Posts Tagged ‘Global Warming’
The suspense is over. The Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man is here. The End Times have arrived. Yes, the Walking Dead are at the door. OK, that went on too long. Let me get right to the point, one of the many doomsday scenarios facing humanity has indeed arrived. Granted it may take a few more decades or centuries, but our doom is assured. WTF am I talking about? Antarctica of course. More specifically, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS.) This is a giant slab of ice sitting on West Antarctica. About the same size as the western United States or Europe. That’s a lot of ice. And it is apparently now inexorably sliding into the sea. Yes, according to the latest scientific research, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun, and nothing can stop it.
OK, so, more icebergs near Antarctica? What’s the problem. The problem of course is that while much of the WAIS is floating, much of it isn’t. And when the parts that aren’t floating slide into the sea, global sea levels rise. How much? Well, depends on how much of the ice sheet slides into the sea. In the image above, pretty much all you see is the WAIS. See the two glaciers, the Pine Island Glacier and the Thwaites Glacier? They are the problem. They have basically been acting as plugs in a dam, holding back the WAIS. Well, the ocean waters under them have been warming, and they have been retreating rapidly. And now they appear to have given way completely and it’s only a matter of time before the ice behind them slides into the sea. How long? Two centuries at most, maybe much much sooner.
And just how much sea level rise are we talking about? Four to twelve feet (one to four meters in the civilized world.) Yes, on some levels that doesn’t sound like much. However, and it’s a big however, the vast majority of humanity lives near the sea. Even protecting the world’s great cities against that kind of sea level rise would be prohibitive. Entire island chains, and countless small towns and cities, will be partially or wholly inundated. Hundreds of millions of people will be refugees. And the environmental changes wrought by a sea level change that severe are unknown, but very likely to be catastrophic. The economic disruption caused by this is going to be global in scale, and unprecedented in effect.
You’d think this would make the news. And it did, sort of. Since most humans don’t look much past next week, and many of the rest live in complete denial of science, only the occasional science geek like me got excited. Well, and I am sure smart military and counterintelligence people the world over are looking into it. And smart politicians. They do exist, despite what one sees in the USA. The science deniers will ignore or deny it though. The media will move on and continue to essentially ignore climate change or pretend that there is a debate when there is none. And the world will adapt to rapidly rising sea level change. The adaptations may include global depression and global war, but hey, anything is possible. Maybe a Gandhi/Einstein clone will come along and save us all.
My point? I always have points. I’m back to blogging, point number one. I took a one year hiatus. I’ve learned many things. I’ve unlearned a few things. I’ve looked at different perspectives. I’ve come to new conclusions. I’ve come to refined conclusions. I’ve been an idiot. Personal growth, deal with it, or be an ant. I don’t make a very good ant, conformity makes me vomit. I tried to find an image of a vomiting ant to illustrate this point, but couldn’t find one. Please feel free gentle reader to visualize for yourself. Point two, I wonder when the Christian End Times people will catch on to the looming global flood. I mean, global flood, shouldn’t we be building arks?
In conclusion, the future is known to no one. Humanity’s just started to look a little more bleak, but no one has a crystal ball. Still, I have plenty of observations and trenchant remarks to add to the mix. Times are a changing, and I might as well chronicle it as anyone else. Could scientists be wrong about the collapse of the WAIS? Certainly. When it comes to Antarctica our understanding is still very limited. Still, more effort is being made all the time to study it. And so far the more we learn about Antarctica, the worst it looks. On the plus side some of my readers living in lowlands now have time to move. You will thank me later.
Coming soon, further depressing posts. Suggestions welcome.
(The above image was created by NASA, and as a government created image, is OK for public use. There’s probably a more legalistic way to state that. And yes, my conversion of feet to meters makes no sense. I think I was using the Dutch foot.)
In my considered estimation (I have a lot of time to think at work,) the USA has three issues facing it that dwarf other issues of the day. These would be the upwards transfer of wealth, the so called “War on Terror,” and global warming. What do these all have in common, aside from taking place on Earth? Easy, as I’m sure my astute readers recognized, all three were basically completely ignored during the election. Furthermore, they get short shrift in the mainstream media at the best of times. The upwards transfer of wealth is the most ignored, most Americans aren’t even aware that the middle class and poor have stagnated since the late seventies, while the rich got ever richer. Global warming gets some coverage, but it’s lame coverage that claims there is still scientific controversy about the topic. And the War on Terror gets lots of coverage, all of it ranging from sickening adulation to criticism so tepid it’s embarrassing in a so called free society. This is why we’re doomed, the agents of our destruction are running amok, and our national debates are about abortion, gay marriage, and marijuana.
