Nel's New Day

January 30, 2014

The State of the Planet

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:24 PM
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For the past few weeks, governors have given speeches about the state of their states—even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who is probably in worse shape than his state. This week, President Obama gave the State of the Union speech. But what about the State of the Planet?

In the United States, almost one-fourth of the people deny global warming. That’s an increase of 7 percent in less than a year in a nation of over 300 million people.  Although 63 percent understand that climate change is real, only 53 percent of the population is “somewhat” or “very” worried about the consequences. And fewer than half of the 63 percent who believe in global warming believe that it is caused mostly by human activities, fewer than one-third of the population.

People who deny climate change and humans’ participation in the disaster won’t be changing their minds. They argue that the weather is colder the past few weeks, that plants need carbon dioxide, that warmth is good for people. They support politicians who govern by anecdote and personal experience rather than information.

This week, people will claim that the unusual extreme cold in Georgia that has brought Atlanta to a standstill is proof that climate change is at least in a pause or on hiatus. Although global greenhouse gas emissions are rising to an all-time record in 2012 and the carbon concentration has increased, the planet’s surface temperatures have remained almost the same for the past 15 years.

The ocean is the answer. Ocean depths’ soaking up excess heat energy from the accumulation of greenhouse gases protects the land from change. Middle depths of the ocean have warmed 15 times faster during the past 60 years than at any other time during the past 10,000 years. It’s buying time for change but can’t go on forever. Both the global warming and the oceans’ heating up occurred at the same time. Oceans carry 93 percent of stored energy from climate change, and the atmosphere is responsible for just 1 percent. Melting ice and land masses take care of the rest.

Scientists can trace the temperature of the middle-depth ocean waters back 10,000 years by taking sediment core samples from Indonesian seas where the Pacific and Indian Oceans merge. The levels of magnesium to calcium in the shells of the Hyalinea balthica give science the answer to the water’s temperature. The climate was relative stable and the Pacific generally cooled until about 1600 when human civilization and ocean temperature warming occurred simultaneously.

An increase of one-third degree Fahrenheit over 60 years may not seem like much, but the scale of the oceans indicates how much energy is necessary to heat it up that much. The oceans cannot contain the additional heat from human abuses to the planet on a permanent basis. Sea surface temperatures were also unusually high in Australia last year, resulting in extreme heat and drought in some places and flooding in others.

Expanding water heats up and then moves on shore. Some of the largest cities of the country on the ocean shores are in great danger of inundation, a fact made very obvious a year ago when Superstorm Sandy destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes. According to a study published late last year in Scientific Reports, climate change will push sea levels two feet higher by 2083 and eight feet higher by the year 2200, causing large sections of Miami, Boston, and up to 1,400 other cities under water.

People living inland suffer from more frequent and harsher tropical storms and hurricanes/cyclones. Warmer surface water dissipates more readily into vapor, making it easier for small ocean storms to escalate into larger, more powerful systems.

Global currents are responsible for regulating the planet’s temperature. The collapse of polar ice shelves and the warmer water disrupts these currents largely responsible for regulating the world’s temperature. The two polar vortexes of the past month clearly show the dramatic weather conditions occurring because of this disruption.

The die-off of the tiny krill will shrink the world’s food supply. At the base of the food chain, the krill are responsible for all the food that comes from the ocean. 

Science experts are cautious in their predictions, but 97 percent of the climate scientists agree that humans are responsible for climate change and that waiting to take care of the problem will cost more and more money as time goes on. Atmospheric carbon dioxide has already reached a high of 400 ppm; delaying mitigation for the next 15 years will mean that the atmospheric concentration levels won’t be under 530 ppm by 2100. That sounds a long way off, but babies born today would be only 84 years old in that year.

The ensuing 3.6-degree Fahrenheit increase by the end of this century will cause “a nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in late summer,” according to a recent report. The U.S. Department of Energy reported that 37% of the carbon emissions in 2012 came from coal-fired electricity. Ten countries were responsible for 70 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes.

Some conservative politicians believe in climate change, but they deny it openly because they come from an oil or coal state and want to get re-elected. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) admitted that he believed in climate change but doing anything about it would cost too much. The same thing happened with the revelation that smoking causes cancer.

People like Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) accuse the government of setting standards for polluting power plants in a purely partisan manner. Instead of discussing climate change, the chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee used one of 2013’s last seven days to talk about extraterrestrials in the hearing “Astrobiology: Search for Biosignatures in Our Solar System and Beyond.”

During the coming year, climate change and energy will be a major issue in the 2014 midterms, for example as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tries to protect his seat in what the GOP calls President Obama’s “war on coal.” The conservative American Energy Alliance will be pitted against wealthy green activists such as billionaire Tom Steyer, a former hedge fund manager who believes in environmental causes.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), chair of the Energy Committee, will be hit hard from crude oil export and offshore oil developers.  (Her city of New Orleans will be one of the first to sink into the water.) Other battlegrounds are Alaska as Democrat Sen. Mark Begich works to be re-elected in energy-involved open-seat states such as South Dakota and Montana.

What might be the most ludicrous argument against belief in climate change came from Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chair of the Energy and Power subcommittee, who said that “3.75 percent of all worldwide emissions come from human activity.” He fails to understand that the natural carbon dioxide emissions from animals, plants, and oceans are counterbalanced by natural absorption. The same thing doesn’t happen to the 30 gigatons of CO2 from burning the planet’s forests and extracting hydrocarbons that has destroyed the equilibrium of the planet and emitting “super pollutants.”

People who think that the United States is separate from the rest of the world should read the study showing that air pollution from China, caused by manufacturing of goods that China sells to the U.S., is polluting the air in the United States.

And that’s the State of the Planet.


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