Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The First Rule of Climate Change

...
Still can't get a taxi
Contrary to what you might read in the American media, there's no real argument about the existence of global climate change due to carbon pollution from human burning of fossil fuels.  But that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of uncertainty around the topic.  Increasingly, scientists are discovering that their models have tended to underestimate the rate of planetary warming, and the timing of the more severe consequences.  And the reason for that is starting to be clear - the reports tended to describe the various changes to the atmosphere and the climate from carbon pollution as discrete issues.  Warming oceans, melting permafrost, major storms, droughts, acidification of the sea, deforestation, disappearance of glaciers etc.  What we are beginning to realize, much to our horror, is that all these events are tightly bound in a planetary system of feedback loops that serves to accelerate the process, even if we were to somehow manage to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions today.

Here's the key realization: Only one thing can slow climate change - reduction in greenhouse gas pollution.  Everything else contributes to climate change.  Everything.  Melting ice and permafrost releases trapped carbon dioxide while reducing ocean salinity.  Warming oceans release trapped methane, and if you think carbon dioxide has been fun, wait 'til you get a load of methane in the atmosphere.  Droughts and other changes to the climate make existing agricultural land unusable, so farms move north, clearing trees to plant their fields.  As the temperature warms, insects and parasites move into areas where the trees have no defenses against them, and vast numbers die off.  The reduction of forests both eliminates the carbon capture function of plant life, but the dead trees themselves give off greenhouse gasses as they decompose.  Switching to electric cars sounds great, but if they run on electricity generated by burning fossil fuels, they continue to emit greenhouse gasses.

You hear a lot about conservation, and on the whole conservation is an unalloyed good.  But we must be careful not to delude ourselves - the biggest strides in the reduction in energy usage happen in the more technologically advanced nations, where better insulated, more efficient buildings, mass transit and more energy efficient urban communities are actually options.  In the rest of the world, people still burn firewood, burn coal in vast quantities and clear forests to create new farms.  Every geothermal, hydroelectric, wave, solar and wind electricity generating plant reduces greenhouse pollution, but to what real effect when processes we have put in motion, most of which we only dimly understand, are already increasing the rate at which the planet warms?  It's interesting that the dire predictions we used to hear for 2100 are no longer at the top of climate science's concerns, but rather we hear dates like 2050 and even 2030.  And we've already seen Katrina, the great Russian heat wave and superstorm Sandy.

Remember, people have built-in, intrinsic characteristics that make them dangerous.  The ugliest results of global warming won't be the rise in the seas or the droughts or the disease, it will be the savagery with which the human populations fight each other for survival.  Resource wars, responses to disease and pandemics, the slaughter of displaced refugees, the food riots - nothing nature can be induced to do to us rises to the level of butchery we will rush to perpetrate on each other.  Just wait until an entire nuclear armed nation is starving, or severely short on drinking water - at that point we'll begin to see what humans are genuinely capable of.
...

11 comments:

  1. - at that point we'll begin to see what humans are genuinely capable of.

    The Kwisatz Haderach?
    ~

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gonna have to be I guess.

    They wouldn't let me join the Bene Gesserit...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't you have to be a woman? Or Paul Atreides, of course.

      Delete
    2. Huh. Y'know, that might explain why they didn't let me join the Girl Scouts either...

      Delete
  3. If your title is referring to Fight Club, then well-played, sir.


    at that point we'll begin to see what humans are genuinely capable of.


    BEGIN to see? C'mon, I know you are better-versed in history than that. All we will see is what we have seen.

    No doubt that any weapons that are available, will be used. people under pressure.

    To date, though, AMERICA FUCK YEAH is the only Nation-State that has used atomic weapons in war.

    Also, you Coasters just STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM OUR BIG-ASS LAKES!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The titles are the most fun part of the whole blog post deal. Followed closely by the caption. Then the rest is just a lotta yadda yadda...

      Delete
  4. Also, mikey just forced me to play a Boston album. WITH HIS CALIFORNIA BRAIN-POWERS.

    CALIFORNIA UBER ALLES!

    ...see, I wouldn't have done either of those things without someone else exerting evil control.

    ReplyDelete
  5. ...I'm feeling a bit squirrelly today....

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yeah, but Jen's always mad at anybody who isn't killing Arabs, and John Bolton is like a dog that needs to be put down - he just wants to kill everyone...

    ReplyDelete