2016-12-10

The iceberg is sinking fast


I am currently translating a book on climate change, its consequences, and how do deal with it. One of the sources mentioned in there is a Report of The Environmental Pollution Panel by the President's Science Advisor Committee, issued in November 1965 to advise US President Lyndon B. Johnson on the effects of pollution on the nation's health and economy. The report's title is, “Restoring the Quality of Our Environment, which implies that said environment had already decreased to a significant amount in quality, and that this was acknowledged. In fact, the table of contents reads like from an eco warrior's bible.

I would like to quote a few passages from it, to illuminate the extent to which the US government knew fifty (!) years ago where the train of industrial civilization is headed.

On “possible effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on climate”

“We may compute from his data [F. Möller, On the influences of changes in the CO2 concentration in air on the radiation balance of earth's surface and on the climate; in Journal of Geophysical Research, 1963] that with a 25% increase in the atmospheric CO2, the average temperature near the Earth's surface could increase between 0.6C and 4C” (p121)

and they go on to describe how water vapor plays a role in increasing the effect of atmospheric CO2, through a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

They also mention C. G. Callendar's groundbreaking work in the late 30s and the 40s regarding temperature increase through carbon increase. (p122)

Atmospheric warming due to an increase in the CO2 content of the atmosphere may result in a catastrophically rapid melting of the Antarctic ice cap, with an accompanying rise in sea level. [The authors think, though, that] such melting must occur relatively slowly on a human scale.” (p123)

Well, we know about self-reinforcing feedback loops and we can witness first-hand how both Arctic and Antarctic ice caps are melting like snow in the sun, with record losses on both poles at the same time in October and November 2016, which is a first in human history. Imagine it's winter on the North pole, it's pitch dark and it's supposed to be below -20C, but sea ice is melting.

Pronounced effect on the distribution of some fisheries through warming of the oceans' surface water counts among further ramifications of increased CO2 levels. The authors note that “the amelioration of oceanic climate also resulted in a marked retreat of sea ice around the edges of the Arctic Ocean.”
The authors furthermore note that the burning of limestone for cement and other construction purposes contributes a significant amount of CO2 to the atmosphere, that the growth of agricultural area has reduced forests and grass lands and has triggered the oxidisation of ocean-based and soil-based carbon into CO2, which means they identified another self-reinforcing feedback loop (p123f)

The authors then conclude:
“Through his worldwide industrial civilization, Man is unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment. Within a few generations he is burning fossil fuels that slowly accumulated in the earth over the past 500 million years. The CO2 produced by this combustion is injected into the atmosphere; about half of it remains there. The estimated recoverable reserves of fossil fuels are sufficient to produce nearly a 200% increase in the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere.

By the year 2000 the increase in atmospheric CO2 will be close to 25% [accurate!]. This may be sufficient to produce measurable and perhaps marked changes in climate, and will almost certainly cause significant changes in the temperature and other properties of the stratosphere” (p126)

It's 1965 and they are accurate again!

“The climatic changes that may be produced by the increased CO2 content could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings.” (p127)

Ha! And not to mention from the point of view of failing ecosystems. The authors then go on to describe fantasy technology needed to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere. This must be one of the first mentionings of geo-engineering.

“We can conclude that, at least during the recent past, fossil fuel combustion has been the only significant source of CO2 added to the ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system.” (p131)

So much for solar activity, cosmic rays, or natural climate cycles being responsible for Earth's predicament.

Subsequent reports, like the research done by Exxon (temperatures are likely to rise by a catastrophic 5 degrees Celsius, with rises of 6, 7 or even more quite possible”), the briefing of the Alliance of Small Island States to the Copenhagen Climate Summit (“350ppm is a death sentence”), and a scenario created for the Pentagon, all underline the reality of the climatic threat and the necessity for action. The Pentagon report (An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for US National Security, by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, October 2003) is “imagining the unthinkable”. It states:

"There is substantial evidence to indicate that significant global warming will occur during the 21st century. […] gradual global warming could lead to a relatively abrupt slowing of the ocean’s thermohaline conveyor, which could lead to harsher winter weather conditions, sharply reduced soil moisture, and more intense winds in certain regions that currently provide a significant fraction of the world’s food production. With inadequate preparation, the result could be a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth’s environment"
“These [changes] could occur in several food producing regions around the world at the same time within the next 15-30 years, challenging the notion that society’s ability to adapt will make climate change manageable.”

I think we have read enough to understand that the governments of the world are well informed on what is really going on with the climate, but they don't tell.
I also think we all have seen enough in our own environment or on the news to come to the conclusion that climate change is neither a hoax nor a pony farm experience we could wiggle our way out of easily.

Throughout all those years since 1965, something could have been done to stop, curb, or mitigate the development. Our boat didn't have to hit the iceberg, yet it did so at full speed, and catastrophic damage is irreversibly done – only this time, the berg is sinking... first.

I therefore think that in today's situation don't ask, don't tell is a non-appropriate policy – more than ever, for it never was. We should not only ask ourselves, but our governments, economic leaders and media enterprises why none of this makes the headlines of every single news show, similar to the financial crisis of 2008 when all frequencies bothered us with banks' death screams for months on end. Why have they driven us into this – in broad daylight, in full sight, and the headlights on?

When you hear your government – be it the German, the Indian, the Chinese, the Russian, or the You-name-it government – when you hear your government claim that they are doing something about climate change, be aware that, in fifty years, they have done exactly nothing to curb the effects of industrial activities and the corresponding lifestyle; they have hidden the facts, as described above, from you and deliberately downplayed the ramifications of industrial pollution while economic growth has been maintained as the primary objective in decision-making. How likely is it that anything has changed in the meantime, given that major experts warn of near-term human extinction due to temperature increases way beyond 4C while your favorite politician, whoever it is, holds we could stop at the 2C we have already (!) reached? Think about it.
 
Dance of death to the music of the abrupt heating of the Earth has started. We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, and anyone who thinks you can drive 200 species a day into the abyss and have a planet that is empty except for eight billion humans is dreaming. At one point, it's going to be us – not because we run out of ideas, but because our ability to grow food will have been destroyed utterly.

Maybe it's time for you to take some time and think about how you would live if your time was short. What is truly, deepy important to you? What would you like to pursue?
Why are you not doing it right now?

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