The first of the big three would be the upwards transfer of wealth. This isn’t debatable, anymore than Evolution or Young Earth Creationism are debatable. Since the 1970s the rich have gotten ever richer, while the poor and middle class have stagnated. A process that continues to this day, over 90% of the gains from the last few years of “economic “recovery” have gone to the 1%. This is both a recipe for disaster, and the complete opposite of what made America great in the first place. Sure the richer the rich get, the more they figure out ways to make even more “wealth,” but none of that money goes anywhere. Having trillions of dollars sitting in financial instruments may make the rich very very rich … but it not only does nothing for the economy, it’s a brake on the real economy. This is why interstate banking shouldn’t be allowed, along with a host of other now-gutted laws and regulations that kept money circulating locally instead of piling up in offshore accounts. The Occupy movement at least succeeded in getting more people aware of this, but unless it is stopped, we will eventually (and maybe sooner than later) be a land of poor serfs with a few fabulously rich overlords. History teaches us that this isn’t the road to national prosperity, it’s the road to national disaster.
Then there’s the endless “War on Terror.” OBL gave the people who want to maintain western hegemony over the planet, IE the upwards transfer of wealth on a planetary scale, a blank check. And they have spent it on building a vast “security” state and creating an overt world wide empire. This is crazy on several levels, not the least of which it’s the greatest over-reaction to a threat in history even on the face of its putative rationale. It in essence is a staggering waste of resources that would be far better spent on infrastructure, education, and health care. The US is lagging well behind the rest of the developed world in all three, just to maintain a military larger than the rest of the world combined? A military largely designed to fight a war with a country that no longer exists? And yes, building a giant security state is a threat to our liberties; it’s both unnecessary and will eventually be misused when the wrong person gets in power. Lastly, waging war around the world and the ever increasing use of flying death squads, aka drones, isn’t making us safer, it’s creating new enemies. Look how well that policy has worked for Israel, they live inside of a fucking giant wall in complete isolation from their neighbours, yeah, that’s peaceful co-existence.
And lastly, the elephant in the room so big that it’s started flattening whole states, global warming. The facts behind this are overwhelming, the world is rapidly getting warmer, and human activity is contributing in a major way. Yet the energy industry’s legions of well funded think tanks, not to mention their just plain overt influence on the mainstream media and politics, continue to confuse the issue and create the illusion that there is some sort of scientific debate. And this process is made worse by a religous-political party that is actively denying all sorts of science, not just global warming. And when they aren’t denying it, they are claiming we can adjust. That makes about as much sense as “adjusting” when your house catches on fire. When your house catches on fire, you put out the goddamn fire, you don’t “adjust” to it.
Sadly I don’t see much chance of any of these issues being addressed any time soon. I hope I’m wrong.
(Noah’s Ark, oil on canvas painting by Edward Hicks, 1846 Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since it was painted in 1846, under current US copyright law this image is public domain. It’s a painting of Noah’s Ark, a Bronze Age myth that apparently many adults still literally believe in. I still find it hard to get my mind around the idea that functioning adults believe in the reality of something in the same category as Santa Claus. Kinda scary really. Maybe I should have listed religious fundamentalism as the fourth crisis facing America, but I dunno, in some ways it over-arches all the others. Hell, in some way all of the crises facing America, and much of the world, have their roots in religious fundamentalism. A topic for another day.)
This close to the election, everything seems to revolve around the election. At least if one is a hard-core Republican. Or more on point, everything seems to revolve around hating Obama. The bodies weren’t even cold in Benghazi and Romney was heaping criticism on Obama, and he never let up. Odd, I don’t recall the GOP ever criticizing Bush for his military fiascoes, but once Obama was in charge, nothing but criticism. Hurricane Sandy appears to be the same. A Republican governor praises Obama for his prompt and effective response to Hurricane Sandy, and right wing pundits are foaming at the mouth. Classy, real classy. I used to be a Republican, but the party I knew at least acknowledged that we were all Americans, and that it was the politician’s job to work together to run the country. Now Republicans seem to be trying to outdo themselves at reaching ever more ridiculous levels of partisanship. Granted there are voices on the left falling into the same trap, but I’ve yet to hear any liberals criticizing Obama for helping out a Republican governor. Plenty of them have praised Governor Christie though, I was impressed. Yeah, the storm was a break for Obama, but the Republicans could have handled the situation with far more dignity, instead they made it clear no matter how bad things get, no matter how many Americans die; Obama and the people who support him, tens of millions of Americans, can go f**k themselves. I’ll be glad when the election is over and Romney can move on to being a rodeo clown.
