The Facts Behind the
2005 was a turning point year during
which climate change became inevitable.
As atmospheric carbon
dioxide levels rose to heights not seen on earth for millions of
years, and did so far faster than predicted by scientists as
recently as 2003, weather conditions worsened globally.
Across the planet, there were vast fires as desert-like drought
struck regions that have evolved deciduous forests. Massive Siberian
forest fires, usually started by thieves intent on selling
fire-damaged lumber to China, added significantly to global
pollution. Had the region not become so dry, the fires could not
have been started.
The Atlantic Ocean, always a generator of storms, became the most
dangerous such region in the oceans as global warming drove sea
surface temperatures to record highs while the same process, by
trapping heat near the earth's surface, cause stratospheric
temperatures to plummet to record lows.
This synergy resulted in the evolution of many and huge storms.
Unusual storm events became more common, and the combination of
global warming and a cyclical rise in hurricane activity insured
that future hurricane seasons would bring more devastation. At risk
is the entire Atlantic coast of the Americas from Central America to
The most devastating hurricane in
history, Katrina, ruined the US city of New Orleans. This happened
because American Army Corps of Engineers funds earmarked to harden
that city's levee system to a level where they would resist a
category 5 hurricane were diverted for use in Iraq. Despite reports
that clearly and unequivocally stated that the levee system was not
adequate, the problem was ignored.
Some storms, such as Epsilon in December of 2005, have survived the
north Atlantic crossing and affected Europe, and it is anticipated
that there will be more unusual and powerful storm activity in the
Atlantic in coming seasons, with a significant probability that more
cities, primarily in the United States, will be effectively
destroyed by direct hits from Category 5 hurricanes.
New Orleans remains at extreme jeopardy,
along with such Gulf Coastal cities as Beaumont, Houston, and Corpus
Christi, Texas. Low lying areas of New York City and the whole of
central Long Island are at extreme risk of inundating storm surge in
the event that a Category 4 or higher hurricane should strike this
The US Midwest is at jeopardy for extremely severe spring and fall
weather due to the extraordinary temperature differential that now
exists between lower and mid-level atmospheres. This situation
exists in all areas where surface temperatures build, along with
high humidity, during the warm months of the year.
The Gulf Stream has been found to be essentially breaking down. The
great columns of water that keep it flowing have been reduced to
just two, and they are weakening rapidly. The failure of this
current will have catastrophic effects in Europe and North America,
completely transforming the climate of these areas in ways that
cannot now be predicted, but will probably involve a significant
lengthening of winter and a dramatically curtailed growing season in
this presently surplus food area.
Along with the impending change in the structure of the ocean will
come a reduction in planetary air movement, with the effect that air
mixing and the clearing of polluted areas will become less robust.
All regions generating high levels of pollution are therefore at
risk of becoming unlivable for extended periods during pollution
emergencies. In early 2006, such a situation arose in Tehran, with
the loss of much life, and this effect is likely to become
commonplace worldwide after 2007 to 2009.
Additionally, unexpectedly aggressive melt off the polar ice cap,
the Western Antarctic ice sheet and Greenland are flooding both
arctic and Antarctic polar waters with fresh water, causing them to
both heat and cool much more rapidly than normal, insuring that the
whole system of planetary ocean currents will cease to function at
some time in the relatively near future.
Meanwhile, there was little political and human-institutional
response to the building catastrophe. In the US, the current
political administration not only denied the existence of the
problem, but proactively sought to silence scientists who drew
attention to it.
While many nations adopted the Kyoto
protocol, which is designed to compel the reduction of carbon
dioxide emissions at an institutional level, nobody on the planet in
a leadership position addressed the one area where CO2
emissions can be reduced quickly, which is at the personal level.
As a result of this, it is now clear that climate change has passed
beyond the point of no return. We will feel the full effects of
current CO2 levels over the next 10 years, which will
include the addition of outgassed methane from melting arctic
permafrost in Canada, Alaska and Siberia. Rapidly increasing ocean
temperatures may also release methane trapped in hydrides on the sea
During past global warming sequences, methane has generally appeared
in the atmosphere suddenly toward the end of the event, causing a
rapid and very aggressive spike in temperatures. It appears likely
that this is happening again.
