Friday, December 16, 2011

Changing Climate - A Threat to the Planet?

I read a lot of blogs.  I guess that makes sense since I write one.  As I go through and read the different blogs I am always coming up with new and interesting ideas that I want to put into this blog.  A friend/acquaintance of mine - Ted - who I work with at Hospice started his own blog a while back.  Now Ted is a much more gifted writer than am I.  He can take an idea and weave it into a complex tale illustrating many different facets to the story.  Ted writes mainly about political topics and he does a great job with it.  He is non-partisan and represents the issues with facts that are not just talking points.  One of the features that Ted adds to his blog entries are a series of factoids that illustrate the issue at hand.  Based upon the extensive facts and reasoning he puts into his blog entries he must spend a ton of time thinking things through and writing.

Not that I have anywhere near the writing skills of Ted, but I wanted to use his format in the creation of today's blog post.  I have been thinking about this post for several months and we are now home from a busy Friday evening so I have as much time as I want to work on writing this blog post.

By the way if you would like to check out Ted's blog, you can find it at this address:

A Different Perspective on Global Warming
This weekend will most likely be the height of the Christmas shopping season for 2011.  The malls will be jammed with people and the electronics, clothes, books and all other orders of gift like things will be flying off the shelves.  As the shelves are emptied just-in-time inventory systems will kick in and orders will go out to distribution centers for tractor trailer trucks to be loaded so that the shelves can be replenished and the process can begin anew.

A whole chain reaction occurs once the masses of consumers leave their homes and head to the malls and begin shopping.  As distribution systems kicks into gear to deliver goods to the consumer, massive amounts of energy are consumed by transportation systems, inventory systems, production systems, etc.  The end result is that for each product purchased massive amounts of greenhouse gases are released.

The greenhouse gases come from a variety of different sources throughout the supply chain that builds and brings the goods to market.  Some of the bigger sources of the greenhouse gases are:
-   Extraction of the raw material from the earth.  Electronics devices - the biggest sellers of this holiday season require hundreds of different compounds that are mined from the earth.
- The manufacture of the end product
- The transportation of the product to the place that it will be sold
- Powering the computer and inventory systems that track all this stuff

The end result is through our prolific consumption of consumer goods at this time of the year, there are millions of tons of extra greenhouse gases pumped into our atmosphere.  Though Christmas time might be the worst in terms of the production of greenhouse gases, the rest of the year is nearly as bad.

Production of greenhouse gases and global warming has been a topic of significant discussion for the last 15 - 20 years.  Prior to that no one really recognized the impact of all the carbon dioxide and other gases our industrialized society has been pumping into the atmosphere for the last 200 years.  There have been numerous studies done which highlight the potential impact of all these greenhouse gases.  Treaties have been negotiated to limit the amount of these gases that each country can produce.  Nothing has come of these treaties because it would mean that industrial production and economical growth would be cut back.

Despite this focus on global warming and the production of greenhouse gases, the quantity of these gases being produced is growing at an alarming rate.  One recent study showed that 4 times the amount of greenhouse gases are being pumped into the atmosphere than was imagined as a worst case scenario when projections were done 5 years.  Four times the worst case scenario - it is absolutely incredible!!!  If you believe there is a link between the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and bad things happening to our climate then it is time to be very worried.

In most cases when people argue the case to cut greenhouse gas emissions it is argued on a belief that we "have to save the planet".  Is that really the case?  What will reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions do to save the planet?  The reality is that hundreds of times before this there have been even greater amounts of greenhouse gases in the air than now.  And yet...  the planet survived.  During those times all the polar ice caps melted and there were no glaciers any where to be found.  The planet became warm and tropical and the seas and oceans expanded, and many landmasses were totally inundated by water.  Thousand of species of animals and plants were utterly destroyed during those previous times of global warming.  Despite all that, over many millennia the excess greenhouse gases were eventually absorbed back into the oceans and land masses.  The temperatures cooled and global ice caps eventually reformed.

Our planet is extremely resilient.  It has taken blows from asteroids and comets.  It has endured massive volcanic eruptions that have darken the skies for hundreds and thousands of years.  It has experience massive temperature swings in time frames much shorter than what we are currently experiencing.  And yet the planet has continued and life has adapted to the new conditions.  After each one of these traumatic events life has bounced back and flourished.

