Global Warming is Cooking the Planet Now – Not in Some Far-Off Future

by on August 25, 2013 · 16 comments

in Business, Encore, Environment, Politics

90 Million Tons of Carbon Dioxide are Dumped into the Atmosphere Every 24 Hours

globalwarming12By John Lawrence

As Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, states in his book, Eaarth, global warming is not some far-off event that we will have to prepare for sometime in the future; it is here today and the effects of global warming are being manifested here today. Yet the oil and gas industry is pulling out all the stops to convince people that global warming is just a myth perpetrated by fuzzy headed liberals.

Extreme weather events, billion dollar weather events, are happening with increasing frequency just as Wall Street analysts are computing Big Oil’s stock price based on all the assets yet in the ground and which the industry is bound and determined to pump out on its way to becoming part of the atmosphere. If such were to be the case, kiss the earth, as a habitable place for the human species, good-bye.

In his book McKibben states:

“…global warming is no longer a philosophical threat, no longer a future threat, no longer a threat at all. It’s our reality.We’ve changed the planet, changed it in large and and fundamental ways. And these changes are far, far more evident in the toughest parts of the globe, where climate change is already wrecking thousands of lives daily. In July 2009, Oxfam released an epic report, ‘Suffering the Science,’ which concluded that even if we now adopted ‘the smartest possible curbs’ on carbon emissions, ‘the prospects are very bleak for hundreds of millions of people, most of them among the world’s poorest.'”

climatechangeExtreme weather events are happening daily although news outlets are reluctant to label them the results of global warming. Why? Some of the major sponsors of TV news are oil and gas companies whose total focus on short term profits doesn’t allow for a glance at the fact that their products are threatening the long term survival of the human species. After all oil company executives will probably be dead before the earth becomes uninhabitable.

In 1859, the same year that oil was discovered in Pennsylvania by Colonel Edwin Drake, the Irish scientist John Tyndall discovered that carbon dioxide traps heat. 36 years later in 1895 Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius presented a paper to the Stockholm Physical Society titled, “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground.”

Arrhenius was the first to make the connection between the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and global warming. He made over 10,000 computations by hand which resulted in his conclusion that a doubling of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere would raise global average temperatures by several degrees Celsius.

Svante Arrhenius’ grandson, Gustaf Arrhenius, was hired at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego in 1956 by Roger Revelle, the father of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). Arrhenius is still active there at the Arrhenius Laboratory.

Prior to moving to the United States in 1952, he participated in two Swedish deep sea research expeditions—the Skagerak Expedition in1946 and the Albatross Expedition around the world from 1947 to 1948. The Albatross Expedition provided him with research materials to do his doctoral work. In 1953, he received his Ph.D. in natural sciences from the University of Stockholm. I will write more about Gustav Arrenius, his connection with Roger Revelle and UCSD in a future article.

Roger Revelle was also the mentor of Al Gore whose recent book, The Future, details the latest research on climate change and global warming. Prior to coming to San Diego, Revelle was a professor at Harvard and one of his students there was Al Gore. So not only was Revelle a leader in the history of the global warming movement, he inspired one of the most influential people in that movement today.

The movie, An Inconvenient Truthdirected by Al Gore is a passionate and inspirational look at the former Vice President’s fervent crusade to halt global warming’s deadly progress by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it.

We humans are using the atmosphere as a dump. The carbon pollution we are dumping into it every day is trapping more extra heat energy than would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. In addition to carbon dioxide, methane is being released from the Arctic tundra as the ice caps melt as my colleague, Frank Thomas, recently reported. It is also being released from the bottom of the sea. Methane has 25 times the heat trapping effect as carbon dioxide.

Nine of the ten hottest years ever recorded since accurate measurements began in the 1880s have occurred in the last ten years. Unprecedented heat waves in Europe in 2003 killed 70,000 people; in Russia in 2010 they killed 55,000. At present wildfires in the western US are setting records. Right now 57 major fires are burning across 11 states, fueled largely by severe drought conditions and fierce winds.

Already in 2013 spending on wildfires has topped $1 billion, and we are on the way to a record in terms of the number of acres burned. The six worst fire seasons since 1960 have taken place in the past 13 years. That includes 2012 when 9.2 million acres went up in flames. The worst year was 2006 when 9.8 million acres burned.  Global warming also makes lightning strikes, one of the chief fire starters, much more common.

globalwarming2In 2010, the world experienced the hottest year since records have been kept, and ended the hottest decade ever measured. Last year, 2012, broke even more high temperature records. October 2012 was the 332nd month in a row when global temperatures were above the twentieth-century average. The growing absorption of CO2in the oceans is turning oceans into a corrosive acid bath killing off the coral reefs, shellfish and plankton, an important part of the food chain.

