The Best of British Minds on Global Warming
Imagine these headlines in winter months.“Coldest Winter in Fifty Years!”, “Record Rain Fall!” “Snow in March and April!!” "So what happened to global warming?"
Ladies and Gents, that is Global Warming.
The greatest misconception about global warming is that it means we will all experience warmer temperatures all of the time. This is fundamentally incorrect. Global warming means more energy, (infrared or heat energy) is being trapped in our atmosphere by the insulative element carbon in its various molecular forms, usually CO2 and Methane. This excess energy upsets the current atmospheric systems resulting in extremes of weather and extremes in temperature with colder winters in some places, heavier rain showers in other areas and drought and heat waves for others. It is a man made destabilization of the climate systems we have taken for granted since the birth of humanity on this planet some 200,000 years ago. This destabilization has been a side effect of humankinds technology rush. It is human created global warming which as most people understand today, is the greatest threat to the continuity of our species… and its not like we don’t have plenty of threats to choose from. So why then are some people still saying that global warming is all a myth fabricated ( for some poorly defined agenda ) by the latest big bad “ists” who are in this case, environmentalists?
Much to my dismay I recently read an article which, citing the century plus science of one British janitor cum scientist, James Croll and making a connection to the works of Nicholas Shackleton, refuted man made global warming by stating that;
“The demonstration that the Milankovitch theory of orbital climate change was correct and could be recognized in isotopic (and later many other physical) properties of rocks meant that an age scale based on astronomical calculation could be applied to rocks in which this cyclicity could be recognized.
These changes in orbit are key to climate change and may be far more likely to impact our Earth than carbon dioxide. Curiously they are hardly ever mentioned in the movement to name the guilty warm-mongers and then tax the daylights out of them.”
It is fair to say that the reason that the hypothesis that, " Variations in earth orbits and variations in solar activity are the actual cause of the global warming..." is not reported on frequently, is because it is confusing two different mechanisms for two different events that have two very different out comes and therefore is scientifically invalid in regards to the current concern about global warming.
Yes, even the minimal changes in the orbital path of the earth and solar activity can lead to shifts in the earths climate as Shackleton correctly noted and also the earths electromagnetic field as we may see in the next two years.
However, if it comes to a meeting of great British minds on the the current climate warming issue, a climate change smack down if you will, then the science I would prefer to be noted are the modern minds of: Jeremy Leggett who is a visionary modern day British industrialist, geologist and scientist, Prince Charles of course in his role of environmental steward and philanthropist, the renowned Professor James Lovelock who revolutionized the world with his Gaia theory of the earth as self regulating organism and the greatest British or otherwise mind of our time, Professor Stephen Hawking.
All of these scientists and philanthropists have weighed in on the matter of the current global warming fear and all agree; its man made and is critically serious to the point that each has raised fears about the survivability of human kind as we know it. As unpleasant as that is to hear, none of their opinions can be easily dismissed.
Just to briefly re frame the debate, the climate warming / ocean acidification concern is that we have mined and drilled many many tonnes of carbon in the form of coals and oil, out of the earths sub surface in the last 300 years and are consuming it at an ever increasing pace. This carbon in various forms is now in our atmosphere and of course this is creating an imbalance. Planetary forces took many thousands of years to trap this carbon in the earths sub surface and remove it from the atmosphere. Releasing so much, so quickly, has not allowed planetary mechanisms to keep pace and as such the build up of carbon in our atmosphere is increasingly trapping the infrared range of solar energy causing incremental increases in the amount of energy returned to the earths surface or active in atmospheric weather.
While this may not result in uniform "warming" it will result in increasingly dramatic weather with an over all increase in average temperature.
Jeremy Leggett who was a geologist for Shell Oil saw this data when it emerged. This prompted him to leave the oil business and form the British renewable energy company "Solar Century." A link to a fantastic documentary in which he participates, called "Crude, The Incredible Journey of Oil" by the Australian Broadcast Company is provided at the end of this article. His data and knowledge are not only modern but he speaks from both sides of the debate having been an oil geologist and now a solar industrialist. He is an example of the kind of intelligence and vision Britain, Canada and the world needs at this critical time.
Why the validation of the global warming theory and the fight against it's causes are so very important for
In the immediate future we may well see the collapse of fish stocks already weakened by over fishing. This will be due to a secondary factor of global warming which had not recieved much attention until about five years ago called ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification is a term used to describe the change in PH or acid / base balance of the oceans. Any avid gardener with a Rhododendron has experimented soil acidity or PH to change the colour of his or her Rhodo blooms. Similarly, ocean PH affects the life in the ocean but far more than just its colour. As more carbon from the atmosphere is re-absorbed into the oceans it forms carbonic acid, increasing even slightly the acidity of the oceans. This small change however can prevent proper bone and shell growth in sea life and that in turn will impact the fish stocks and a food chain already weakened by over fishing.
