‘We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator’

So said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the COP27 delegates on 7 November, reported by Forbes.

Originally published 11/7/2022

Update: I added text and the graphic, Impact of Climate Change On Human Health, to show the factors that will contribute to human population decline. These do not include decisions by young people to have fewer if any children.

Our understanding of the drivers of climate change is well-understood, but most people in developed counties nor their leaders want to give up their lifestyle of convenience, comfort, and profit. Yet, not addressing climate change will likely kill most of humanity during the next hundred years. The six charts, below, show how human population growth and industrialization created greenhouse gases that warm the planet, likely resulting in a 3oF temperature rise above pre-industrial levels by 2100 if left unchecked.

According to scientists, we have about seven years left to drastically curb our greenhouse gas output to avoid an irreversible tipping point. Methane is 80 times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide over twenty years and 20 times more heat-trapping over a hundred years. This is because newly introduced methane molecules into the atmosphere are broken down by sunlight over 10 years, whereas carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries unless recaptured by plants.

Climate change will reduce the human population due to factors shown in the following chart. Alternatively, we can minimize our decline with aggressive climate change initiatives. There is a current cholera pandemic that is worsened by flooding, the result of climate change.

One way or another human population must decline, and people will have to go back to living much as we did in the nineteenth century (what I call micro-industrialization), though with modern versions of electric trains and trolleys. Renewable energy cannot fully replace fossil fuel energy in the foreseeable future so we will just not have a lot of stuff, and most people will again be farmers.

What might micro-industrialization look like? It is hard to say since how we will utilize diminished energy resources is as much a political question as it is an engineering one. A New York Times article gives us a glimpse of how micro-industrialization might start.

How Many Higgs Bosons Does It Take To Screw-in a Light Bulb?

The comedian, Jim Carey, posed this question to the world-renowned cosmologist/physicist Stephen Hawking shortly after the discovery of said particle in 2012.

Aurora Borealis Over Lake Diana on Quebec’s Tundra

The comedian, Jim Carey, posed this question to the world-renowned cosmologist/physicist Stephen Hawking shortly after the discovery of said particle in 2012. Hawking was unable to answer this question. In case you are not current on your particle physics, you will find a brief explanation of the Higgs boson, here. But it is really quite simple. Higgs is a short-lived particle that sets up a field that determines the mass and characteristics of all other sub-atomic particles.

Here is another question for you. How much scientific data documenting climate change is necessary to mount a global policy to limit greenhouse gases to meet the +1.5o C goal by 2050? This is an irrelevant question. Although governments and people love science that produces things they like, most people want governments to take care of their immediate interests and lifestyles.

By the way, regarding the above photo, Auroras are caused by magnetic storms on the Sun that pull on the Earth’s magnetic field, causing the excitation of electrons in our upper atmosphere, resulting in the emission of light. You will find this explained in more detail, here. Oh, and Carey’s question is also irrelevant because Higgs bosons do not screw-in light bulbs.

Debunking Climate Change Myths & Disinformation (The Baloney Buster)

The “smoking gun” is the fossil fuel signature of atmospheric CO2 molecules.

Thinking about Carl Sagan’s “baloney buster” piece, I came across this article in The New York Times written by a geologist/journalist. She did a wonderful job of baloney busting by clearly highlighting all the scientific evidence showing that climate change is real and that this assessment has strong consensus among climate scientists. They see the data as incontrovertible. These data include: 150 years of global temperature measurements, satellite data from the 1970s, tree-ring samples, ice-core and earth samples, sea-level rise measurements, flora and fauna monitoring, and atmospheric and oceanic analyses–all pointing to the same conclusion–that it is getting hotter and we are the major contributors.

The “smoking gun” is the fossil fuel signature of atmospheric CO2 molecules. “Fossil fuels are too ancient to have any carbon-14 left in them, so if they were behind rising CO2 levels, you would expect the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere to drop, which is exactly what the data show.”

Earth Day 2022

April 22, 2022 update: Hello, is anybody listening? A just released IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report says we are going in the wrong direction on climate change, but there is still a narrow window left to avoid a complete catastrophe to our biosphere, and that includes us.

According to an ongoing temperature analysis led by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), “the average global temperature on Earth has increased by at least 1.1° Celsius (1.9° Fahrenheit) since 1880. The majority of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15 to 0.20°C per decade. . . . . The data reflect how much warmer or cooler each region was compared to a base period of 1951-1980. (The global mean surface air temperature for that period was 14°C (57°F), with an uncertainty of several tenths of a degree.)”