Total global rainfall is increasing 1.5 percent a decade because warmer air holds more moisture. This moisture is causing increased extreme precipitation events causing major floods all over the world. As just one example, floods are covering 60% of metropolitan Manila at the present time.

As reported on August 12, 2013,record temperatures across North Asia have killed dozens and pushed electricity grids to near breaking points, forcing governments to introduce emergency measures as more of the same heat is forecast. At least 105 people have died and 115 are missing after floods, a typhoon and torrential rain hit parts of China as reported two days ago. Rainfall events are dropping huge amounts in small periods of time because there is more moisture in the atmosphere due to global warming.

And the beat goes on while politicians, governments and large corporations not only are not concerned but do everything in their power to convince the people that there is nothing to worry about. No precautions need be taken. Everything is normal. Just invest in the stock market and buy more automobiles.

We have to increase GDP at all costs including the cost of making the Earth a reasonably habitable place to live. I think Exxon stock is probably way up there, and every year they make more profits and pay little if anything in taxes. Pad your portfolio and forget about global warming. Also forget about the world you are bequeathing to your grandchildren.

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John Lawrence

John Lawrence graduated from Georgia Tech, Stanford and University of California at San Diego. While at UCSD, he was one of the original writer/workers on the San Diego Free Press in the late 1960s. He founded the San Diego Jazz Society in 1984 which had grants from the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and presented both local and nationally known jazz artists. His website is Social Choice and Beyond which exemplifies his interest in Economic Democracy. His book is East West Synthesis. He also blogs at Will Blog For Food. He can be reached at j.c.lawrence@cox.net.
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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Holly August 25, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Keep saying it. Maybe the 99% can save the earth. The 1% figure they can buy cool weather when they want.

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avatar SanDiego350.org August 26, 2013 at 7:03 am

Thank you John for this recap of our sad state of affairs. But it’s not too late! A large climate movement is growing and starting to show results…

San Diegans who are interested in working with others to push for real action on climate change – at the local, regional and federal level – are invited to get to check out SanDiego350.org, San Diego’s all-volunteer grassroots climate group.

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avatar JEC August 26, 2013 at 3:46 pm

In the midst of the Filner Follies it’s hard to talk important issues. This is one. I’d like to add – a poll some months back showed 82% of skeptical Americans believe ocean levels are now rising. Reportedly Cuba has lost 50 feet of beach or more in many areas while a recent report on Florida, about to lose all of their beach near Miami, is looking into grinding up glass to replace the lost beach sand. Louisiana is losing around a 100 acres of delta marsh a day and expects to lose about a quarter of the State by 2050.

Here we don’t seem to be worried. In the City’s “Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Plan (CMAP) finalized last year, no actions are planned to deal with rising sea levels. Mission Beach’s Community Plan expects more new construction. It’s all business as usual around here.

But a mystery is at hand – appears sea levels are rising 2 1/2 times faster on the east coast than on the west coast. Scientists offer no explanation – apparantly don’t really understand it. But are cautious it may suddenly catch up. This city and this state will be seriously affected with just a 16 inch increase in sea levels, let alone the 3 foot levels now considered likely by 2100. (You and I might not be here, but our grandkids will). Environmental crisis can be upon us in months; solutions take years. SanDiego350 is a beginning. Question, why “350”

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avatar SanDiego350.org August 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Hi JEC,
Agree with your points, though the climate mitigation and adaptation plan was not passed yet… Sanders had a version, now being updated (was somewhat updated). It’s now called the “Climate Action Plan”. SD350 has testified at the hearings on the CAP and will continue to – we recommend other concerned citizens do the same. Many cities in our area are working on their climate plans now.

Re: 350 – 350.org is an international group that is growing the climate movement that we are loosely affiliated with. the name comes from the fact that scientists consider 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide to be the safe upper limit in the atmosphere… though we’re now at roughly 400 ppm already and rising a few each year. Many scientists think that getting to 450 would bring the earth’s temperature up 2 degrees C from pre-industrial times (when carbon dioxide levels averaged about 280 ppm over hundreds of thousands of years), a temperature rise many think is the absolute number we can go up and still have a chance of keeping the earth’s climate comfortable for people.

