It’s an odd thing, climate change. I mean, really, can you show or demonstrate a time anywhere in history when the climate did NOT change? But then, how many times in the history of the Earth did we see such a dramatic change that didn’t end badly for a majority of life?
Carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere. As levels rise the global temperature rises. And hotter temperatures means more water in the atmosphere which can hold that heat much longer. Hotter means a more active atmosphere – more extreme weather events. Summers are hotter, winters are cooler, tornadoes are faster, hurricanes are stronger. Everything in turmoil.
Then there’s methane (another carbon-based molecule). Methane has 7 times the heat retention capacity of carbon dioxide and is emitted by people, cows, swamps and decaying biomass. Cows in particular expel some 7 liters of flatulence every day, the primary component being methane.
Worst Case Scenario
It gets hotter. No one knows how hot, but the average could go from 70 to 80. Snow will only fall in the far northern latitudes (everywhere else will only get rain.) Storms will get stronger. A massive extinction will occur with as many as 1 in 3 species dying off. Lastly, the additional heat will cause ocean water to expand. Combined with ice caps melting, sea levels will rise as much as 3 feet. Hardest hit will be low, flat areas like Florida and India.
If you think summer is hot now, wait until the hottest days are 20+ degrees hotter than you remember. And if you think winters are cold, you might need some extra blankets when temperatures drop another 15 degrees below the lowest you can remember. The global average combined with greater temperature change means hotter is much hotter, colder is much colder.
It seems like a contradiction that some areas will get more rain and other will get less rain. I mean how can you claim a global increase in rain yet end up with new deserts? It has to do with weather patterns. Quite honestly nobody can say exactly what effect the climate shift will have, but it’s possible we could see central US turned into a giant desert. By contrast some deserts could see far more frequent rainfall. We could see a shrinking of deserts like the Gobi and Sahara. Maybe. Truth is, we don’t have enough computer power and enough data to really know.
Then there’ll be massive extinction. If species from the bottom of the food chain dies off then we see even greater extinctions as the animals that depend on those food sources starve. Temperature plays an important part of most plants’ and animals’ yearly cycles. If those cycles are interrupted the species suffers and can easily perish.
The most dangerous is ocean levels rising. Some point to the polar ice caps melting as the main source of the oceans rising. That’s actually only a part of the increase. Think of a pan filled with water. As the pan gets hotter the water rises and overflows. The same is true with the oceans – only on a much greater scale.
A majority of humanity lives within a few miles of a shore line. If the shore rises fairly quickly then extra water won’t have much of an effect – most of California, for example, will be unaffected. Beaches will shift inland a bit, but little else will change. Cities like London and Venice on the other hand will have severe problems to deal with. Sewers will back-up. Water supplies will become contaminated. Diseases will run rampant. Larger flat-land areas will loose significant land area such as Florida and India.
A feature not often covered is plant growth. With the additional carbon dioxide plants will grow larger and stronger. Wherever rainfall is sufficient we will see bigger, happier plants.
History. This isn’t the first time “climate change” has occurred. Indeed, the dinosaurs lived on an Earth with a thicker, much hotter atmosphere. Look at a long-term graph and you’ll see we are living in a cooler age than almost any time in human history. It’s only when you look at the past 250 years do you see a constant increase in temperature.
Sinks. Just like a drain, there are processes that consume carbon dioxide. As levels rise these processes increase in strength. Oceans absorb carbon dioxide. Plants and algae convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. As carbon dioxide increases plants grow larger and stronger – so long as we don’t burn or cut them all down. Algal blooms in the ocean can’t be stopped and will grow until a new balance is reached. Yes, this means more problems for our oceans as these blooms are poisonous to most animals.
Conflicts. Somehow we will get more rain yet there’ll be horrible droughts. Species will die off, yet a species dies every 3 seconds without human intervention and in the last massive extinction nearly 90% of all species died yet life continues. And the most egregious statement “the Earth will die” is patently false. We couldn’t kill the Earth if we detonated every nuke ever built all at once. Humanity won’t die, either. We are the most skilled animal in the history of history. No creature has our ability to survive – except maybe cockroaches.
Another conflict: not all scientists agree. There are 2 points: (1) “bad” climate change is occurring and (2) climate change is man-made. You can find a fairly large population that will subscribe to both sides of both points. The smartest man I know when it comes to climatology – a man that frequently out performs the climate models – does not subscribe to either point.
Knowledge. The biggest of all lies is “we know.” We conjecture, we theorize, we project, we have some basic level of understanding. But we only know a very tiny section of our planet. Climatologists are constantly surprised. We have a hard time predicting weather patterns 5 days in advanced yet there’s a group that claim to be able to predict weather 20, 30, 50 years from now?
Sun. Heating starts with… the sun. But the sun isn’t a static object. Just like the Earth, the sun also has weather. It gets colder and warmer. We don’t know why. We think it has something to do with sun spots, but we don’t know what causes those. That means the amount of radiation reaching the Earth varies year to year.
Reading the graph. A closer look at graphs showing global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels shows that an increase in carbon dioxide is the result of temperature increase, not the other way around.
Nature. Carbon dioxide is emitted from nearly everything. We breath it, plants emit it when sleeping, swamps and decaying materials emit it. Concrete emits it. Oceans emit it. Every animal emits it in life and death. A single volcano blast produces huge amounts of carbon dioxide – more than all of humanity produces in a single year.
1816 was called a year without a summer because a volcanic explosion threw a layer of dust into the upper atmosphere. The dust blocked enough sunlight to keep snow on the ground for a full year.
In conclusion, climate change’s worst case has us living in uncomfortable times not much more dangerous than today. Patterns will shift, some may be helpful, some may destroy economies. By contrast, climate change’s best case is little-to-no change.
People will live and die. Kingdoms will rise and fall. The climate will continue to change with or without our help.
Regardless, humans will survive.
And as long as humans survive so will the best (and worst) of our ideals.