Will Expedite The Sixth Mass Extinction Already Taking Place
by Mark R. Elsis
Illustration by https://SteveCutts.com
For those independent thinkers who don't believe in the anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) warming of Earth caused by the greenhouse effect, did you ever fully consider the horrendous downside if you are wrong about this most critical issue?
Similar to the location of our planet to the sun in the solar system, which makes life habitable, called the Goldilocks zone, there is a delicate balance of systems that ensures life survives here on Earth. As also found in biological systems, homeostasis is the state of steady internal physical and chemical conditions maintained by living systems.
The human body maintains steady levels of temperature and other vital conditions such as the water, salt, sugar, protein, fat, calcium, and oxygen contents of the blood. Similar processes dynamically maintain steady-state conditions in the Earth's environment.
For life on Earth to survive many factors must remain within small parameters such as sunlight, temperature, freshwater cycle, atmospheric pressure, oxygen levels, pH, plate tectonics, ozone layer, gravity, nutrients, soil to grow vegetation and regulate climate, polar ice sheets to reflect excess sunlight, Earth's magnetic field to help protect us from powerful geomagnetic storms, and countless other components.
Some in climate change denial say there aren't any adverse consequences going from 280 parts per million (ppm) to 420 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere within the blink of a geological eye. I say quite the contrary, the ramifications of humanity doing this, is already having numerous repercussions that are detrimental for all life.
In January 1958, when scientist Charles David Keeling first started measuring atmospheric CO2 consistently (I was born January 8, 1958), at the pristine Mauna Loa mountaintop observatory in Hawaii, the CO2 level stood at 316 ppm, just a little higher than the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm. But as humans kept digging up carbon out of the ground and burning it for fuel, CO2 levels sped up faster and faster.
The start of Keeling's effort was well-timed, the 1950s was also when man-made emissions began to take off, going from about 5 billion tons of CO2 per year in 1950 to more than 36 billion tons per year today. Our rise in CO2 emissions is more than 700 percent in the last seventy years.
Whilst data from 2014 to 2017 suggested global annual emissions of CO2 had approximately stabilized, data from the Global Carbon Project reported a further annual increase of 2.7 percent, and 0.6 percent in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Natural sources of CO2, from forest fires to soil and plant respiration and decomposition, are much bigger than that, about 30 times larger than what mankind produces each year. But natural sinks, like plant growth and the oceans, tend to soak that up and keep an equilibrium so life may flourish. The extra produced by mankind's thirst for energy is what makes the CO2 concentration in the air go up and up, and there's no counterbalance to absorb what we are doing.
Global temperatures have risen in parallel with the increased level of CO2. Today it's already 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than pre-industrial levels. Nearly all of this rise has taken place in the last seventy years.
If you ignore the questions of what society might do to curb emissions, and what the planet and we might do to sequester some of the CO2, and look purely mathematically at where the Keeling Curve is going, levels cross 500 ppm around 2050.
The latest forecast for CO2 is that it will hit 600 ppm by the end of the century. If this were to occur, it would cause the average global temperature to rise somewhere between 3 and 6 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit). Many of the latest models have the temperature rising closer to 6 degrees Celsius.
If we stay on our present course through the remainder of the twenty-first century, we will cause the extermination of almost all life on earth. As I have stated numerous times over the decades, if we let it run amok, which we are indeed doing, capitalism will facilitate our extinction.
What's even scarier, as if a 3 to 6 degrees Celsius rise in temperature by 2100 wasn't enough, which it is to kill off almost all life, in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) most pessimistic scenario, if not brought under control, CO2 emissions will reach 2,000 ppm by 2250. That gives us an atmosphere last seen during the Jurassic when dinosaurs roamed and will cause an apocalyptic temperature rise of about 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit).
Others in climate change denial say there is a grand conspiracy that wants to make money from a carbon tax, and they are correct. The kleptocrats would love to create a rigged carbon tax system so they could steal as much money as possible from it, as they do with everything.
One of the most important parts of the climate change issue that is hardly ever discussed, none of the multitudes of harmful externalities are taken into account. They're all very conveniently swept under the big oil corporate rug.
But if you follow the money right now, there is already a grand conspiracy occurring. When one adds in all of the annual subsidies the fossil fuel industry receives, which includes subsidized supply costs, tax breaks, and all of the hidden costs of the deleterious environmental externalities, the amount comes to 5,200,000,000,000 United States Dollars (USD) (5.2 trillion USD). This is approximately 6.5 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). My CPA even told me that oil and gas have by far the best tax loopholes.
The paper, Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies Remain Large: An Update Based on Country-Level Estimates, updates estimates of fossil fuel subsidies, defined as fuel consumption times the gap between existing and efficient prices (i.e., prices warranted by supply costs, environmental costs, and revenue considerations), for 191 countries. Globally, subsidies remained large at 4.7 trillion USD (6.3 percent of global GDP) in 2015 and are projected at 5.2 trillion USD (6.5 percent of GDP) in 2017. These subsidies keep rising and will probably be around 6 trillion USD in 2020.
The largest subsidizers in 2015 were China (1.4 trillion USD), United States (649 billion USD), Russia (551 billion USD), European Union (289 billion USD), and India (209 billion USD). About three quarters of global subsidies are due to domestic factors - energy pricing reform thus remains largely in countries’ own national interest - while coal and petroleum together account for 85 percent of global subsidies. Efficient fossil fuel pricing in 2015 would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28 percent and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46 percent, and increased government revenue by 3.8 percent of GDP.
Climate change is not only about adding endless amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. What most people aren't aware of is the full magnitude of destructive agricultural practices humanity has caused in the last century, which amplifies climate change. The deforestation of the earth for industrial farming is staggering. A recently published study on deforestation, the first to examine not only where forests are disappearing, but also why, reveals just how much industrial agriculture is contributing to the loss.