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avatar John Lawrence August 26, 2013 at 3:57 pm

350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide is considered to be the limit over which global warming will occur. Right now it stands at 400 ppm and rising.

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avatar John August 27, 2013 at 5:05 pm

“Extreme weather events are happening daily although news outlets are reluctant to label them the results of global warming. Why? ”

Maybe because they’re not?
From the included reference link about “record temperatures across Northern Asia”:

““The hot summer this year is not a result of human activities, but it is true we have increasingly hotter summers and global warming is in the background,” said Takehiko Mikami, a climatology professor at Teikyo University in Tokyo.”

Nothing turns people off regarding an issue quite like using BS to sell it to them. Extreme weather events have always happened and always will, and the overall implication that people should feel guilty over their own suffering in such events is a cheap ploy.
“Are you sweltering? Blame yourself for driving a car. Tornado wiped out your town? It’s your fault for using electricity!”
Overall incremental trends are another thing altogether, and that’s what researchers have always said should be the focus of discussion.
If we have a record cold snap this winter, will this be embraced when a skeptic announces it? No, it should be rejected as meaningless anecdotal data.
I recall Nancy Pelosi took many of her colleagues on a junket to Greenland at the end of May 2007, stepped off of their federally funded jet and looked at the late spring’s melting ice and declared global warming to be a reality.
Any thinking person would reject this political grand standing and wonder if the issue should be taken seriously at all.

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avatar John Lawrence August 28, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I think the phenomenon of global warming has been sufficiently and scientifically documented so that there is little question of its reality except in the minds of those connected with or influenced by the propaganda of the oil and gas industry.

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avatar John August 28, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Care to address why the reference used contains a statement from a scientist which directly refutes the message of the article? Is it oil companies undermining progress on the issue or overzealous ideologues using emotional rhetoric and unfounded claims that people can see right through?
I never questioned the “reality” of global warming, just questioning why the need to wrap so much fantasy and falsehoods around it.

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avatar Frank Thomas August 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

John,

I applaud your recent writings about our new Pope’s castigation of market greed and particularly the reality of climate change and continued warming up of Mother Earth.

I’m still gathering facts and thoughts on the plausible trend scenario of average earth temperations increasing 2 degrees Celsius or more next 40 years, assuming CO2 atmospheric concentration does not exceed 450-500 ppm by 2050. I will get back to you soon on related underlying explosive CO2 and CH4 atmospheric pollution development taking place at a scale and speed unimaginable to the human mind.

Meanwhile, a recnt article by Richard Heinberg in Common Dreams entitled, “Fracking Boom Slouching Toward a Bust,” is most illuminating. He offers some factual insights on the massively misleading PR advertising OVERHYPE of natural gas/tight oil fracking as being some magical “Cure-All” that will make the U.S. blissfully “energy independent” and a major exporter of gas for the next 100 years (President Obama’s hyperbole)! At best, Heinberg sees the fracking of shale gas and tight oil production topping out in 2020 and then declining fast as small core areas are quickly drilled to capacity. Today’s production is a mere “blip,” a short 10 year anomaly running in the face of an inevitably slow but certain decline in domestic and global oil/gas production at prices that are affordable.

I agree with his point that natural gas and tight oil production from hydrofractured formations (i.e. like the Bakken formation) will only prolong our (ultimately unsustainable) fossil-fuel extravagant (i.e., SUV) happy motoring style for a few years longer. People may comfortably forget that a vast amount of CO2 dirty oil is consumed in transportation, not manufacturing … while even more dirty coal is still now providing a very high+-45% of our electricity needs (vs. 70% in China and 25% in Germany). Another key point is that up to 40% of domestically hydrofracked natural gas must be shipped abroad to economically justify the initially very high fracking cost, especially as the attractive “core fracking spots” become quickly depleted as apparently is the case according to Heinberg.

BUT, this means the gas must be liquified and put into a cryogenic tanker holding some plus 250,000 tons! This is the equivalent of a floating small nuclear device thus making a cryogenic tanker the most dangerous of all ships at sea! Major ports will be forced to shut down all shipping activities when such a vessel is in territorial water lanes … obviously creating an accident vulnerable and exposed terrorist targeting situation.

It all comes down to when are people going to stop demanding more and more greenhouse gas/oil energy as the atmosphere continues to burn up, deforestation remains high as fires and floods rage, and ocean acidification goes off the charts destroying much of the ocean’s microscopic phytoplankton that is responsible for HALF of our planetary oxygen. Experts are now saying that ocean acidification is proceeding at a rate 10 times faster than 300 million years ago … when the biggest mass extinction on planet earth occurred.