Speaking of Hurricane Sandy, or Superstorm Sandy as some are calling it, it was quite the storm. At least 90 dead in the USA, far more in the Caribbean. It wasn’t a super powerful storm, but it was super huge, one of the biggest hurricanes on record, it affected 24 states in the USA and numerous nations in the Carribean. Sandy wasn’t unprecedented, but it was certainly unusual. It’s already on track to be the second most damaging USA East Coast hurricane ever. Still, several times a century a storm like this can be expected to hit New York. And the frequency will be going up as the tropical seas get warmer. The real damage was caused by the storm surge. A storm surge is a pile of water pushed ahead of a storm by winds, surges of over 30 feet have been recorded. Think a tide thirty feet high. Not a pretty sight, storm surges are the big killer in hurricanes and cyclones. On the plus side, they can be prevented. A storm surge killed thousands in Holland in 1953, giant coastal defenses were built to prevent it happening again. Such were suggested for New York long ago, the idea is being revisited in the aftermath of Sandy. We’ll see.
A discussion of Sandy wouldn’t be complete without some mention of global warming. Was Sandy caused by global warming? It’s impossible to say, global warming is about climate, not weather. A fact that global climate change deniers conveniently ignore pretty much every time there is a severe snowstorm somewhere. Granted plenty of global warming activists are claiming that Sandy is clear proof of global warming. I feel their frustration, the globe increasingly is having the kind of extreme weather events that global warming predicts, the fact that it’s not possible to conclusively say that a particular event was caused by global warming is very difficult to explain to people who want to resist science they don’t approve of. However, even if global warming didn’t cause Sandy, it made it worse. That seems to be pretty clear to the climatologists. And at least it got the topic back on the news, that’s a good thing. Good for everyone except the coal and oil industry, sadly they own a lot of think tanks, politicians, and journalists … and they’re not afraid to use them.
In other Sandy news, a Brazilian model, Nana Gouvea, thought it would make a nice backdrop for a photo shoot. One pic helpfully posted above. Her pics went viral. She got heaps of criticism and outrage. Granted it is a tasteless and tacky thing to do. On the other hand, she got tons of publicity. No harm, no foul. It’s not like she’s aspiring for political office, and she didn’t actually hurt anyone. I think it’s a clever idea. Ya, people are outraged. So what? On a scale of one to ten when it comes to outrageous items in the news, this is a zero. There’s tons of sleaze and crime every day far more deserving of outrage than a tasteless photo shoot. Priorities people, priorities. Heck, as my friend Steve Burke said: “Some guys will be seeing the damage for the first time thanks to these photos.”
Have a great weekend everyone!
(The above images are claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, they aren’t being used for profit and are central to illustrating the post. I don’t know who to credit the top one to, the second I assume is owned by Ms Noumea herself. Since I linked to her site and praised her photo shoot, hopefully that’s attribution enough. It would be nice if someday copyright law could be re-written to reflect reality, alas industry is easily the slowest element in a culture to adapt to changing times, and often uses its influence to impeded progress. Another blog post for another day.)
I’ve been involved in a work project the past four days that has kept me tired and covered in sawdust. Neither is terribly conducive to blogging. I did get one post sort of written, but it stalled. So here I am, churning out a random post. Well, not entirely random I suppose. In fact generating a post by random would just yield gibberish in virtually all cases. No, these are the disjointed and tired thoughts of an aging hominid on the surface of an unremarkable planet orbiting an unremarkable star. OK, mostly gibberish.
Well, Romney looks like he’s going down in flames. He can’t even make a joke anymore without getting pilloried. He does seem to have a way of putting his foot in his mouth. I’m back to my original 2012 election analysis of some time ago, The Repubs will field a weak candidate because no one in their right mind wants to take on Obama. And the Repubs are also paying for four years of obstructionism; I mean, for four years, if Obama did it, they were agin it. Their programmed core voters of course all know Obama is a socialist who is destroying the country, the same way Liberal core voters think Obama is some sort of liberal humanitarian, but to win the election the Republicans needed to appeal to middle of the road voters and just in general people who don’t strongly identify with either party. And not only have the Repubs failed to do this, they seem to have gone out of their way to alienate a number of demographics. Right now I’m calling the election for Obama.
In science news, scientists have been studying how slime mould might take over the world. Helpful illustration above. Yes, scientists really did cover a globe with agar and corn flakes to see how a slime mould would spread. For those unfamiliar with slime mould, it’s a mould that grows branches in search of food. Is there any practical use for this research, or are scientists just wasting money? Of course there is! People who think scientists should study useful things are idiots. Idiots in the sense that their opinion shows they know dipsquat about science. There’s nothing stupider than someone who holds an opinion about something they are ignorant about. Why is it idiocy? Because there’s simply no way to tell in advance what research may lead to useful advances. In this case scientists are interested in slime mould’s pathfinding ability, and this research someday might contribute to designing transportation systems. That’s a pretty practical application from growing mould on a globe.
