Monday, February 24, 2014

Climate Change Deniers? Still? Seriously? It's the most important environmental problem there is!

Climate change denial is not, and has never been, a 'dissenting view'. Anthropogenic global warming has been accepted and taught in Universities since the 70's as a currently occurring event based on the paleoclimatology data accumulated from the past 100 years of geologic research. It’s also been confirmed by many other disciplines, such as atmospheric science, geography, oceanography, biology, chemistry, physics, and even the social sciences like anthro.  The fact that the general public only heard about AGW in the '90's does not diminish the science in any way. It was only then that the denial machine went into effect, of course, but AGW has never been in question in science. There is no other theory that fits all the current data, and more importantly, all the past data of the many eras the Earth has had high levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

AGW was and is taught the way plate tectonics and that the earth revolves the sun and gravity are accepted:  that there is no other explanation that fits all these observations as well, so they are what science considers 'truth' or 'knowledge'. Even though we can't actually see them in action, we infer those explanations from our observations. And unless you're a genius and can come up with a completely new model that explains all these thousands of papers filled with raw data and analysis every year that confirm this hypothesis, we'll just have to go with AGW as the best concept. Gravity doesn't care if you believe in it as a theory or not, either, but you can declare that as you jump out of a window and see how well that works for you.. 

What these deniers don't get is that this isn't "dire warnings." Scientists aren't just yelling from rooftops that the end is near. These are a series of predictions that range from really bad to catastrophic, based on past eras of the earth and modern trending. Scientists are just doing their job in making these public, and suggesting which parameters changing and how fast will alter the models. SOME of them are agitating actively for change, but they are in the minority. They have no stake in anything, other than that they are human and might like the human race, including their children, to continue. But those destroying the planet really do believe that these predictions are just 'warnings' and that they aren't murdering everything. Because most of them aren't that sociopathic, so they have a vested interest in hoping that the scientists are lying or wrong or misinformed or paid off.

Perpetuation of the bizarre myth that climate change is just cyclical global warming, or that colder temperatures are proof that it isn't happening, is more than unethical or criminal.  It will kill us all.  Life on Earth will continue, even if only 1% of current species survive that kind of climate alteration. But we humans are a soft species that can only handle a mild medium in the spectrum of weather and temperature that the earth is capable of, when we observe the geological record.  (Unless you think you can handle 800km/h winds?) We have very little time to make very drastic changes that tip the engine back in our favour before we are all wiped out.  There is a reason that frogs can hibernate for years and other species can go dormant when there is no water at all.  It's because their species developed in times where the earth was far less hospitable to life than it is now.  We are not such a species, and we will not survive this next, and largely induced, phase in the Earth's cycle.

For those of you who need a one paragraph summation, and missed your science classes on the subject... On Earth, heat is collected from the sun and, depending on the conditions at the time, largely by carbon and other reflectors in the atmosphere, that energy is either dissipated into space or retained to add heat to the weather engine. That engine is responsible for moving heat around in the form of winds, ocean currents, etc. The more heat in the engine, the greater disparity in temperatures in different areas of the world, and the greater strength of storms, etc.  There are times on this planet when storms could average 500km/h, and when temperature fluctuations ranged from -100 to +60C. For the past few millenniums, more energy has been released into space, making the earth milder in all dimensions. With the increase in the atmosphere of previously buried carbon, more heat is being added to the weather engine, average earth temperature is increasing, while local temperatures are becoming more extreme or altering altogether. Pretty clear, right?

In a world where it's +50 outside, or -70, or severe hurricanes or tornadoes are the norm, humans would be living on an alien world.  Like a colony on Venus, humans would have to live in underground bunkers or climate controlled cities. We could never interact with the environment again without protective gear. That's already happening in many parts of the world.  Our children would never be able to play outside for their entire lives.  Like a civilization out of science fiction, this is really what some deniers propose our solution to be, if they happen to be wrong, that is...

The entire eco-system will collapse as well. So there will be no complex life on earth for a few million years. No mammals like whales and bears and cats, no giant trees, almost no fish, most bugs gone and therefore more plants. Never to be seen in the Universe again. Solving the eco-system collapse problem seems a better solution than letting everything go extinct.