We are now close to a 400ppm CO2 atmospheric concentration that has been increasing at a much facter rate the past 10 years. As one person commented, “The human organism can be idiotic, and willingly so,” until the next calamitous environmental collapse from our “Pump and Burn” fossil fuel obsession.

But of course this will be too late. My considerable study of this earth threat, including the splendid research of Physics Prof. Timothy Garrity, leaves me with no doubt that the acceleration in global warming and atmospheric CO2/CH4 concentration the past three decades is all “man-made” … and is being made much worse by an interacting series of positive feedback loops. We MUST work immediately on strategies to mitigate this environmental disaster in the making as we speak, including a priority development of technologies to remove CO2/CH4 in the atmosphere.

The only positive thing I can say is that the resort to an “extreme fossil fuel’ like the horizontal and fracking of natural gas can be a valuable — if properly and very rigidly environmentally controlled — low CO2 polluting “backup” while transitioning out of dirty coal and oil into solar, wind, biomass, etc. by 2050. Germany has been effectively doing this by its aggressive early move into solar, wind and biomass. The country is now producing +-22 gigawatts of solar energy per hour … some saying the equivalent of 20 existing nuclear plants! About 23.5% of Germany’s electricity is coming from renewable energy sources (20% renewables and 3.5% hydropower) vs. 12% in the U.S. (5% renewables and 7% hydropower). Germany’s introduction of a Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) in 1990 requiring utilities to pay home owners +- $0.54/Kwh for feeding excess solar and wind energy into the grid has been instrumental in facilitating and incentivizing the step-by-step long-term transition to 80% renewables by 2050 as well as the near term shut down of 8 nuclear plants and more planned in the future — the speed of which may be tailored to possible need of nuclear as an added interim backup power.

Global CO2 emissions and growth rates can be summarized as follows:

__________________________________________________________
TABLE 1: Annual CO2 Emissions in Tons Per Capita vs. Total CO2 Emissions in Billions of Tons
__________________________________________________________ …………………..Per Capita Emissions……Total CO2 Emissions………%+- 2010
……………………..1990………..2011………………..2011………………..2011 vs. 2010

U.S…………………19.7…………17.3…………………5.4………………………-2%

China……………….2.2…………..7.2…………………9.7………………………+9%

India……………….0.8…………..1.6…………………2.0……………………….+6%

EU 27……………..0.2…………..7.5…………………3.8………………………..-3%

Subtotal…………………………………………………20.9……………………….+3.5%

All Other………………………………………………..13.1………………………..-2.5%

WORLD TOTAL……………………………………..34.0……………………….+3%

Source: Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Center
_______________________________________________________

In addition to the U.S., is it any wonder I think China and India hold the cards on whether our planet will go over the irreversible threshold cliff of CO2 and CH4 pollution — exacerbated by potentially huge Arctic methane releases from ongoing permafrost and ice meltdown — all resulting in the real possibility of a “global massive human, ecological extermination event” by as early as 2050?

China and India alone represent a population base of 2.5 billion people (ignoring an expected 2 billion world population increase). And China is already the world leader in total CO2 emissions with 90% of its population living on a survival wage! As Table 1 shows, China’s per capita emissions exploded 3.5 times over the last 20 years with a transportation and manufacturing development that is still comparatively shockingly TINY to thatt of most developed nations today — and its enormous its population base. v

If by some miracle (i.e., a gigantic turn-around to solar, wind, biomass, electric engines and mass transportion, etc.) China’s CO2 emissions grew at HALF the annual 9% rate of the last decade, total annual CO2 emissions would still amount to a monstrous +-60-65 billion tons in 2050 (vs. a sizable 12-15 billion tons for India). But China now relies on its huge dirty coal reserves for over 70% of its electricity … a country that not long ago announced plans with India to build a thousand more dirty coal plants!

Does all the above a world living threat? Of course it does. Will leaders come timely and directly to grips with this reality? Sleep on that one! You may want to take a sleeping pill. I’m humbled by the realization planet Earth is the only planet we know today that has human life on it and an amazing ecological life that supports our existence.

One person said it well, “One way to conceptualize global warming is that we are pushing climate back in time. As we burn fossil fuels, we release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere that was sequestered by natural processes in the past.” The resulting possible complete meltdown of Arctic permafrost and ice has never happened while humans have been on this earth. We are approaching new planetary territory not experienced by humans!

As noted John, I will get more into this subject again in a subsequent writing I look forward to developing with you.