Speaking of the global scene, the chances of war have gone down, though it’s still ugly. And it’s already war, so I mean a bigger war. It is fascinating to me how we have drifted from being more or less at peace to being in constant war. In the eighties if a US serviceman died overseas, it was front page news. Now they die all the time and no one cares. (Political posturing doesn’t count.) Syria is in full armed insurrection. It’s not really a civil war, but the media’s use of war terminology is muddy at best. Ahmadinejad showed that his international diplomacy skills are on par with Romney’s. A lot of what he says makes perfect sense, but if he’d leave out the egregious insults to Israel and Jews he’d make a lot more headway on the world scene. His term is almost up, that should be interesting. Afghanistan: We’ve surrendered to the Taliban, but aren’t going to admit it until after the election. IE all joint training and exercises with the Afghan army have been halted. It’s over folks.
BS aside, world drought and climate changes are the elephants in the room. My contacts in the Midwest say they’ve never seen anything like it before. There’s been serious global drought issues for a number of years now, and it may get worse. Arctic ice is at unprecedented lows this fall as well. World wide bacon shortage unavoidable at this point. Some sort of secret plot of Obama’s no doubt. I think humanity may survive, but the global civilization we have built has foundations of sand. And a Wind is Rising.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is being used for educational purposes. The fine scientist who holds the copyright: Professor Adam Adamatzky. I’ll end with a science nerd joke: We don’t allow faster than light neutrinos in here, said the bartender. A neutrino walks into a bar.)
I was wondering the other day how much human activity is altering the plant, erosion specifically was what got me looking into the subject. I mean, humans have converted vast amounts of forest and prairie into farmland or worse, and erosion rates must have gone up significantly over normal background rates of erosion. Well, turns out geologists have calculated that the global erosion rate is about 10 billion tons of sediment moved from mountains to sea every year. Since the onset of agriculture, this has risen to about 28 billion tons per year. And we also move tens of billions of other material around in the form of mining, concrete production, etc. There’s not any question that humans are now the dominant force shaping the very surface of the Earth by a huge margin. The numbers a so huge that geologists are seriously considering defining the human era as a whole new geological era, the Anthropocene Epoch.
Then there’s the impact of humans have on the atmosphere. Let’s look at volcanoes. Every year volcanoes erupt and dump copious amounts of CO2 and SO2 (sulphur dioxide) into the atmosphere. Humans? We dump about 100 times and five times respectively as much CO2 and SO2 into the atmosphere every year as volcanoes. This is not chicken scratch. In fact the amount of CO2 released by humans and absorbed by the oceans has increased ocean acidity by 25%. This is a huge increase, and has changed the geological processes on the ocean floor in ways we don’t begin to understand.
Let’s just look at it from an energy standpoint. The heat energy released by the Earth every year is well understood. It’s about 44 trillion watts a year. This is what powers volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate tectonics. Human activity is about 16 trillion watts per year. Yes, human energy output is now about 1/3 the energy output of the Earth itself! And if it keeps doubling every 34 years, the current rate of increase, by about 2060 humans will be generating more energy than the Earth! Puny my ass.
It gets worse. As CO2 builds up in the atmosphere it increases the greenhouse effect, IE it traps more of the Sun’s heat on the Earth, warming the crust, the oceans, and the air. If the CO2 in the atmosphere doubles, it will add about 1300 trillion watts of heat energy to the Earth every year! That’s about 28 times the energy the Earth generates every year. And we’re well on the way, humans have increased the CO2 in the atmosphere by about 40% so far with no end in sight. Humans are literally cooking the planet’s crust, atmosphere, and oceans. Literally.
And these are just the big picture items. Little picture items, though the term is misleading, include deforestation, habitat destruction, over-fishing, and groundwater depletion just to name a few. Then there’s the dizzying array of chemicals we make and dump. Any of these could fill volumes with their effects, at least their known effects. My point here is very simple, humans not only are having a huge impact on the nature of our planet, we have no clue what the end results of these will be.
We are deliberately and literally geoengineering our planet, our only planet, with little to no understanding of the long term consequences of our actions. This is why the aliens haven’t contacted us yet, and this is why I question the idea that humans are an intelligent species. We are transforming the globe in ways we don’t even begin to understand, in the name of greed, ideology, and religion.
This isn’t going to end well.
(The above image is a NASA image and is being used legally, essentially it’s a Public Domain image as long as it is used in such a way that does not imply that NASA is endorsing a product or service. NASA does not endorse Doug’s Darkworld. It’s the decline of the Aral Sea in central Asia, once the world’s fourth largest lake. It’s now about 10% of it’s former size, entirely due to human activity and the results have been catastrophic. Lastly, much of the information on this post came from Our effect on the earth is real: how we’re geo-engineering the planet.)