When air temperatures above the polar arctic move above 26 C. (80
F.) there is a danger of extreme storm activity starting in the high
arctic and sweeping south, a type of weather pattern that is
unfamiliar to meteorologists at this time because it only takes
place during unusual warming events.
Evidence of the effect of this type of storm was provided by
Polar Research Institute scientists who discovered in 2005 that
glaciers that had persisted in the Peruvian Andes for 5,200 years
had at their base plants that had been frozen in a matter of
minutes. This means that the conditions that created these glaciers
emerged over a few hours, then persisted for thousands of years.
Similarly, the Ice-Man, Otzi, found in
the Alps in a frozen condition, was overtaken by snows in an Alpine
meadow at approximately the same time that the Peruvian glaciers
were forming. The snows in that meadow did not melt again until
Whether the two events happened simultaneously during a planetary
weather event of a completely unknown type, or were the result of
different but similarly structured events that took place during the
same general period is unknown.
What is known, though, is that sudden warming causes weather events
that are at present unknown. 5,200 years ago, an aggressive warming
event had been underway for approximately a thousand years, and came
to a sudden end.
The lack of effective leadership in reducing CO2
emissions was particularly tragic, because there are so many ways
that individuals, properly inspired and efficiently led, can reduce
emissions of this gas.
It is probably more important that governments worldwide seek to end
as much carbon-producing burning as possible. Vast areas of the
third world depend on wood burning for cooking, and the people in
these areas need to be given efficient and effective solar heating
devices, which can be constructed easily and cheaply, to relieve
them of most of their need to burn wood.
Aggressive forestry management worldwide
must include serious enforcement against intentional burning, and a
ban on export of lumber from burned trees. 'Slash and burn' farming
techniques popular across Latin America and much of Asia must be
replaced with inexpensive equipment-based clearing systems that are
both more efficient and less polluting.
Governments must also teach individuals simple methods of reducing
personal CO2 emissions, and offer incentives for doing
so, or make conservation mandatory.
To reduce individual emissions dramatically, only a few minor
lifestyle changes are needed:
Replace the 20-year-old
fridge with an energy-saver model.
Send out one fewer 30-gallon
bag of garbage per week.
Leave the car at home two
days per week.
Recycle cans, bottles,
plastic, cardboard and newspapers.
Switch two standard light
bulbs to fluorescents.
Replace the current shower
head with a low-flow model.
Turn the thermostat down two
degrees for one year.
Cut vehicle fuel use by 10
gallons in 2003.
Switch from hot to warm or
cold water for laundry.
If these steps were taken by just 20% of
U.S., Japanese, Canadian and European inhabitants, world CO2
emission levels would drop to a point that the human factor
would be vastly reduced as a source of global warming, and the day
when the inevitable climate shift occurs could be delayed for years,
Sudden climate change events are part of earth's current climate
pattern, and have happened many times in the past three million
Prior to this period, climate tended to be stable for very
long periods of time. However, the rising of Central American 2.8
million years ago changed the flow of ocean currents, which,
combined with variations in solar energy output and slight changes
in earth's orbit, has led to a much less stable climate since then.
During this period, there have been numerous ice ages lasting around
a hundred thousand years each, interrupted by interglacials lasting
from ten to fifteen thousand years. All of human history has
unfolded during the last third of the most recent interglacial.
This interglacial is now ending, and human activity has added so
much CO2 to the atmosphere that the change of climate
that will now take place is going to be extremely violent, probably
much more so than in the past. In addition, we may not experience
the onset of a new ice age at all, but the 'locking' of the climate
into a much hotter pattern until the excess CO2
dissipates. This will not happen until human activity is reduced by
negative natural events.
Millions of people have already suffered from the effects of sudden
climate change. A great American city has been ruined. Billions more
stand to lose their lives over the next twenty years.
of rational disaster planning worldwide and an aggressive effort to
reduce CO2 emissions as quickly as possible are now
essential to minimize loss of life and disruption.
If these things are not done, the
present planetary economy and the civilizations that it supports
will cease to exist.
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