There was time when we believed that we were the center of the universe and that we should have dominion over the Earth. But then Copernicus came along who asserted that the Sun is indeed the center of our solar system, the Moon being the only body that revolved around the Earth. I’m sure you know that this resulted in a bit of an uproar. As for the dominion idea, our use of resources, over-hunting, and factory farming of animals have contributed to climate change and the current sixth extinction. Watch Marvin Gaye’s video, Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology), released in 1971.

The following two photos show a contrast between Greenland’s Tunu Glacier in 1933 and 2013. This melt-back is characteristic of ice all around the world, though melt-back varies widely, depending on location.

Source: The Greenland Ice Sheet – 80 years of climate change seen from the air. / Bjørk, Anders Anker; Kjær, Kurt H.; Larsen, Nicolaj Krog; Kjeldsen, Kristian Kjellerup; Khan, Shfaqat Abbas; Funder, Svend Visby; Korsgaard, Niels Jákup. 2014. Abstract from 44th International Arctic Workshop, Boulder, Colorado, United States.

It wasn’t so long ago that Carl Sagan and climate scientists started sounding the alarm that we were going down a dangerous path. Subsequent climate data has revealed that those early projections vastly underestimated what was happening, since we now know that climate change is not a linear but an exponential process. That is, it happens faster and faster over time.

Via Voyager 1

The now famous photograph of Earth as a pale blue dot was taken on February 14, 1990 by the deep space probe, Voyager 1, from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles). The more recent

Via Cassini

photograph was taken by the deep space probe, Cassini. Though more striking with Saturn in the foreground, it also shows how Earth is but a spec in the cosmos. As Sagan said in his book: Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. (Carl Sagan, The Pale Blue Dot, 1994)

People often say we have to save the Earth. Not so! The Earth will go on just fine without us. The issue is preserving the current biosphere that supports us and the other higher vertebrates. There will always be life on the planet so long as there’s liquid water. As I present every year, here is my fictionalized account of our worst scenario. Let’s do better!

UN Secretary General says COP26 pledges ‘far from enough’

Well, regardless of what our envoy, John Kerry, says, the UN doesn’t believe the COP26 nations have done enough. The graph, below, paints a pretty bleak picture under most scenarios for our biosphere and most forms of animal and plant life. It portends results similar to all-out nuclear war, except in slow motion. Most animal and plant species would either go extinct or their populations would be drastically reduced. For example, if pledges and targets agreed to at the conclusion of COP26 are carried out (and history suggests that this is not likely), at a temperature of +2.1o C above the 1880 mean global temperature, human population might dwindle to between one and two billion people (from the current 7.5 billion).

The graph projects how the various scenarios (shown in color) are likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe, in gigatons) over each decade until the end of the century. The vertical red arrow shows the gap between GHGe in 2030, assuming pledges and targets are met, versus where we should be in 2030 to limit the rise in global mean temperature to only +1.5o C, consistent with 2100. The dotted lime-green line shows the subsequent reduction for each decade in GHGe necessary to be consistent with a +1.5o C increase in the global mean temperature by 2100. This simply won’t happen, according to scientists at Climate Action Tracker.

The blue swath shows the projected upper and lower limits (much like those hurricane track confidence intervals you see on weather maps) of current global policies on GHGe, resulting in a world anywhere from +2.5o C and +2.9o C warmer. The most likely scenario is the purple line showing what happens if we only meet the 2030 target by 2100; we would still be +2.4o C warmer than 1880. Most life would not be able to survive in anything warmer than the “optimistic” scenario of +1.8o C. We are already well into the sixth extinction that started at about +0.7o C (though before 1980 a good portion of the sixth extinction was due to human encroachment and the use of environmental chemicals).

Another important point to consider is that when we talk about average temperatures, some places in the world will be warmer than average and some parts will be cooler. Right now the polar and equatorial regions are warmer and the temperate regions are cooler (though variations occur even within regions). Still, for those of us in the cooler regions, fire, and other weather events are increasing.

So, what will threaten life on the planet? The graphic (as of 2015), below, shows what humanity will face.