Do we really need to save the planet?  I really don't think we have to save the planet.  Of much greater concern to me from greenhouse gases and global warming is the survival of the human race.  It doesn't matter what is causing the warming that is impacting our planet, the reality is the warming is occurring.  Each degree the average temperature goes up, more ice in Greenland and Antarctica melts.(Well - technically the ice in Antarctica hasn't really started to melt yet.)  As that ice melts the oceans get bigger and start consuming the land.  Imagine a 100 years from now when the Atlantic Ocean swallows the entirity of Manhattan and most of New York City.  As a species we have done a bad job in terms of where we live.  Almost 50% of the total population of the earth lives within 60 miles of a coastline.  That makes the half the human population susceptible to the impact of rising sea levels. If all the water currently contained in the ice that covers Greenland and Antarctica were to melt as some climate models predict, sea levels would rise by over 215 feet!  Enormous amounts of land would be flooded by a sea level change of 215 feet.  Entire nations like Bangladesh, the Netherlands and the Island Nations of Pacific would be utterly lost.  Even the United States would suffer dramatic losses with almost the entire state of Florida being covered in water.

Maybe we need to think about this whole global warming and climate change issue in a different light.  It isn't about "saving the planet", it is about "saving human kind".  The earth has proven very capable of replacing the top species on the planet with another family of animals.  Not that the dinosaurs had culture or intelligence, but if they did I am sure they weren't thinking 65 million years ago that they were going to go extinct in the blink of an eye.

(Amazingly beautiful iceberg in a bay off of Baffin Island in Northern Canada.)

Though global warming doesn't threaten us with such an immediate extinction it does threaten us with very serious implications.  Drought, wild swings in temperature, rising sea levels, intense hurricanes and even an ice age are all possible because of global warming.  Yes - that is right, global warming could cause an ice age to engulf the northern hemisphere because of changes in the salinity of ocean water would result in changing ocean currents that could freeze Northern Europe and North America.

Imagining the impact of some of those catastrophes and you realize that our society if not our entire race could be dealt a fatal blow by global warming.  On top of the actual impacts of the climate change itself there are so many other potential problems that would arise such as the development and spread of infectious diseases, war for scarce resources - water and food and geopolitical change caused by mass relocation of people.

(Snow covered fjords of Greenland.)

Our planet is going to survive pretty much anything that is thrown at it.  (Ok - a collision with a huge asteroid or mini-planet might take the earth out, but that is about it.)  The climate can and will change and this will result in the extinction of thousands of species of plants and animals, but new species will evolve to take their places.  Human kind on the other hand can't endure the massive changes wrought by global warming.  Instead of thinking of "saving the planet" maybe we should really be thinking of "saving human kind" when it comes to eliminating global warming.  I don't think we as a society will be smart enough to think it through and see it that way which is unfortunate.  Ultimately it will be our great-great-great-great grandchildren who pay the price for our short-sightedness.  And 2 million years from now, there's a good chance global warming will have wiped out our species, but the earth will have moved on and there will be a new species at the top of the food chain.

(Impact of global warming?  Flood waters rage through a river channel eroding the river bank.)

Global Warming Facts: (From National Geographic and other sources)
- Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
- The rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century's last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies.
- Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier.
- Industrialization, deforestation, and pollution have greatly increased atmospheric concentrations of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, all greenhouse gases that help trap heat near Earth's surface
- Humans are pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere much faster than plants and oceans can absorb it.
- The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 290 (ppm - parts per million) in 1900 to nearly 400 ppm today.
- Over the past 25 years, the average annual Arctic sea ice area has decreased by about five percent and summer sea ice area has decreased by roughly 15 percent. The collapse of the Larsen Ice Shelf off the Antarctic Peninsula appears to have no precedent in the last 11,000 years
- In 2007, a United Nationals panel of 2500 scientists from 130 countries concluded that ice caps will probably be completely melted by the year 2100.  Some scientists believe the total melting will occur even sooner.

All other things aside the weekend is moving along and we have lots taking place.  Saturday, night we have a Christmas celebration to go to with the extended family.  We are getting together with Celinde's parents, Nancy and member of the "usual suspects" for an early Christmas celebration.  The rest of the day is going to be spent Christmas shopping as I want to get everything finished by the end of the day.

Sunday will be football day of course, but then I have a get together with several friends to go to in Colorado Springs.  That should be a good time as it has been a while since I have seen some of these folks.  On top of that I am supposed to have a friend come over to the house to help me start designing the kitchen remodel.  I have the basic floor plan in mind, but I need to start thinking about colors and materials that we will use.  (Not sure if that is going to happen or not as we have been back and forth on it.  Oh well if it doesn't happen til after Christmas that is OK too.)

Once we get the kitchen design laid out I want to move quickly on getting the remodel going.  The sooner the work is done then the more options I have going into the spring.  If I make the decision to move to a smaller house here in Willow Creek or a loft at Dry Creek Crossing, then I we will be in prime position to get the house on the market in the busy house selling season in the spring.  Making this decision about the house is going to be one a very tough decision and I really don't know which way I am going to go at this point.  Oh well - times are a changing!

Have a great weekend!!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J. 

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