Editor: One of the San Diego Free Press’ most active writers on climate change is Frank Thomas, who often collaborates with John Lawrence. Readers appreciate Thomas so much that a group of them invited him to speak at their “pro-science” club meetings. Problem is, Thomas lives in the Netherlands. Here is his gracious decline along with more expositions on his part, ‘do we have time to save Mother Earth’.
By Frank Thomas
Thank you for trying to reach me through the San Diego Free Press and John Lawrence.
I would much enjoy meeting with members of your pro-science club. But, unfortunately I live in the Netherlands where I’m actively engaged as a free-lance trainer/lecturer and writer. For some time now, I’ve have been researching and writing about macro-micro comparative U.S. and European economic, social, environmental issues. High on my and John Lawrence’s list has been the U.S. and world dependence on environmentally finite and polluting fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions.
One respected researcher on climate change and Arctic greenhouse gas conditions is University of Utah Professor of Physics, Timothy J. Garrett. If you contact him, he may know colleagues in California who are well-informed on this carbon dioxide-methane intensive region. Prof. Garrett sees climate change as a fight between human beings and physics … where the physics of climate change becomes irreversibly deadly unless something is done IMMEDIATELY to drastically reduce GHG emissions worldwide.
Climate change is efficiently melting the Arctic which contains huge quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) and trillions of tons of methane (CH4) below the permafrost. CH4 is a gas that’s 72 times more toxic than CO2 in the first 20 years of its lifetime, thus creating a lethal double CO2/CH4 heat-pollution warfront. The process starts when carbon dioxide and methane emissions translate into heat-trapping gases, then into melting ice, then into rising oceans and storms, then into destruction of food supplies, then into inability of plant and human life to survive.
Where is the threshold when there is no return?
Many scientists are saying it arrives when the CO2 eq emission concentration exceeds 600ppm (it is now at 385 ppm CO2 eq) where mean earth temperatures increase above 4 degrees Celsius. Prof. Bill McKibben of Middlebury College (author of, “Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet”) says it starts when we have emitted 565 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Based on current consumption trends, in his opinion we will have reached that threshold in 16 years (i.e., 2025-30). As Prof. McKibben has reseached, fossil fuel companies have 2,795 gigatons of CO2 in their fuel reserves in the ground!
Both Professors Garrett and McKibben agree that catastrophic environmental consequences cannot be avoided unless we start NOW rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuels and cutting GHG emissions at the sensational rate of 5% a year! The U.S. is the world’s biggest CO2 emitter at 17.3 tons per capita vs. 7.5 tons per capita in Europe. In 2011, both continents had a reduction in GHG emissions of 2% and 3%. respectively, while global GHG emissions increased 3% … largely affected by China and India’s extremely high growth rates in CO2 emissions at a very early stage in their industrialization process that is proceeding at rocket- speed.
So there’s a long, long way to go to get down quickly to an annual reduction rate of 5%. In fact, Prof. Garrett extensive model research — relating economic growth to energy consumption — makes him extremely pessimistic that humans will win the battle against the physics of ever warmer climate change.
Global warming is all man-made. The oil firms are not about to write off their energy assets in the ground. However, assuming an effective, timely transition from fossil fuels to renewables occurs, fossil fuels can play a role intermittently filling the gap in demand and supply. As the peak power that solar and wind create does not always coincide with peak demand — given natural variability in sunny and windy days — fossil fuel plants can serve as a 10-15% “backup” support for renewables.
In this regard, burning natural gas produces 36 parts of water vapor to 44 parts of CO2 by weight — a much lower fraction than any other hydrocarbon. So, natural gas is probably the best “bridge” fuel to go from an economy based on coal and oil to a sustainable clean set of alternatives. Even this bridge role could disappear if a good mixture of different renewable technologies, including home generation and carbon storage, are implemented (fast) in an ubiquitous fashion to balance out the times when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.
Will all this happen in time to save Mother Earth?
It clearly won’t without strong leadership. Sadly, political leadership and public opinion move at a lethargic pace — particularly when it comes to such fundamental change based on new scientific evidence that challenges a deeply rooted style of living, economic growth culture, and powerfully vested traditional energy interests.
Prof. Garrett points out another part of the physics problem. Namely, the wealth of civilization is directly linked to how much energy it can consume. To do anything, we need to consume energy. So this represents a double-edged dilemma of the physics problem: it’s impossible to have wealth without CO2 emissions that go into the atmosphere and acidify the oceans, thereby destroying ecosystems … and it’s impossible to have wealth without decarbonizing the economy and living style by RAPIDLY switching to renewables (and reforestation) on a grand, multi-faceted, preferably district level scale.
With scientific predictions of the final collapse of Arctic sea ice in just a few years, it’s time to Wake Up to the disastrous environmental implications … as opposed to remaining silent or taking refuge in the thought ” we’ll muddle through,” or acceding to the views of a small number of scientists who prefer to take the earth gamble that the structural warming-up dynamic is all bogus alarmism and inaccurate science.
Just a few thoughts from someone who is totally convinced we are faced with a serious threat to life on Earth. And it’s not light years away! It’s all about our children, their children, and their children’s children!
Again, thank you for your kind invitation. Success!