A bit further into this century however, as the polar caps continue to recede, we will lose strength in the gulf stream current. This is a significant problem and again one not understood until only a few years ago when ocean scientists started collaborating with climate prediction model scientists to put two and two together.
The gulf stream is the primary distribution current in the oceans for many things: temperature, nutrients, oxygen, waste. A brief re-cap would explain that warm water near the equator rises and is shunted toward the poles where it cools and sinks again, all of which is pushed along by the water behind it doing the same forming a sort of conveyor belt. This cycle provides
If however the ice at the poles melts, as it currently is, and the oceans warm as they currently are, then the water will not cool and sink anymore. It will no longer bring nutrients and oxygen to deeper water. Life in the deeper ocean will have less food and oxygen to consume and the current will have less strength to move and distribute energy which helps to mediate temperature.
The end result of this will be a slower or non existent gulf current, stagnating water, increasing anoxic ocean “dead zones” and greater variations in temperatures between polar and equatorial regions. British winters will become colder while summers will be hotter and drier. Near term ramifications point towards less food production for a very crowded Britain. Longer term predictions are even more unpleasant.
Humanity has not faced an issue of this scale before but then again, its only been in the last 60 years of life that everyone thought they were entitled to a shiny, four wheel carbon emitting machine to go down the hill to the store to pick up refrigerated meat processed five hundred km away to cook in an electric appliance. Do you think something might have been overlooked in the rush?
Fortunately the best of British minds are not only the ones to identify the problem head on but are also leading the pack to solve the solution. Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Media fame has already announced a competition among research organizations to develop technology to scrub carbon right out of the atmosphere.
Why is this important? Because scrubbing the Carbon out of the atmosphere might well be the only way to solve the problem at this point. Reducing CO2 emissions will no longer stop what has already started. There are too many previously unforeseen feedback mechanisms now kicking in that will continue the global warming process at a pace no one expected.
For example, as arctic ice melts, darker earth and water surfaces reappear and of course, darker surfaces absorb more heat speeding the melting process. There is also my personal favorite, as arctic ice melts, the methane from decomposing plant life underneath is now starting to be released ( see link to fire and ice below ). This methane is eighteen times more potent a green house gas than carbon dioxide and was not being factored into previous models and what more, tonnes of it are held in the form of methane "ice" in the cold depths of the ocean. If the oceans warm, huge amounts of methane may be released and it is likely that this is already happening. ( see link below on methane bubbles ). Then there is the Ocean as carbon absorber scenario. Scientists were counting on the ocean continuing to absorb carbon at a steady rate for the next century but are now finding that as the ocean becomes saturated with carbon, not only is it becoming more acidic, it can no longer absorb the amount of carbon it used to.
As all these feedback mechanisms kick in, even if we shut down every oil well, parked every car and shut down every industry, global warming would still continue for centuries to come due to what has already been and will be released by our actions. It is a giant that has started to stir and what looks to us a slow gentle movement is actually an immense force awakening that will not pay one bit of attention to us once it's underway. As Professor Lovelock, the inventor of the Gaia theory of Earth stated in his latest BBC interview, and I paraphrase. “ It’s too late to change global warming, just enjoy your life. Life will go on in some form but I can't vouch for humanity." Dire but true words.
It is up to the initiatives of those like Branson's that recognize that if technology got us into this mess, maybe it can get us out. If we can find a way to rapidly “scrub” the carbon out of the atmosphere maybe the planet will possibly recalibrate. We can, after all, in the absence of visionary leadership; hope, create and invent. It’s what we Brits do very well, we thinkers, tinkerers and dreamers.
Dream a better future and make it so. Imagine that!
Here is to Leggitt, Hawking, Lovelock and Prince Charles.
Please note on the graph below, the red line is atmospheric temperature variation both + and -. Note how it correlates to the blue line which is atmospheric CO2.
Jeremy Leggitt on Solar Century
Jeremy Leggitt in the documentary: Crude
James Lovelock on the BBC 2010
Richard Bransons Climate Change Challenge
Dan Miller on Methane from Ice
Sigorney Weaver in the Documentary "Acid Test" on Ocean Acidification.
Sigorney Weaver in the Documentary "Acid Test" on Ocean Acidification.