We are losing 5 million hectares every year. This is an area the size of Costa Rica, being destroyed yearly. Despite the many years of pledges by multinational companies to help reduce deforestation, the amount of forest cleared remained steady between 2001 and 2015. Doing this is causing hundreds of species to go extinct daily, and the main perpetrator of the sixth mass extinction that is now well underway.
Another scientific study shows the felling of at least 10,000,000,000 (10 billion) trees every year. Once again, the overwhelming majority of this devastation is for the economic benefits of the huge multinational food and timber industries.
Many in climate denial suggest longer and warmer summers in the temperate zone will make farming more productive. These gains, however, are often offset by the drier summers and increased frequency of heatwaves in those same areas. The 2010 Moscow heatwave killed 11,000 people, devastated the Russian wheat harvest, and increased global food prices.
Those in denial point out that plants need atmospheric carbon dioxide to grow, so having more of it acts as a fertilizer. This is correct, the land biosphere does absorb around 25 percent of the carbon dioxide humanity discharges, but there is no free lunch without paying the price with nature. These people seem to be unaware of the many studies showing that with the increase of CO2, there is a substantial decrease in the nutritional content of food crops.
Every plant has a particular genetically-determined temperature range in which it grows quite happily, but temperatures outside this range can wreak havoc on that plant’s life cycle. Thus, increases in surface temperatures in tropical and subtropical regions, such as those expected by the end of this century, are predicted to reduce rice and maize harvests by 20 percent to 40 percent.
Rising CO2 can also cause some food crops to produce more toxins. Around 60 percent of crop species produce molecules called cyanogenic glycosides, which can break down into cyanide. Many plants produce low levels of cyanogenic glycosides as part of their metabolic processes and for fending off insects, but some plants like cassava produce a relatively high amount. Cassava is an important crop for millions of people and the current levels are already a problem.
Another facet of denial is the argument that we should not rush into changing things, and that climate change is not as bad as scientists make out. They claim that the science of climate change is not settled, and suggest climate change is just part of the natural cycle, or that climate models are unreliable and too sensitive to carbon dioxide.
Some even suggest that CO2 is such a small part of the atmosphere it cannot have a large heating effect. The heating effect of extra carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and many other minor gases can be calculated with confidence based on the absorption properties that have been measured carefully in the laboratory. Currently, the total heating produced by the increases of all long-lived greenhouse gases (excluding water vapor) since pre-industrial times is equal to about 1 percent of all solar radiation absorbed at the surface. The effect would be somewhat similar if the sun had started to shine 1 percent more brightly during the 20th century.
Others say that climate scientists are fixing the data to show the climate is changing. To misrepresent the warming numbers would take a colossal conspiracy involving thousand of different studies by tens of thousands of scientists, from almost every country on Earth to pull off.
Some in denial will tell you that more people die from the cold than heat, so warmer winters will be a good thing. This is quite misleading, vulnerable people die from the cold because of poor housing conditions, and not being able to afford to heat their homes. Society, not climate, kills them.
This argument is also factually incorrect. In the United States, for example, heat-related deaths are four times higher than cold-related deaths. This may even be an underestimate as many heat-related deaths are recorded by cause of death such as heart failure, stroke, or respiratory failure, all of which are exacerbated by excessive heat.
Another denial argument asserts we cannot take action because other countries are not taking action, but not all countries are equally culpable of this catastrophe. The United States generates about 25 percent of the CO2, the European Union around 22 percent, and Africa produces under 5 percent.
Given all of the greenhouse gases already emitted, developed countries have an ethical responsibility to lead the way in cutting emissions. But eventually, all countries must act if we want to minimize the effects of climate change, only then can the world become carbon-neutral as quickly as possible.
Many people in climate denial bring up the grand solar minimum, and say that the energy of the Sun will soon decrease, therefore Earth will start to get cooler. Some are saying that it will get much cooler.
There have been newspaper headlines claiming that another grand solar minimum could potentially trigger a mini ice age this century. These articles refer to the Little Ice Age, a period extending from the 16th to the 19th centuries. There have been three particularly cold intervals, when global surface temperatures were about 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) colder than they are today. One beginning about 1645, another about 1790, and the last in 1850, all separated by intervals of slight warming.
What are the solar minimum and solar maximum?
A solar minimum and maximum are the two extremes of the Sun's 11-year and 400-year activity cycle. At a maximum the Sun is peppered with sunspots, solar flares erupt, and the Sun hurls billion-ton clouds of electrified gas into space. A solar minimum is the period of least solar activity in the 11 year solar cycle of the Sun. During this time sunspot and solar flare activity diminishes and often does not occur for days or weeks at a time
A grand solar minimum occurs when several solar cycles exhibit less than average activity for decades or centuries. Solar cycles still occur during these grand solar minimum periods but are at a lower intensity than usual.
There have been two relatively recent minimums, the Maunder minimum was a period of very low solar activity between 1645 and 1715, and the Dalton minimum was a period of low solar activity between 1790 and 1830, but not as low as the Maunder minimum. Solar research suggests that we may have a similar period of low solar activity sometime this century.
What difference would a grand solar minimum make in the amount of solar energy reaching us? Relative to current levels, the Maunder minimum represents a 0.25 percent decrease, and the Dalton minimum represents a 0.08 percent decline in solar radiation at the Earth's surface.
There have been several studies in recent years using climate models to see what impact another grand solar minimum would have on global surface temperatures, since solar research suggests we could be due for another extended minimum.
Peer-reviewed research, physics, and math all tell us that a grand solar minimum would have no more than a 0.3 degree Celsius cooling effect, barely enough to put a dent in the extreme warming predicted this century.
Feulner and Rahmstorf (2010) estimated that another solar minimum equivalent to the Dalton and Maunder minima would cause 0.09 degree Celsius and 0.26 degree Celsius cooling, respectively.
Jones et al. (2012), Anet et al. (2013), and Meehl et al. (2013) arrived at nearly identical results, with cooling from a grand solar minimum causing no more than 0.3 degree Celsius cooling over the twenty-first century. Meehl et al. also point out that as soon as solar activity began to rise again, that cooling would be offset by solar warming. This is a key point, because a grand solar minimum would not be a permanent change. These minima usually last for a few decades, but eventually solar activity rises once again. Thus any cooling caused by a solar minimum would only be temporary.
