November 17, 2007

Global Climate Change Accelerating

I'm debating with myself. Will George Bush go down in history as a war criminal or global climate change criminal? Perhaps both, but certainly the latter. People in the future might forget the wars, and Bush might escape prosecution on war crimes, but they will be living the global climate disaster.

When I read that scientists have concluded global warming is accelerating my thought was, "This means they are VERY certain about global warming." That comes from my physics background; detecting "acceleration" means you already know something about the velocity of the trend. By analogy, it's one thing to see a car is moving in a particular direction at some velocity, but it's more difficult to tell that it's picking up speed. Scientists have apparently confirmed the latter.

Bush's White House is just grasping the fact that the car is moving in the direction of climate change. I doubt they appreciate the fact that it's picking up speed.

The Associated Press writes, "Sharon Hays, a White House science official and head of the U.S. delegation, said the certainty of climate change was clearer now than when Bush rejected Kyoto." Hays said,
What's changed since 2001 is the scientific certainty that this is happening.... Back in 2001 the IPCC report said it is likely that humans were having an impact on the climate...

The AP adds, "but confidence in human responsibility had increased since then."

Yvo de Boer, the U.N.'s top climate change official, recently said,

What's new is the clarity of the signal, how clear the scientific message is ... "The politicians have no excuse not to act.

To toss in another physics concept, the trend in global warming has inertia, which means, even if the foot is eased, the car will simply drop to a constant velocity (we'll keep getting warmer); even if the foot is taken off the gas pedal and the car slows down, it will keep going in the same direction (getting warmer); even if the brakes are applied, it will keep going in the same direction (getting warmer). Inertia.

Actually, the point about inertia isn't new, but it is news in the corporate media. This was known in the mid-1990s when I was grad school. There's a physical reason for it. As the earth warms, and the northern regions locked in permafrost get soggy, the frozen organic matter is subject to bacteria decay and gives off methane, a greenhouse gas that's at least ten-times as efficient as carbon dioxide in trapping solar radiation in the earth's changing atmosphere. As the earth warms, and permafrost melts, more of this gas is released, thereby generating more gas, leading to more warming in a positive feedback process. Inertia

In theory, this process could spin out of control, that is, lead to the "runaway greenhouse effect." It's called "runaway" because it runs away from human control to do anything about it. It could lead to the total demise of the Earth.

The sick reality is that the Bush crony capitalists, like Blackwater World Wide, are positioning themselves to profit from this emerging disaster. I've not read Naomi Klein's recent book on disaster capitalism, but I'd have to guess it touches on this topic. If not, her paperback version of The Shock Doctrine should.


Associated Press, UN panel gives dire warming forecast, ARTHUR MAX, November 17, 2007.


Simmons said...

During the last 7 years the we've had an abundance of chances to come to an international global climate agreement - and Bush has missed every chance. It only makes it worse that Al Gore was his 2000 opponent.

McQ said...

You give George Bush too much credit. He doesn't have the power to tax, yet along effect climate change. No man does. You have to be arrogant to think we can do anything about this.

GDAEman said...


Thanks for visiting my site. Despite our disagreement, at least you're interested enough in the global climate change issue to comment on it. Most people ignore it.

You commented that it's "arrogant" to think humans can change the climate. Maybe it's arrogant to think we can change it intentionally, but there's very strong evidence that humans have already changed it on accident.

As you probably know, the climate is significantly affected by the chemical composition of the atmosphere. A simple example: If there's enough water vapor in the atmosphere, clouds form and it could possibly rain.

Similarly, solar radiation hits the earth, and some of the heat re-radiates back through the atmosphere as infra-red waves. It is well established that it's harder for the infra-red waves to pass through some kinds of gasses, e.g., methane and carbon dioxide (C02). As a consequence, it's likely that, as more C02 and methane build up in the atmosphere, more of the re-radiated heat will trapped by the atmosphere, rather than passing out into space.

There is no question that humans have changed the atmospheric chemistry. Ice cores, which trap gas in them as snow/ice layers year after year, reveal the history of C02 in the Earth's atmosphere. They show that since human's industrial revolution in the 1800s, C02 concentrations have increased dramatically. Since the 1960s, direct measurements of atmospheric C02 at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii confirm this trend.

Humans caused it. Can humans un-cause it? Given the potential for the Runaway Greenhouse Effect to wipe out life on Earth, we humans have an obligation to undo the damage, even if that's an arrogant proposition.