For those who question the science, climate projections since the early eighties have been pretty accurate. In fact, most studies underestimated climate impact because population and global national product have been increasing exponentially. Green energy, alone, will not be enough. We have to also cut production; and you know how most people the world over will howl about that.

What If the Whole World Went Vegan?

As you read this, think about the climate you’re leaving for your children and subsequent generations. Give them a chance to live full, quality lives. And by the way, extend your own.


Stuck In the Suez: A Normal Accident

Normal you say? What’s so normal about this? It’s never happened before. It all harks back to Charles Perrow’s Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies. A normal (system) accident involves complexity and tight coupling that sometimes results from unforeseen system interactions. In this case, a relatively narrow canal accommodating heavy traffic and a ship about a thousand feet long weighing 200,000 tons likely aided with modern, computerized, navigational equipment in a high-wind environment. Taken together, these create a highly complex system.

Tight coupling means that if any one thing goes wrong within that system the result is a catastrophic failure. This is illustrated with the loss of the S.S. Transhuron in the Arabian Sea in 1974:

When the Transhuron was reconditioned, air conditioning was installed. It was put on a level that was directly under the propulsion switchboard. This occasioned no comment from the Coast Guard inspector [who could not have foreseen a catastrophe], because while piping should not be “in the vicinity” of the switchboard, this piping was separated by a steel floor from the switchboard, and ran to a nearby condenser.

After installation, engineers found that they needed a by-pass valve installed so that they could use the cold water system when the cooling pump needed repair. An iron nipple was installed on the bronze condenser head to hold a gauge, and the dissimilarity in metals slowly created corrosion [this is a long-known problem to avoid]. Unfortunately, when the unit was cleaned a few years later, this obscure addition was neglected. At sea, it failed and sprayed water into the propulsion switchboard 6 feet above it through an opening in the deck through which cables from the switchboard passed, and that shorted the switchboard out. Since the system had, at this point, 2,300 volts and 1,000 amperes, it was a big short, and it started a large fire. The crew failed to disengage another system on the panel, and that system also failed. (Perrow, pp. 224-225)

After some failed efforts the fire was extinguished. However, as a result of a poorly designed land-based marine radio communication system and miscommunication with the ship’s home office in New York, the ship languished in rough seas for several days and suffered structural damage as a result (the ship was lost, though everyone was rescued). All this was the result of a series of cascading events in a tightly coupled system, any one of which would  not be  catastrophic.

Returning to the Ever-Given, stuck as of this writing in the Suez Canal, let’s consider the high winds reported at the time of the accident. Okay, so now I’m going out on a limb and speculate

© Provided by Live Science An Airbus-built Pleiades Earth-observation satellite captured this view of the Ever Given container ship stuck in the Suez Canal on March 25, 2021.

what might have caused the ship to pivot, run aground, and block the canal. If the ship was battling a cross-wind then it would have had to turn slightly into the wind and/or reduce power to its upwind propeller and maintain or increase power to its downwind propeller to prevent the ship from drifting downwind. The stronger the crosswind, the greater these corrections would have to be. But what if the wind suddenly shifted more to the ship’s upwind rear flank or dropped off? This could have caused the ship to pivot, sending the ship towards the upwind side. While captains and helmsmen are certainly aware of handling ships in high wind conditions, that this type of accident has never happened within the canal would probably have been seen as highly unlikely.

Could these winds have been higher than previously experienced outside of storm conditions? If so, would these winds have been the result of climate change? In this case, we can’t know. But it might portend a new threat in the age of climate change. An analysis of this accident will reveal the likely cause(s) sometime in the future. We’ll have to wait and see.





The Window for Action to Safeguard Our Planet Is Closing Fast

“This report shows that current levels of climate ambition are very far from putting us on a pathway that will meet our Paris Agreement goals,”

According to the latest UN Climate Press Release, the world is way behind in meeting the climate emergency. 2021 is a make or break year  . . . . The science is clear, to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C, we must cut global emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels.  Today’s interim report . . . . shows governments are nowhere close to the level of ambition needed to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. You can see a video summary here.

As I have discussed earlier, climate change will lead to micro-industrialization as the result of the loss of habitable and arable lands. These will contribute to greater mass migrations, famine, illness, and political conflict. Along with population growth and the eventual decline of natural resources, they will foster the sixth extinction and a drastic decline in human population, starting as early as 2070.

You can find the latest, in-depth climate data at the IPCC.

#ItsPossible #FaceTheClimateEmergency

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