Even if a grand solar minimum caused a 1 degree Celsius in cooling, this would not come close to offsetting the projected warming of 3 to 6 degrees Celsius by 2100. And as noted earlier, it's already 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels.
Many in denial ask the question, is there any merit to the studies that show that historical CO2 levels lag behind temperature, and not lead them?
The lag proves that rising CO2 did not cause the initial warming as past ice ages ended, but it does not in any way contradict the idea that higher CO2 levels cause warming.
So why has Earth regularly switched between ice ages and warmer interglacial periods in the past million years? It has long been thought that this is due to variations in Earth’s orbit, known as Milankovitch cycles, named for the Serbian mathematician who worked them out in the 1920s.
In the simplest terms it consists of a 100,000-year cycle in the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit, similar to the big 405,000-year swing; a 41,000-year cycle in the tilt of Earth’s axis relative to its orbit around the Sun; and a 21,000-year cycle caused by a wobble of the planet’s axis.
Together, these shifts change the proportions of solar energy reaching the Northern Hemisphere, where most of the planet’s land is located, during different parts of the year. This, in turn, influences the climate. These change the amount and location of solar energy reaching Earth. However, the correlation is not perfect and the heating or cooling effect of these orbital variations is small. It has also long been recognized that they cannot fully explain the dramatic temperature switches between ice ages and interglacials.
If orbital changes did cause the recent ice ages to come and go, there must also have been some kind of feedback effect that amplified the changes in temperatures they produced. Ice is one contender, as the great ice sheets that covered large areas of the planet during the ice ages melted, less of the Sun’s energy would have been reflected back into space, accelerating the warming. But the melting of ice lags behind the beginning of interglacial periods by far more than the rises in CO2.
Another feedback contender, suggested over a century ago, is CO2. In the past decade, detailed studies of ice cores have shown there is a remarkable correlation between CO2 levels and temperature over the past half-million years.
Climate scientist Peter Hildebrand, Director of the Earth Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, says, "yes, there's merit to those studies. In the pre-industrial age, the CO2 response to temperature was that the temperature would go up and CO2 would go up. Or if the temperature went down, CO2 would go down. And the reason for that is when the temperature went up, the whole biosphere revved up and emitted CO2, and we had more CO2 in the atmosphere. So we understand that process.
In the post-industrial age, the opposite is true. Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is leading to increased temperature. So two different things happened, one pre-industrial, where the temperature was driving the CO2, and post-industrial, where CO2 was driving temperature. Which means a completely different physical-biological process is going on. It is a fundamental change in how the earth works and the earth's radiation balance works. And so, we're very concerned because we don't see any restraining force on the continued increase in temperature due to a continued increase in CO2. And that's a problem."
What does the lag of CO2 behind temperature in ice cores tell us about global warming? This question is also answered by Jeff Severinghaus. "This is an issue that is often misunderstood in the public sphere and media, so it is worth spending some time to explain it and clarify it. At least three careful ice core studies have shown that CO2 starts to rise about 800 years (600-1000 years) after Antarctic temperature during glacial terminations. These terminations are pronounced warming periods that mark the ends of the ice ages that happen every 100,000 years or so.
Does this prove that CO2 doesn’t cause global warming? The answer is no.
The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data.
The 4200 years of warming make up about 5/6 of the total warming. So CO2 could have caused the last 5/6 of the warming, but could not have caused the first 1/6 of the warming.
It comes as no surprise that other factors besides CO2 affect climate. Changes in the amount of summer sunshine, due to changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun that happen every 21,000 years, have long been known to affect the comings and goings of ice ages. Atlantic ocean circulation slowdowns are thought to warm Antarctica, also.
From studying all the available data (not just ice cores), the probable sequence of events at a termination goes something like this. Some (currently unknown) process causes Antarctica and the surrounding ocean to warm. This process also causes CO2 to start rising, about 800 years later. Then CO2 further warms the whole planet, because of its heat-trapping properties. This leads to even further CO2 release. So CO2 during ice ages should be thought of as a feedback, much like the feedback that results from putting a microphone too near to a loudspeaker.
In other words, CO2 does not initiate the warmings, but acts as an amplifier once they are underway. From model estimates, CO2 (along with other greenhouse gases CH4 and N2O) causes about half of the full glacial-to-interglacial warming.
So, in summary, the lag of CO2 behind temperature doesn’t tell us much about global warming. But it may give us a very interesting clue about why CO2 rises at the ends of ice ages. The 800-year lag is about the amount of time required to flush out the deep ocean through natural ocean currents. So CO2 might be stored in the deep ocean during ice ages, and then get released when the climate warms."
While on this topic, some bad news, and if we drastically change our ways, sort of good news. It is now estimated that the time lag between CO2 emission and the maximum warming response is a decade on average. This is an important finding as it indicates that the full climate damages expected to occur in response to a CO2 emission will already be felt by the generation responsible for those emissions.
Conversely, the relatively short response timescale implies that CO2 emission cuts implemented today have the potential to influence the rate of warming in the short term. Thus, their finding corroborates the notion that the rate of warming over the next decades is not inevitable, but will be determined by future CO2 emissions.
Earlier I mentioned the ramifications of humanity exponentially adding CO2 to the atmosphere is already having numerous repercussions that are detrimental for all life. It's now known that the health of humanity is being adversely affected by this. The most obvious is that the increase in diseases of the lungs is literally off the charts. Chronic lower respiratory disease is now the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and there are many other harmful ailments attributed to our massive increase in the CO2 levels.
Trends in the incidence of childhood asthma worldwide have paralleled the sharp increase in CO2 emissions over the last few decades. During this time, the prevalence of asthma in the United States has quadrupled.