Sure, Earth has had that kind of environment many times before, and life has thrived, but not life as we are used to.  Dinosaurs survived and evolved for hundreds of millions of years before their climate change finally made them weak enough for the meteor to pop them off.  Mammals have had a relatively short stint in this new, far milder world, but now the cycle is shifting back well before its usual time.  We, as the dominant intelligent species, have either contributed to it, or can change it back to something our type of life can continue with.  Denying that we have anything to do with it, or that we can do anything about it, and should concentrate our focus on "traditional" environmental causes, makes someone a climate change denier, regardless of whatever emotional baggage they carry with that.

In most of the geological history of the Earth, the climate has been far more like Venus than what we are used to. Yes, life thrived then, but not mammalian, and not the biosphere that maintains mammalian life. In this particular incarnation of Life, we have a very narrow window of temperature that is necessary to function and reproduce. We can manage to keep warm, but cooling off is another matter. At a certain heat point, most of this incarnation of the biosphere completely breaks down. And that includes us.

Humans alone, for various reasons, become less fertile as the temperature rises for example. Include higher death rates, and you can see the problem already starting. And that is IF no one starts mass migrations to areas away from the equatorial band. Now include other mammals and support systems and you can see the magnitude. It’s not just sea level rise or crop failure. It is *human bodies* that begin to fail, as well as most other mammals and plant systems.

Life will continue on this planet, but it won't be a kind of life that can support anything that we need to survive.[1][2]

Our governments can't control everything, of course, not without complete re-organization. But simply allowing our economic systems alone to decide if our environment is polluted, or determining if our non-renewable resources are left behind for our children, is madness. Governments MUST start showing long term leadership and make the decisions that will permit our ecosystems and resources to sustain themselves for the next generations. And not just for the human populations…

Lowest possible carbon is the only way to go. The feedback loops make our current course a death sentence, but restoration, including re-integration of carbon, can save most of our ecosystem. Adaptation is a myth. Science and tech can't do that for us. That's why compromise and slow alteration simply won't work. We, and this entire eco-system, are way too squishy and vulnerable to survive the change in climate. However, there is still time to reverse the trend. More than we need, in fact. Rainforests need to be encouraged to be rainforests again, wetlands back to wetlands, carbon taken out of the atmosphere and put into plants, where it should be. Yes, we have much more than the usual carbon in this kind of system, but we can still compensate. This system is designed to do what it was doing, and can revert in some cases in less than a decade. Its natural equilibrium *wants* to go there. I'm not a conservationist. I'm a Restorationist. And it's still possible. If we stop the damage we are doing now, and reverse the trends. [3]

The environmental movement in this moment IS Climate Change. Biomes moving to different areas due to local alterations; severe and far more violent events, water loss, food growing areas shifting...  What the heck do you think the environmental movement is?  Putting litter in it's place?  All those contaminants in our air and soil?  Those may have been the galvanizers 20 or 30 years ago, but they are nothing to the serious issues facing the current life on earth as we know it. If you can't stand with us, at least get the heck out of the way while we try to save the last remnants of this ecosystem from going the way of the Age of the Dinosaurs, or the Age of Insects, or the Age of...

Further reading, including the Climate Change and the Integrity of Science[i], raw and interpreted data from many different disciplines[ii], and some of the alleged controversies, like denier scientists[iii] and “Climategate”[iv]




[i] Data doesn't change, but we learn better how to interpret and where to look for more:
Scientists' Statement and Response on Climate Change and the Integrity of Science

[ii] One of the many disciplines that have yielded this data for 100 years, and how it is used to create future projections:  (and has one of the coolest names)

I loved paleoclimatology, but it certainly didn't receive the attention in the 80's than it does now!  From boring cores samples in back rooms of museums to media scrums!  How glamorous for them...

Paloeclimate Dummies (or Tea Partiers): complete with charts, over the Epoch, last ice age, 400,000, and 500 mya!

Hydrology data and interpretation:
Global Warming and the Hydrologic Cycle
Global Warming and the. Hydrologic Cycle: How are the Occurrence of Floods,. Droughts, and Storms Likely to Change?   Full Marshall Institute paper
Arctic hydrology during global warming at the Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum

[iv] And Now to Discuss Those Hacked Emails
(since most of you and the media haven't actually read them, this is what's in them)