By Michael Collins
We don’t have a substantial cushion between today’s climate and dangerous warming. James E. Hanson
The head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James E. Hansen, announced the results of break through global warming research last week. The earth’s temperature is rising at a much quicker pace than previously anticipated according to research by the nation’s preeminent climate scientist. We have little time to reverse the trend. (Image)
An example of the dangerous pace of change is emerging on Russia’s Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf. Long-frozen permafrost is beginning to melt due to global warming. This threat was identified years ago due to the potential for highly toxic releases of heat-trapping methane gas. Recent changes are both a surprise and a cause for alarm. There is more methane gas released from the Russian cauldron “than the CH4 emissions estimate for the entire world ocean.” Methane is a “far more potent GHG [greenhouse gas] than CO2″ with a greater potential to cause “abrupt climate change.”
At the same time, researchers at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich developed a more efficient analysis of contributors to global warming. They found man-made causes can now be linked with at least 75% of global warming.
Hansen’s warning is brought to life by the methane gas event starting in the Arctic. We are in the danger zone. By the time we know it’s too late, it won’t matter. Without prompt, concerted action through readily available technologies and programs, we face increasing calamities through midcentury. After that, the displacement, destruction, and death assume unthinkable proportions.
As these evidence-based warnings were issued, the military effort to seize effective control of oil and natural gas regions of the Middle East and Central Asia continued unabated. Ironically, as our rulers engage in endless military conflicts to secure access to oil, they are delivering a weapon of mass destruction, an oil-based economy that will create massive disasters and dislocations that plunge the world into chaos.
Domestic policies have the same anti life outcome. The Keystone XL pipeline to accommodate tar sands oil production ensures continued CO2 pollution resulting in a collapsing world social and economic structure.
We are headed for a new world disorder of epic proportions. Past performance indicates that the current power structure is unable to handle disasters on a much smaller scale. The August 2003 heat wave in Europe killed 35,000, devastated crops, and sparked massive forest fires. It had never occurred to these nations to plan for or even consider the impact of heat waves. The failed response to the New Orleans disaster in 2005 offers a sneak preview of one hapless response after another to tragedies of ever increasing magnitude. How will we plan for consequences we can’t predict?
What will the rulers do when entire agricultural regions disappear due to accelerating global warming?
How will the planet offset these losses as the world climate system becomes more hostile to agricultural output even in those areas where growing can be sustained?
What will the people do when drinking water becomes scarce due to the evaporation of runoff and water sources? What happens when the glaciers melt down and cease to store fresh water?
How will the world economy function as the flawed the assumption of endless growth becomes painfully apparent?
These were all questions that we were told were a generation or two away. That is no longer the case according to the new evidence, analytic and empirical.
An Example of the New World Disorder
Florida, the coastline of China, the Netherlands, and the entire nation of Bangladesh will be acutely affected by sea level changes should the world slip into Dr. Hansen’s danger zone.
With just a 2 meter rise in sea level around 530 million people around the world will need to find new homes because theirs will be gone. (United States Geological Survey) The impact on Florida is evident in the image. There will be 3.5 million people in need of new homes.
The time between now and midcentury will be marked by ever-increasing devastation and displacement for human beings in coastal areas. About 40% of the earth’s population lives within 60 miles of a coastal area.
Where will the millions left homeless in Florida go?
What’s the response when tens of millions in Bangladesh have no place to go?
What will China do with tens of millions seeking shelter?
It won’t happen all at once. Incremental changes will produce a spectacle of suffering on a daily basis.
The debate on global warming as a factor in all of this should be over as well. Man-made influence and effects account for about 75% of the increases in the earth’s temperature. The mantra of the coming death cycle will be the blinded effort to produce more and more of the very toxins that allow fewer to live.
The Pathetic Response of Those in Charge
If we were grading the current crop of world leaders on any aspect of their records, the result would surely be F, with a recommendation to drop the course of study. The laws required to prevent industry from harming citizens are virtually nonexistent. If U.S. courts took corporate personhood seriously, we’d all have massive law suits and the corporate leaders would be charged with assault with intent to maim and kill.
One hundred and ninety one nations joined the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The goal of the effort was to avoid global catastrophe through a coordinated effort. Hansen and others tell us that the protocol will have no real effect given the acceleration of changes. But even Kyoto’s inadequate goal was not suitable for the world’s largest polluter, the U.S. Both the Bush and Obama administrations failed to endorse the now-known-to-be-inadequate target. A follow-up conference on Kyoto was held in Durban South Africa recently. It amounted to nothing more than fiddling while Rome burns.
As citizens of the planet, we and our children have the right to expect a rational response by those controlling the levers of power. What is government for, if not for this? Can’t the powers that be stop their triumphal spread of democracy at the barrel of a gun long enough to fix the greatest threat ever to the people of the world? The earth will survive but we may not.
The logical path would be a working group of highly competent engineers and climate scientists tasked to outline a solution, one that could be put in place soon. Instead, morally and criminally negligent inaction is the rule under the cover of nicely named programs of no account with the additional excuse provided by a wink and a nod in the direction of unimaginably cynical or ignorant climate change deniers.
Do these world leaders live on the same planet as the rest of us?
Do they care about their friends and families?
Don’t they worry that there might be a final judgment after their final acts ensuring mass destruction?
Lead or get out of the way should be our message to these authors of our current troubles.
This article can be reproduced with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.
Special thanks to Jill Hayroot for her input.