In 2016, almost 9 million Americans were diagnosed with chronic bronchitis and nearly 75 percent of cases involved people over the age of 45. About 3.5 million have been diagnosed with emphysema, with more than 90 percent of cases involving people over age 45.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of progressive lung diseases that obstruct airflow. In 2015, 3.2 million people died from COPD worldwide, an increase of 11.6 percent compared with 1990. During that same period, the prevalence of COPD increased by 44.2 percent to 174.5 million individuals.
COPD makes breathing difficult for the 16 million Americans who have this disease. Millions of more people suffer from COPD, but have not been diagnosed and are not being treated. The American Lung Association thinks there may be as many as 24 million American adults living with COPD.
Higher levels of CO2 also exacerbate ozone and other pollution levels. A recent study found that air pollution kills 9 million people globally every year. As temperature rises, that'll get worse. At the same time, non-ozone air pollution linked to warmer weather will increase rates of lung cancer, allergies, asthma, and cardiovascular disease.
When people think about the risks associated with air pollution, respiratory issues are the first that come to mind. In 2016 outdoor and inside air pollution contributed to respiratory infections resulting in 543,000 deaths in children under the age of five. However, the respiratory system is not the only one affected by this.
Many other health risks for children that are associated with small particulates and air pollution include obesity, cancers, infant mortality, and adverse birth outcomes. Evidence also suggests exposure before birth increases the risk of cardiovascular and lung disease later in life.
There is a new global study that links air pollution to depression and suicide. They found that someone living for at least six months in an area with twice the World Health Organization’s recommended limit for fine particulate matter, PM2.5 (2.5 micrometers), would have roughly a 10 per cent increased risk of developing depression as a person living in an area that met the limit. To give an idea of the size, human hair measures between 40 to 120 micrometers.
They also found an association between short-term exposure to PM10, or particulate matter measuring up to 10 micrometers in diameter, and suicide. The risk of suicide rose by 2 percent for each 10 microgram per metre cubed increase of PM10 over the course of three days.
Other research indicates that air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence and is linked to dementia. A comprehensive global review earlier in 2019 concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body.
Isobel Braithwaite from University College of London commented on the results: "We already know that air pollution is bad for people's health, with numerous physical health risks ranging from heart and lung disease to stroke and a higher risk of dementia. Here, we're showing that air pollution could be causing substantial harm to our mental health as well, making the case for cleaning up the air we breathe even more urgent."
Searing temperatures are already the deadliest form of extreme weather. Heatwaves kill tens of thousands of people and are responsible for more deaths in the United States every year than the combined effects of hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods.
Many of those in climate change denial claim that even in a climate-altered planet, animals, and plants will still survive by adapting. Corals, trees, birds, mammals, and butterflies, are already changing to an earth that is warming, it is argued.
There have been many species that have adapted to past climate fluctuations. Their rate of change turns out to be painfully slow, according to a study by Professor John Wiens of the University of Arizona. Using data from 540 living species, including amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, Wiens and colleagues compared their rates of evolution with the rates of climate change projected for the end of this century. The results show that most land animals will not be able to evolve quickly enough to adapt to the dramatically warmer climate expected by 2100.
"We found that, on average, species usually adapt to different climatic conditions at a rate of only by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) per million years." Wiens explained. "But if global temperatures are going to rise by about four degrees over the next 100 years as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that is where you get a huge difference in rates. What that suggests overall is that simply evolving to match these conditions may not be an option for many species."
A new paper in Nature Communications, co-authored by more than 60 researchers, and sifting through 10,000 previous studies, the researchers found that the climatic chaos we’ve sowed may just be too intense. Some species seem to be adapting, yes, but they aren’t doing so fast enough.
To determine how a species is adjusting to a quickly changing climate, you typically look at two things: morphology and phenology. Morphology refers to physiological changes, like the shrinking effect; phenology has to do with the timing of life events such as breeding and migration. Most of the existing research concerns phenology.
The species in the study skew avian, in large part because birds are relatively easy to observe. Researchers can set up nesting boxes, for instance, which allow them to log when adults lay eggs, when chicks hatch, how big the chicks are, and so on. And they can map how this is all changing as the climate warms.
By looking at these kinds of studies together, the authors found that the 17 bird species they examined seem to be shifting their phenology. “Birds in the Northern Hemisphere do show adaptive responses on average, though these adaptive responses are not sufficient in order for populations to persist in the long term,” says lead author Viktoriia Radchuk of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
In other words, the birds simply can’t keep up. By laying their eggs earlier, they’re encouraging their chicks to hatch when there are lots of insects to eat, which happens once temperatures rise in spring. But they’re not shifting quickly enough.
This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to human-caused climate change. Life on Earth is so diverse because it’s so adaptable, temperatures go up or down, and a species might move into a new habitat and evolve to become something different over time. But what we humans have unleashed on this planet is unparalleled. “We’re experiencing something on the order of 1,000 times faster change in temperature than what was seen in paleo times,” says Radchuk. “There are limits to these adaptive responses, and the lag is getting too big.”
Greenhouse gases can also influence animal populations through mechanisms other than global warming. These gases can enter terrestrial and aquatic food webs, and alter ecosystem functioning. Atmospheric contaminants commonly do this in two ways: bottom-up and top-down pathways. In bottom-up effects, these contaminants directly alter plant anatomy and physiology, and hence indirectly change the behavior and life history patterns of animals that rely on these plants for food or shelter. In contrast, in top-down effects, greenhouse gases influence natural enemies behavior or life history patterns, resulting in altered population dynamics for their prey.
Animal populations face rapid and long-lasting challenges as a result of atmospheric changes. Some of these challenges will result from atmospherically induced increases in global temperature. Greenhouse gases such as CO2 and tropospheric O3, however, have already been well documented and will continue to alter animal population dynamics through altered ecosystem functioning. Organisms may express both behavioral and physiological changes to atmospheric composition, resulting in large-scale and long-term responses of animal populations ranging from reduced genetic variation to increased rates of extinction.
