2015 Extra

Comments: Following my increasing concern, since the 1980s, about Climate Change, I had the following article published in a local Newsletter, but it provoked no response. See also my 2019 Essay, “A Carbon Atom’s Plea”.

Don’t worry about Climate Change – It’s going to happen anyway

For many years now, most scientists, and particularly those working for the IPCC, have been warning us that our planet is about to fall victim to a serious illness, of which this article is a diagnosis. With acknowledgements (and apologies if necessary) to James Lovelock.

The underlying cause

An excessively over-populated, selfish, greedy species, whose technological prowess surpasses its wisdom.

The symptoms

The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been steadily, and exponentially, rising since the industrial revolution and are now at their highest level for at least 3 million years. This has almost entirely been caused by the burning of fossil fuels for industry, home heating and transportation, combined with a continuous reduction of nature’s main consumers of carbon dioxide (trees and algae). The overall global temperature is rising.

Consequently, the ice in the Arctic and Antarctic is melting at an accelerating rate, often releasing methane into the atmosphere, which further exacerbates the problem.

The likely developments

Sea levels will rise, eventually by about 5 metres or more, rendering many coastal towns and cities, and some countries, uninhabitable.

According to most climatologists, extreme weather events (such as floods, droughts and hurricanes) will increase in frequency and magnitude, though the effects will often be local. There will probably be crop failures.

The comfortably-habitable areas of the planet will decrease in size and number, and there will be intense competition amongst survivors for those areas.

The treatment

As with any illness, there are several different possible approaches:

  1. Allow nature to take its natural course. This will involve great suffering, and may entail large-scale elimination of the underlying cause (complete with collateral damage), but the planet will almost certainly eventually recover and settle back into its usual behaviour patterns.
  2. Take drastic action, on a global governmental level, to reduce carbon dioxide levels by quickly shifting from fossil fuel technologies to the most viable alternative energy sources – nuclear, solar and, most particularly, hydrogen, in concert with the previous two. It has been estimated (by David Sanborn Scott) that, with enough will, determination, co-operation and investment, an almost global, hydrogen-based energy-production infrastructure (with only water as its by-product) could be achieved in as little as 20 years. Until that “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream” scenario, on an individual level all that people can do is to make the conscience-salving, futile, symbolic gesture of reducing their own dependence on fossil fuels. This can be achieved by travelling as little as possible, reducing home heating, and not buying goods which are produced by energy-intensive industries (or foods which are transported long distance). If everyone on the planet did that, it would make an enormous impact (not least on the global economy), as would large-scale protesting and campaigning for governmental action.
  3. Try a counter-intuitive alternative therapy (like a combination of homeopathy, acupuncture and faith healing) and claim that global warming is necessary for the long-term future of mankind (even if is not good for the planet). Climate change deniers have missed a trick here. Instead of calling themselves ‘deniers’, which sounds so negative, they should have called themselves climate change justifiers. The fact is that, in geological terms, we are currently in the latter stages of an interglacial period and the planet is due, in the absence of interference, for another ice age (which would eventually have significant habitat-reducing effects, particularly in Northern Europe and North America). By increasing global temperatures and melting all the ice at the poles, we may be able to forestall (and perhaps even prevent) the next ice age. For all we know, the destructive effects of global warming may be less than the destructive effects of the next ice age would have been.

If any readers are interested in becoming part of a local Climate Change group, with a view to discussing possible courses of action, please contact me on hughdower@yahoo.co.uk.

2022 Postscript

Who would have thought that Climate Change would become such a divisive issue (or vaccinations, or gender issues for that matter)? We now have militant climate activists, protesting about the inaction of governments, and we have the vehement deniers, some of whom unsurprisingly work in (or otherwise benefit from) the fossil fuel industries. And then we have the sceptics, who are by nature sceptical of orthodox thinking. This postscript was inspired by the following ‘caption photo’, found on Twitter:

It may not be entirely accurate, though it did concur in parts with data I have read in ‘respectable’ sources, but it struck a chord with me with regard to a specific piece of my scepticism.

First, four undoubted facts:

  1. Since the Industrial Revolution, the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere has been increasing, due to the escalating use of fossil fuels.
  2. The burning of fossil fuels also releases energy, in the form of heat, into the atmosphere.
  3. Carbon Dioxide molecules in the atmosphere absorb more radiation than diatomic molecules, such as Nitrogen and Oxygen. So does water vapour.
  4. For a number of years the average global atmospheric temperature has been increasing.

The prevalent scientific thinking in recent years has been that (1) is the cause, (3) is the scientific explanation and (4) is the effect. However, in the longer term (millions of years) there seems to be no correlation between Carbon Dioxide levels and average global temperature. That means the issue of present-day Carbon Dioxide could be a correlated co-incidence (or byproduct), because (2) could be the sole cause of (4). Maybe the planet just can’t cope with all the extra energy increasingly being pumped into its atmosphere, and it really doesn’t matter whether that is coming from fossil fuels or nuclear reactors or ‘trapped’ solar energy (which would ordinarily be reflected back into space). All energy ends up as low-grade heat energy, which dissipates slowly. (“Yeah – that’s entropy, man!”) For millennia, the total amount of energy that has been absorbed by the planet has been balanced by (or in equilibrium with) the total amount that has been released (as electro-magnetic radiation at longer wavelength/lower frequency). The burning of fossil fuels for industry, travel and excessive home/workplace heating has been the cause of an imbalance, but it is the extra heat generated that is the cause of the imbalance, not Carbon Dioxide. I’m not saying that Carbon Dioxide levels have had no effect upon global warming, but I suspect it has been minimal. Global warming is real, and the solution is to stop pouring heat into the atmosphere. Everyone needs to adjust their lifestyles and aspirations.