Best regards,

Frank Thomas
The Netherlands

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avatar John August 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm

“China and India alone represent a population base of 2.5 billion people (ignoring an expected 2 billion world population increase). And China is already the world leader in total CO2 emissions with 90% of its population living on a survival wage!”

You made some excellent points and I’m sorry to say one of them hits the nail on the head as to why most of this is futile.
Every policy enacted by the “haves” nations to curb climate change will only cause capital and industry to flock to developing nations, further industrializing the “have nots”.
They have and will be barely making enough to stay alive, enough to eat today and tomorrow- and aren’t really concerned about what happens 40 years down the road.
This is why I do pontificate on the obvious ideology clash between people who bang the drum about climate change and also have tendencies toward a goal of global socialism, and they’ll strongly deny it but as I often point out it’s right in the language of the IPCC’s literature with terms like “climate justice” and “carbon equity”. Don’t they care that their efforts- telling us they want to curb warming but engaging in third world infrastructure and living standards improvement- will probably just make the problem worse?

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avatar John Lawrence August 30, 2013 at 7:55 pm

The trick is for developing countries to develop to first world standards but using smarter and greener technology to generate energy. Nobody’s saying that these nations should have less than the developed nations, only that they should go about their development in a way that minimizes carbon emissions. Also developed nations need to change over from polluting technologies to non-polluting ones. It’s possible but seems unlikely at the present time. But that could change.

I didn’t find anything on the IPCC website about socialism.

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avatar John August 30, 2013 at 9:57 pm

By golly there’s our soluti0n, we’ll allow the third world with it’s massive populations to industrialize and give them a free pass until their GGE per capita match ours, because they can afford to put solar arrays and wind generators on their grass huts and shantytown shacks- on land they don’t even own and will be driven from every year by the new warlords or local tribal strongmen.
Don’t think I haven’t heard that knee slapper before. The third world will modernize with technologies you can’t afford, I can’t afford, and only a select few in America can afford if they have sufficient equity in their home and aren’t nomadic as many third worlders are.
Or there’s something new right around the corner, if we only throw enough money at it and wish, it will come true! So let’s not worry about how foolish and misguided carbon trading schemes are, because we can throw soccer ball generators to starving kids and they can kick it for hours and have power in their hole in the ground with solar arrays on the roof.

John, it’s not a trick, it’s a fantasy. China’s not building windmill farms, they’re building coal fired power plants. Today. There is nothing “greener” or “smarter” on the horizon that third world countries can afford to apply.

In the hopes this may lead to something constructive rather than pissing on each other, please ask yourself what audience do these pieces target, and what do you think the goal is with them? Seems like it’s a lot of preaching to the choir- even me, John, I don’t deny 6.4 billion humans are damaging the planet.
I think a lot of it is political capital, not unlike the Reagan fundies ran around in the ’80s pointing fingers at Satanic Cults and heavy metal bands. Makes us feel good to judge the evils of others as we hope to save the world.
Yes, it would be wonderful if the carbon output could be reduced, but all of our good intentions and efforts in North America cannot be enforced as policies in the developing world. China has already virtually made a wasteland of their country with conventional pollutants, the air is barely breathable and 90% of their waterways are non potable. Compare that to the turnaround made in North America since the inception of the EPA. We’re doing it, John. We do care. The enemy is not us, it’s not Republicans and it’s not even really the oil companies (at least as much as you’d think).

The enemy, is the 4-5 billion people just wondering where the next meal will come from. How are you gonna reach them?

Every legislative action we enact here to “lead the way” will see a corresponding migration of capital and industry to where there is less restrictions, and that’s been happening for several decades on the conventional pollution front. It’s part of the reason China has become the #1 GGE offender. If you’re content to preach to the choir and point fingers at corporation operations here, and ignore the industrial revolutions going on elsewhere, that are largely inevitable, that’s not going to reverse this- if it even can be.

As for the IPCC and socialism, well it’s not a sign hanging on their wall. It’s been the UN’s core mission since day 1. Is it bad, building roads, hospitals, bringing electricity and running water to the impoverished? Not entirely, in fact it’s quite noble- unless you say you also intend to curb a problem caused by human industrialization.

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avatar Frank Thomas August 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Correction: 3rd from last paragraph: Does all the above pose a world living threat?

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avatar Frank Thomas August 31, 2013 at 12:55 am

Correction typing error: TABLE 1 EU 27 1990 Per Capita Carbon Emissions in Tons should be 9.2 not 0.2.

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