Though much of the world is focused on transitioning away from fossil fuels as a way to fight climate change, there is another, often-overlooked climate change culprit, animal agriculture and its environmental impact. Animal agriculture is a large contributor to human-made greenhouse gas emissions and is a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.
Animal agriculture puts a heavy strain on many of the Earth’s finite land, water, and energy resources. To accommodate the 100 billion animals raised annually for human consumption, a third of the planet’s ice-free land surface, as well as nearly 16 percent of global freshwater, is devoted to growing livestock.
Furthermore, a third of worldwide grain production is used to feed livestock. By 2050 consumption of meat and dairy products is expected to rise 76 and 64 percent respectively, which will increase the resource burden from the industry. Cattle are by far the biggest source of emissions from animal agriculture, with one recent study showing that in an average American diet, beef consumption creates 1,984 pounds of CO2 annually. Replacing beef with plants would reduce that figure 96 percent, bringing it down to just 73 pounds of CO2. Also, reducing your consumption of meat will make you healthier.
Global greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector have increased on average by 1 percent each year since 1960, spurred by a 54 percent increase in methane and nitrous oxide emissions from livestock manure. Moreover, approximately one gigaton of carbon dioxide equivalent worth of animal-based foods is wasted globally every year.
The oceans have been taking the brunt of our reckless behavior by absorbing the extra heat and CO2, acting as a heat sink, and forestalling an extreme rise in temperature. As they do, they have been getting warmer, much more acidic, and have been rising quicker than every study has projected for the last half-century.
The warming of ocean water is raising the global sea level because water expands when it warms. Combined with water from melting glaciers on land, the rising sea threatens natural ecosystems and human structures near coastlines around the world. Warming ocean waters are also implicated in the thinning of ice shelves and sea ice, both of which have further consequences for Earth’s climate system.
More than 90 percent of the warming that has happened on Earth over the past 50 years has occurred in the ocean. Recent studies estimate that warming of the upper oceans accounts for about 70 percent of the total increase in the amount of stored heat in the climate system, and warming from 700 meters down to the ocean floor adds about another 30 percent. As a result of being the heat sink, the upper ocean temperature has increased significantly over the past few decades.
Warming ocean waters also threaten marine ecosystems and human livelihoods. Warm waters jeopardize the health of corals, and in turn, the communities of marine life that depend upon them for shelter and food. Ultimately, people who depend upon marine fisheries for food and jobs will face negative impacts from the ever-increasing warming oceans.
Approximately one-third of the anthropogenically produced CO2 dissolves in the oceans, causing seawater to become more acidic. This is know as ocean acidification. As temperatures rise, mass coral bleaching events and infectious disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent. Additionally, CO2 absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere has already begun to reduce calcification rates in reef-building and reef-associated organisms by altering seawater chemistry through decreases in pH.
Dr. Tony Haymet, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Director and Vice-Chancellor Emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, states: "The major downside is the impact a more acidic ocean would have on animals that produce calcium carbonate shells, such as corals, sea urchins, and mollusks. Acidification not only makes it more difficult for these organisms to successfully produce shells, but it would ultimately tip the chemical balance and cause the shells to dissolve. A fall in the numbers of shelled animals could cause a chain reaction since they make up the basic food for a wide range of organisms. Whole ecosystems could be impacted.
Corals face an especially complicated fate. Much of their nutrition comes from photosynthesis by algae that live within the coral tissues. In experiments, corals bathed in seawater with amounts of CO2 doubled showed greater levels of photosynthesis, but a significant drop in the growth of their calcium carbonate skeletons. Such an imbalance would most likely severely hamper reef-building.
The scientific consensus is that we should avoid further acidification of our oceans. The consequences are mostly unpredictable, and what we do understand looks bad for the oceans and us."
A study just released shows computer simulations of the Colorado River Basin indicate that, on average, a regional temperature increase of 1.4 degrees Celsius over the last century reduced the annual amount of water flowing through the river by more than 11 percent. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey in Princeton, N.J., report these results online February 20 in Science.
These findings “should be a cause for serious concern,” says climate scientist Brad Udall of Colorado State University in Fort Collins. As the world continues to warm, significant changes to the Colorado River’s flow, like other snow-fed waterways around the globe, could leave many communities with severe water shortages.
For the study, research hydrologist Paul “Chris” Milly and physical scientist Krista Dunne simulated snow accumulation and water runoff in the Colorado River Basin from 1912 to 2017, based on factors including historical data on temperatures, precipitation, and snowpack. Those simulations allowed the researchers to tease out how specific variables, like air temperature, affected the river.
The team found that over the twentieth century, warmer weather allowed for less snow cover, exposing darker ground that absorbed more sunlight. That caused more water on the ground to evaporate before it could feed into the Colorado River, diminishing river flow.
There are innumerable unforeseen consequences of the warming of our Earth. One of these newly discovered, the winds are picking up worldwide, and that is making the surface waters of the oceans swirl a bit faster, researchers report. A new analysis of the ocean’s kinetic energy, measured by thousands of floats around the world, suggests that surface ocean circulation has been accelerating since the early 1990s.
Some of that sped-up circulation may be due to naturally recurring ocean-atmosphere patterns, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. But the acceleration is greater than can be attributed to natural variability alone, suggesting that warming may also be playing a role, says a team led by oceanographer Shijian Hu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Qingdao.
The new study suggests that winds have actually been picking up over the oceans for several decades, leading to the faster-swirling surface waters especially in the tropics. The study used data collected by over 3,000 Argo floats, which measure temperature, salinity and speeds of currents down to about 2,000 meters, in oceans around the world. Then, the team combined these data with a variety of climate simulations to calculate the change in kinetic energy - energy from the wind motion that gets transferred to the water - in that upper part of the ocean.
Each of the analyses that the team performed showed the same trend, on average around the world, there was a distinct uptick in kinetic energy beginning around 1990.
