing an Interglacial Period of relative warmth. Climate has been getting warmer, slowly, for last 10,000 years.
2. The rate of change, after a “Little Ice Age” in 12th century and the last one in 19th century (remember Pictures of Thames being frozen over) seemed to accelerate in such a way that there is definite effect of climate
3. This change of climate has accelerated even faster last 50 years.

Existence of the greenhouse effect as such is not disputed. Naturally occurring greenhouse gases (mainly CO2 and methane – CH4) have a mean warming effect of about 33 °C (59 °F), without which Earth would be uninhabitable.[15][16] The debate centers on how the strength of the greenhouse effect is changed when human activity increases the atmospheric concentrations of some greenhouse gases.

Without human interference the Earth is living under constant exchange - plant matter consumes organic carbon and exhales oxygen, whereas animal life mainly creates additional carbon.
We can think about the process in the following way. During the geological history most of plant and animal matter is buried, thus “archiving” organic carbon and gases that could have been released with it. Exploitation of organic fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) re-introduces the paleo-carbon into the atmosphere. If all preserved organic matter were released (assume that 10-15% of it has been preserved) then the Earth will be closer to its original greenhouse conditions.

So the change is happening. The question is what to do about it – and here is where opinions diverge. What is universally recognized - except by the overexhited media - is that currently, there is no alternative which can completely offset fossil fuels. It is for this reason - and not because of some sinister plan by the high and mighty- that we are not switching to biodisel powered cars.
Some advocate that in the absense of reliable alternative and impending doom we should manage a power down. However the only thing it will achieve is to spread havoc around the World for an uncertain benefits. Without going further away from the scientific discussion I will point out that this will require an overhaul of world system of trade and likely to be characterized by social and economic turmoil, warfare and complete breakdown of law and order. Obviously, self organizing vegan communities living in peace with nature is an objective for those who are striving towards a managed power down and destruction of trade, but it will not be this way. To all, including those in the West it will bring untold miseries, the scourge of Terrorism could never dream. And all of those will be self-inflicted.
Real question is whether humanity has a capacity to adjust and continue economic growth, without a mad change of lifestyle. I believe it is possible...


Riri said...

Cheer up! Might never happen as the Brits would say...Am all for an economy based on agriculture and self-sustenance. I predict that the age of slaves will return - consider all the millions of fit, young people in the Third World who are prepared to die in sea on their way to Heaven on Earth i.e. Europe or the US. Well, one might imagine that this huge human resource can be used by the West to alleviate at least partly the burden of a reduction in power consumption. The poor people will be happy as folk when offered free lodging and meals in exchange of their work instead of money and freedom. The burden will decrease from the shoulder of their country of origin because they will have less people to support. It will be ancient history all over. Who is to say this is not what has been going on on planet Earth since the very beginning? The Earth has fixed climate cycles which shape human history over and over and over in the same exact way.

Riri said...

It is funny to put the situation on its head and reflect that it is Earth which controls human activity and not the other way round. Been doing that since the start, by virtue of its clever climate cycles...hehehe!

NoolaBeulah said...

This is what's going to happen:

1. Misery (caused either by global warming or the fear of global warming)

2. Misery-inspired technology that will a) re-ignite that old dream of living in harmony with nature (otherwise known as death); b) enable human beings to leave the earth in great numbers

Which will lead to either

3. a 'sustainable' number of people on Earth spongeing off the labour of those in space


4. the destruction of Earth as a habitable environment and the birth of a new Eden story (first prerequisite: you can't go back there)

Hazar Nesimi said...

I am not really sad. The problem is that we have been there before. THere is always a global catastrophy arounf the World to scare public. We may not find a solution but panic is no companion for the life. Climate change cannot be averted in certain parts of the World but we may think about ways to curb some excesses.
mainly by the West, or be specific US, where wasteful consumption (this allows them to say they achieve more efficiency - of course, think about starting point).

Noolabeulah as you rightly point out the problems will arise anyway - if we do something stupid, it will lead to untold miseries, if we dont do anything it will do the same. Third World will be hugely affected and resource wars will start everywhere. Somehow,all have to work together to do something sensible - a tough thing to ask. But you are a humanist - you should believe in the way out!

Riri - slave labour would not do, slaves also generate greenhouse gases - both CO2 and methane. They excrete. In fact we should destroy all animals so that CO2 production ceases and plants are allowed to reduce it - the Earth will equilibrate.

Riri said...

Correction my friend - not destroy all animals, but destroy all humans. That's just a typical statement a homo sapien would make - destroy all other life forms but I hahaha!

Think about it, starting point? It was our disturbing appearance on the premises!

Riri said...

Come on chaps, don't be alarmed. I am making fun of the climate change panic and I should not, it may have serious consequences. The problem is that I have lost trust and faith in our goodness and our ability to do anything good for others (or even ourselves). Take the US for example, it will not even consider curbing any excesses, even if other are dying of hunger, illnesses etc just around the corner. Europe is much better, but it cannot do enough on its own. Third World haven't even started to live and prosper, so they wouldn't give a damn about global warming if it means they will have to sit in their misery and wait - drive a Ferrari and die, doesn't sound so bad eh?

Anonymous said...

Riri -- do you think the wealthy nations have enough strength of will to maintain a slave society?

Rome managed to capture slaves ... but as Rome's strength declined, those slaves became less and less governable.

Even if you are willing to visit cruel restraints on your slave, you must have enough personal strength to carry out your cruelties.

Modern civilization is cruel, but it is growing so weak in will and body that I doubt it can master anything or anyone.

Riri said...

But Anonymous (allow me to address you with your forename), you are missing my point -

Should the climate scientists' prediction come true, there will arise a situation where already poor countries will become inhabitable due to inadequate climate. These people are already happy to risk their lives to get to economically prosperous countries they are already conditionned to accept anything once they get to their destination (usually Europe or the US). They already have the slave mentality, technically they will enslave themselves, they have the will and power to remain slaves as long as the developped world would agree to just let them remain on its shores and breathe its air. It is radically different from the Roman times , the future slaves am talking about do not even need to be captured. I have heard some young people here say that they'd be happy spending the rest of their lives in a European prison rather than stay free here in their country - and that's without any climate threat. Imagine when the climate becomes unfriendly!