In the mid 1980’s science was pointing to a looming climate catastrophe. I stressed over this for a few years, but finally felt “Que Sera, Sera”. Now, 30+ years later, it is happening just as the science predicted. The scientist’s main concern was for how the destabilizing effects of the ensuing climate extremes would influence core survival matters, e.g., rising seas, floods, agriculture, disease, etc.
Earth’s climate is changing rapidly and we are responsible for much, if not all, of this. Google [CNN Rubin & Paulson climate change video] for reports on this disaster. Even so, I don’t see this as a ‘humanity’ vs. ‘the Earth’ issue as some people do. Doing that would just be the same blame game we always play rather looking deeper.
Self-interest is a duel edge blade
Our concerns are actually the narrow emotional projections of personal mortality. It’s all about what “I want or worry about”. Self-interest rules us… and naturally so! While completely natural, expecting a better life in a better world is clearly stressful and futile. (See Science Proves Buddha Right! p.483.)
Thus, downplaying my desires and expectations allows me to see all this as part of nature’s eternal experiment. A lot in nature is uncomfortable, but adapting my outlook to conform to nature’s way makes the discomfort more bearable. As chapter 3 notes, Doing without doing, following without exception rules.
Ironically, self-interest got us into this climate predicament in the first place. Self-interest instinctively drives us to maximize our comfort and security, and we have the means now to achieve that. I wonder where self-interest will take us to vis-à-vis genetic engineering. Chapter 16’s Not knowing the constant, rash actions lead to ominous results offers us a clue.
One noteworthy aspect of nature is how it is an experiment in progress. Indeed, I’d say experimentation is a fundamental feature of the way. Nature never plans ahead-of-time for anything. “Any means to an end” is not how nature rolls. On the other hand, living things can evolve strong proactive-like instincts for planning… for the onset of winter, for example. However, no animals, humans included, evolved to be inherently proactive. Indeed, it is just the opposite. All animals are biologically set up to react to real contemporaneous events, not imagined future ones. If animals could really be proactive, they’d often overact and burn themselves out. In reality, all we humans really do is imagine and expect ourselves, and especially others, to be capable of being proactive and acting wisely. We don’t see ourselves as we are, but instead see ourselves as we imagine and expect ourselves to be.
Broadly speaking, evolution itself is a non-proactive life-process of adapting to current circumstances to maximize security and comfort (survival)… all as nature goes along its merry way. Only when natural conditions are stable and conducive enough does life have a chance to set up shop. When an asteroid strikes as it did 50 million years ago, or the atmosphere bubbles away, as it did on Mars, the jig is up for some or all living things.
Whew! At least our atmosphere isn’t bubbling away
History tells me that future predictions have invariably turned out false, either worse or better than projected. Generally, they’ve turned out better than projected because of human fear and our fascination with disaster. I mean, bad news is good news, and good news is no news. On the other hand, there is a lot of science behind these projections, unlike the multitude of apocalyptic prophecies born of myth and fear.
At 400 parts per million, greenhouse gas concentration is now higher than it has been for millions of years: Google [Carbon dioxide in atmosphere reaches landmark level and Arctic were 8 degrees Celsius warmer than they are today]. Here is a summary…
On May 9, the atmosphere above Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano reached a milestone: For the first time since record keeping began there in 1958, the daily mean carbon dioxide concentration reached 400 parts per million.
The Mauna Loa Observatory the world’s oldest continuous monitoring station for carbon dioxide. In spring of 2012, Alaska, Canada and several other Arctic locations surpassed the 400 ppm benchmark. Parts of the Southern Hemisphere should top 400 ppm within the next few years. And by 2016, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expect global average concentrations of the greenhouse gas to hit 400 ppm.
The last time Earth’s global CO2 concentrations were that high was during the Pliocene epoch, 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago, when summers in the Arctic were 8 degrees Celsius warmer than they are today. CO2 levels have been rising sharply with the increase in fossil-fuel burning since the Industrial Revolution, when the global average was 280 ppm. The rise of CO2 has accelerated in recent decades. In the late 1950s, CO2 concentrations increased about 0.7 ppm per year. In the last 10 years, that rate jumped to 2.1 ppm per year.
On the plus side, simulations suggest that the long-term effect on sea level is not as dire as some predictions, as a report in Nature hints …
The increasing pace of ice breaking off Greenland’s glaciers and dumping into the ocean may not actually be a warning sign of runaway ice loss and catastrophic sea level rise, researchers report in the May 9 Nature.
Greenland’s ice sheet raises sea level when the surface melts or when glaciers flow into the sea and discharge icebergs. Scientists have been concerned that the last decade’s acceleration in iceberg calving would continue unchecked. Simulations have been unable to verify or refute those fears because it’s difficult to account for all of the processes, such as warm seawater’s melting of a glacier’s base, that influence how the streams of ice move and shed icebergs.
Now, Faezeh Nick of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium and colleagues have incorporated all of these variables into a simulation that predicts the activity of four of Greenland’s main glaciers. In a scenario where global temperatures warm 2.8 degrees Celsius by 2100, the glaciers’ rate of ice loss eventually levels off, the simulation suggests. In total, the four glaciers could raise sea level by about 1 centimeter by 2100.
Applying the findings to the rest of the island’s glaciers, the researchers predict Greenland could add as much as 18.3 centimeters to sea level by the end of the century. That amount is about 35 centimeters less than a previous estimate that extrapolated Greenland’s current ice loss acceleration into the future.
Reports on Global Warming
For the most recent research on global warming, google [NASA Climate Change]. This shows what we and our descendants can expect over the coming decades, if not centuries. This is eye opening, but not a done deal. After all, there may be yet unseen benefits to global warming. Natures rule appears to be that every disadvantage comes with a complementary advantage for one thing or another. Either way, chapter 38 is sobering, Foreknowledge of the way, magnificent yet a beginning of folly.
UPDATE 2020: The less dire predictions made in past decades probably aren’t turning out to be true. Both Greenland’s and Antarctica’s glaciers are melting much faster than projected. If anything, scientific predictions are overly conservative, as we normally want scientific forecasts to be.
No doubt, humanity is in for an epic challenge. Setting my personal interests aside, I still assume this climate change catastrophe will serve up profound benefits for humanity ultimately, although that may not be until the year 3000. We just need to be a little patient. Finally, it is quite possible that by the time we realized there was a problem with CO2 it was too late. We’re just not as intelligent or capable of being proactive as we imagine ourselves to be!
CBS Up in the air: Carbon dioxide at a record level high
CBS Historically high levels of carbon dioxide recorded in Hawaii
CBS Why climate change can be denied no longer
CBS Why is it still so cold? “Global weirding” behind spring chill
CBS Headlines at 8:30: As global temperatures rise