The new analyses of wind speeds come from satellite, shipboard and other data previously collected and analyzed by other scientists. The team considered one possible culprit for those changing winds, the late-1990s onset of a “cold” phase of an El Niño–like ocean-atmosphere pattern called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which can bring stronger winds to the tropics. But, the researchers say, the observed acceleration is much larger than would be expected from natural variability alone, suggesting that it is part of a longer-term trend.
Simulations of increasing greenhouse gas emissions over the last two decades, the team found, produce a similar uptick in winds, suggesting that climate change may be speeding up the winds too.
The following is my anecdotal evidence since moving to the West Coast of Florida 22 years ago. Almost every day, I have looked at the high and low temperatures daily vs. the twentieth century average high and low temperatures. I would presume that during these 22 years, where I lived, it has been several degrees above the twentieth century average. I am not saying one or two degrees, but several degrees, maybe up to five degrees above the twentieth century average. I was seriously considering going back and check each of the 8,000 plus days to confirm this thesis.
Just last month (January 2020) seven straight days were almost 15 degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth century average.
Earth had its second warmest year in recorded history in 2019, and the six warmest years in recorded history have been the past six, from 2014 to 2019.
The climate models that predict global temperature rises have remained very similar over the last few decades despite the huge increase in complexity, showing it is a robust outcome of the science.
In 2019, there were 104,000,000 barrels of oil produced and consumed per day. At this current rate of production, the oil will run out in 53 years, natural gas in 54 and coal in 110. These rates are from a 2015 World Energy Outlook study by the International Energy Agency, which predicts fossil fuels will constitute 59 percent of the total primary energy demand in 2040, even despite aggressive climate action policies. We will need some of these remaining fossil fuels to help quickly transition to renewable energy.
If the overwhelming scientific evidence and studies and I are all wrong, the downside is that we change to renewable energies as quickly as possible and reforest the planet, which we should be doing anyway for a multitude of beneficial environmental and health reasons.
On the other hand, if those that say climate change is just a conspiracy are wrong, we will expedite the sixth mass extinction and very likely Homo sapiens will go extinct. That this horrendous downside risk should be avoided at all costs should seem blatantly obvious.
I wonder where all the conspiracy theory of climate change is a hoax started? I'm sure it couldn't have been from the deep pockets of big oil who have nothing whatsoever to gain by planting this seed of doubt.
More than 90 percent of papers skeptical on climate change originate from right-wing think tanks. Once again, follow the money. Who is paying for these studies, and Cui bono? The latest estimate is that the world’s five largest publicly-owned oil and gas companies spend about 200,000,000 USD a year on lobbying to control, delay or block binding climate policy.
There are more than 12,000 peer-reviewed studies on climate change with a consensus of about 97 percent of scientists from all over the world. These studies use hundreds of different ways to evaluate this complex issue, and they have proven the case well beyond certainty. The conclusion being, the anthropogenic CO2 warming of Earth caused by the greenhouse effect, has been accelerating since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and over the last sixty years, it has been rising exponentially.
Of the almost 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science studies published between 1991 and 2011, Skeptical Science categorized each one based on its position on the causes of global warming. In the second phase of their analysis, they emailed the authors of each study and asked them to categorize their own papers using the same criteria, receiving 1,200 responses. Their team's review of the abstracts yielded a 97.1 percent consensus that humans are primarily responsible for recent global warming, the author's self-ratings yielded a 97.2 percent consensus.
Their analysis built upon a previous study published by Naomi Oreskes in the peer-reviewed journal Science in 2004. In her paper, Oreskes examined the abstracts of 928 peer-reviewed climate papers published between 1993 and 2003. In her review, none of the abstracts disputed human-caused global warming, not a single one out of 928.
I realize that almost everything the corrupt mainstream media are shoving down our throats is lies, but climate change isn't one of these lies. For decades they were saying that Earth was about to enter a cooling period and a potential mini ice age. It took them forever to turn this around and start getting the word out about this most critical issue, that our planet is warming, not cooling.
The climate of our exquisite Earth is always changing, and many factors can contribute significantly to this. The predominant ones are the greenhouse effect, changes in the energy output of the sun, Earth’s orbit, volcanic activity, CO2, water vapor and methane levels.
The greenhouse effect refers to circumstances where the short wavelengths of visible light from the sun pass through a transparent medium and are absorbed, but the longer wavelengths of the infrared re-radiation from the heated objects are unable to pass through that medium. The trapping of the long wavelength radiation leads to more heating and a higher resultant temperature.
The greenhouse effect is the natural warming of the earth that results when gases in the atmosphere trap heat from the sun that would otherwise escape into space. The existence of the greenhouse effect was first proposed by Joseph Fourier in 1824. The effect was more fully quantified by Svante Arrhenius in 1896, who made the first quantitative prediction of global warming due to a hypothetical doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The term greenhouse was first used by Nils Gustaf Ekholm in 1901.
Sunlight makes the earth habitable. While 30 percent of the solar energy that reaches our world is reflected back to space, approximately 70 percent passes through the atmosphere to the earth’s surface, where it is absorbed by the land, oceans, and atmosphere, and heats the planet. This heat is then radiated back up in the form of invisible infrared light. While some of this infrared light continues into space, the vast majority, indeed, some 90 percent, gets absorbed by atmospheric gases, known as greenhouse gases, and redirected back toward the earth, causing further warming.
Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone (O3), and fluorinated gases.
I went over this with the solar minimum and maximum, when I mentioned that relative to current levels, the Dalton minimum represents a 0.08 percent decrease, and the Maunder minimum represents a 0.25 percent decline in solar radiation at the Earth's surface.
The sun is rather steady with its energy output, but satellite observations since the late 1970s have shown a slight decrease in the sun’s total energy output. However, instead of cooling, the Earth has warmed considerably over this period.
The 11-year solar radiation cycle, as well as a small increase in the total solar irradiance since 1750, appear in some studies to be correlated with variations in cloud patterns. But these changes in solar energy absorbed by the Earth appear to be far too small to explain the major changes in our climate.
As mentioned earlier the Milankovitch cycles, in the simplest terms consist of a 100,000-year cycle in the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit, similar to the big 405,000-year swing; a 41,000-year cycle in the tilt of Earth’s axis relative to its orbit around the Sun; and a 21,000-year cycle caused by a wobble of the planet’s axis. Together, these shifts change the proportions of solar energy reaching the Northern Hemisphere, where most of the planet’s land is located, during different parts of the year. This, in turn, influences climate.
Three scientists used long-term climate records from analyzing marine sediments to put this to the test. Jim Hays used fossil assemblages to estimate past sea surface temperatures. Nick Shackleton calculated changes in past global ice volume by measuring oxygen isotopes in calcium carbon fossils in marine sediments. John Imbrie used time-series analysis to statistically compare the timing and cycles in the sea surface temperature and global ice volume records with patterns of the Earth’s orbit.
In December 1976 they published a landmark climate paper in Science, showing that climate records contained the same cycles as the three parameters that vary the Earth’s orbit: eccentricity, obliquity, and precession.
Eccentricity describes the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun, varying from nearly a circle to an ellipse with a period of about 96,000 years.
Obliquity is the tilt of the Earth’s axis of rotation with respect to the plane of its orbit, which changes with a period of about 41,000 years. The Earth moves from 22.1 degrees to 24.5 degrees and back again. When the angle increases, the summers become warmer and the winters become colder.
Precession refers to the fact that both Earth’s rotational axis and orbital path precess (rotate) over time, the combined effects of these two components and the eccentricity produce an approximately 21,000-year cycle.
The researchers also found that these parameters have different effects at different places on our globe. Obliquity has a strong influence at high latitudes, whereas precession has a notable impact on tropical seasons.
Large-scale volcanic activity may last only a few days, but the massive outpouring of gases and ash can influence climate patterns for years. Sulfuric gases convert to sulfate aerosols, sub-micron droplets containing about 75 percent sulfuric acid. These eruptions alter the Earth's radiative balance because volcanic aerosol clouds absorb terrestrial radiation, and scatter a significant amount of the incoming solar radiation, an effect known as "radiative forcing" that can last for a few years following a significant volcanic eruption.
A question often asked is, do volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans? Volcanic emissions are a small but important part of the global carbon cycle. Published reviews of the scientific literature by Mörner and Etiope (2002) and Kerrick (2001) report a range of emissions of 65 to 319 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Some newer studies are stating it is closer to 600 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
Counterclaims that volcanoes, especially submarine volcanoes, produce vastly greater amounts of CO2 than these estimates are not supported by any papers published by the scientists who study the subject.
The burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use results in the emission into the atmosphere of approximately 36 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year worldwide. This makes the fossil fuel emissions numbers at least sixty times larger than even the maximum estimated volcanic CO2 fluxes.
Carbon dioxide emissions, primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels, have steadily risen since the start of the industrial revolution, but over the last sixty years, they have risen dramatically. In the late 1950s, the annual rate of increase was about 0.7 ppm per year. From 2005-2014 it was about 2.1 ppm per year.
Most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from a relatively small number of countries. China, the United States, and the nations that make up the European Union are the three largest emitters on an absolute basis. The top 7 emitters are responsible for nearly two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions. Per capita, greenhouse gas emissions are highest in the United States and Russia.
Carbon dioxide accounts for about 76 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Methane, primarily from agriculture, contributes 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and nitrous oxide, mostly from industry and agriculture, contributes 6 percent to global emissions.
Globally, the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions are electricity and heat 31 percent, transportation 15 percent, manufacturing 12 percent, agriculture 11 percent, and forestry 6 percent. Energy production of all types accounts for 72 percent of all emissions.
Now at 420 ppm, CO2 levels are well above the natural cycle and haven't been this high since the Pliocene epoch, which occurred between 3 million and 5 million years ago. To find a time when the planet’s air was consistently above 400 ppm, you have to look much farther back to the warm part of the Miocene, some 16 million years ago, or the Early Oligocene, about 25 million years ago.
There’s a lot of debate about both temperatures and CO2 levels from millions of years ago. But the evidence is much firmer for the last 800,000 years when ice cores show that CO2 concentrations stayed between 180 and 290 ppm, hovering at around 280 ppm for some 10,000 years before the industrial revolution. There have been eight glacial cycles over these past 800,000 years, mostly driven by wobbles in the Earth’s orbit that run on 41,000 and 100,000-year timescales. Ice cores are the benchmark against which scientists usually note the rise of CO2.
Methane is a powerful short-lived greenhouse gas. It is dozens of times more potent at trapping energy than CO2. When considering its conversion to carbon dioxide over time, its impact on an integrated weight basis is 84 times more potent after 20 years and 28 times more potent after 100 years.
New research in the journal Nature indicates that for each degree that Earth's temperature rises, the amount of methane entering the atmosphere from microorganisms dwelling in lake sediment and freshwater wetlands, the primary sources of the gas, will increase several times. As temperatures rise, the relative increase of methane emissions will outpace that of carbon dioxide from these sources, the researchers report.
Of grave concern is the potentially massive amount of frozen methane deposits that will be released when the permafrost in the Earth’s polar regions start warming in earnest. As if this dreadful news was not enough to endure, it will intensify by a phenomenon known as Polar amplification, which states that any change in the net radiation balance tends to produce a much higher change in temperature near the poles than the planetary average.
A positive feedback loop is when climate change causes a cascade of impacts that result in additional climate change. There are dozens of these positive feedback loops now associated with climate change. Separately they are exceedingly detrimental, cumulatively they will become catastrophic.
One example is the ice-albedo effect, which is a term for how ice and snow reflect solar radiation. Because ice is light in color and reflective, most of the sunlight that hits it is bounced back to space, which limits the amount of warming it causes. But as the world gets hotter, the ice melts and reveals the darker colored land or water below. The result is that more of the sun's energy is absorbed, leading to more warming, which in turn leads to more ice melting, and so on. Conversely, if snow forms, this tends to decrease the temperature. This effect may be important for the glacial cycles and also for Snowball Earth events, like what happened in the early history of the Earth.
Some other positive feedback loops include, cloud feedback, water vapor feedback, ocean circulation patterns disruption, sea level rise, arctic methane release, the methane release from thawing permafrost peat bogs, and methane release from hydrates, decomposition, peat decomposition, rainforest drying, forest fires, and desertification.
There is more bad news from a new study indicating that fossil fuels release much more of the potent greenhouse gas methane than previously thought, possibly 25 to 40 percent more, new research suggests.
The amount of methane released from geologic (rather than biological) sources is from 172 to 195 teragrams (trillions of grams) per year. Those geologic methane sources include not only the oil and gas industry but also natural vents such as onshore and offshore gas seeps. Researchers previously had estimated that the natural portion of those geologic emissions released between 40 to 60 teragrams of methane each year, with the remainder coming from fossil fuels.
But new analyses of over two centuries of methane preserved in ice cores suggest that natural seeps, both in the past and in modern times, send far less methane into the atmosphere than once thought. That means that modern human activities are responsible for nearly all of the current geologic emissions of methane, atmospheric chemist Benjamin Hmiel of the University of Rochester in New York and his colleagues conclude.
Perhaps the direst warning is that a rise in temperature could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton. A study led by Professor Sergei Petrovskii has shown that an increase in the water temperature of the world's oceans could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton by disrupting the process of photosynthesis.
Professor Sergei Petrovskii states, "About two-thirds of the planet's total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton, and therefore cessation would result in the depletion of atmospheric oxygen on a global scale. This would likely result in the mass mortality of animals and humans."
For decades, researchers have pointed to phytoplankton as one of the planet's most valuable resources. They form the basis of the marine food chain and provide most of the oxygen, with while trees, shrubs, and grasses provide the remaining oxygen.
"Over the next 100 years, the climate will warm as greenhouses gases increase in our atmosphere," says Andrew Barton, oceanographer and associate research scholar at Princeton University. As the climate warms, so will the oceans, bad news for phytoplankton, since warm waters contain less oxygen, and therefore less phytoplankton than cooler areas. Already, gradually warming ocean waters have killed off phytoplankton globally by a staggering 40 percent since 1950.
I strongly recommend that we should immediately heed the precautionary principle and do everything in our power to stop this devastation we are allowing for short term profit at the expense of our future generations.
Most economists think we could ameliorate climate change by spending less than 1 percent of the world GDP each year. In 2019 the world GDP was about 90,000,000,000,000 USD (90 trillion USD), so this would be less than 900,000,000,000 USD (900 billion USD) a year.
Don't forget that in total for 2017, the fossil fuel industry received subsidies of 5,200,000,000,000 USD (5.2 trillion USD) or approximately 6.5 percent of the world's GDP.
We should stop adding vast amounts of CO2 by the burning of fossil fuels and be transitioning to the many different forms of renewable energies as quickly as feasible. The main renewable energies are: solar, wind, small and medium-size water turbines, geothermal, tidal, wave, and ocean thermal energy conversion. We should also do everything we can to very quickly change over to a hydrogen-based economy, using hydrogen fuel cells and Sterling engines.
By far the best, and least expensive way to absorb much of this excess CO2 and create enormous amounts of jobs in the process, is a massive worldwide tree restoration project. “This new quantitative evaluation shows forest restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Professor Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who led the research. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought forest restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”
Crowther added: “The most effective projects are doing restoration for 30 US cents a tree. That means we could restore the 1 trillion trees for 300 billion USD, though obviously that means immense efficiency and effectiveness. But it is by far the cheapest solution that has ever been proposed.”
He said financial incentives to land owners for tree planting are the only way he sees it happening, but he thinks 300 billion USD would be within reach of a coalition of billionaire philanthropists and the public.
Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon, who over the last few years has become selective about what free speech is correct to distribute, censors books on Amazon mostly about World War II history that he is told to) just announced that he's giving 10,000,000,000 USD (10 billion USD) to fight climate change and launch a new initiative called the Bezos Earth Fund. "We can save Earth," he said in a post on Instagram. "It's going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation-states, global organizations, and individuals." The supposed richest man in the world, Bezos has an estimated net worth of about 130 billion USD, so his 10 billion USD pledge is about 7.7 percent of that.
Perhaps what Jeff Bozos is doing is a form of greenwashing. Climate activists accused him of hypocrisy after he pledged 10 billion USD on Monday to address climate change. Greenpeace said that Amazon still maintained machine-learning contracts with oil and gas firms, and a group of Amazon employees campaigning on climate change likewise called on the firm to stop dealing with oil and gas firms. Amazon has faced criticism for its greenhouse gas emissions and reportedly threatened to fire employees who engage in climate activism.
Let's see if Jeff Bozos uses this money swiftly and wisely, reforesting the earth.
Earlier research by Professor Tom Crowther’s team calculated that there are currently about 3 trillion trees in the world, which is about half the number that existed before the rise of human civilization. “We still have a net loss of about 10 billion trees a year,” Crowther said.
This 300,000,000,000 USD project to plant 1,000,000,000,000 trees is almost twenty times less than the fossil fuel industry receives in yearly subsidies. I say to end the 5,200,000,000,000 USD subsidies given yearly to the dirty oil and gas industry and start this massive tree reforestation project today so that we may become carbon-neutral as quickly as possible.
We can all do something to help, called offsetting or carbon offset. These projects can either reduce greenhouse gas emissions or creates carbon sequestration from the atmosphere to compensate for the carbon emissions we've generated or will generate. Once again, the best way to achieve this is by reforestation projects throughout the world.
Those who are in denial and still believe this is just a conspiracy, don't say later you haven't been warned of the expedited sixth mass extinction downside if you are wrong. The future of almost all life on our beautiful Earth, including our species, rests with the decision we make today. For the sake of future generations, please wake up.
It is literally, now or never.