Friday, July 13, 2012

Ignorance Part II

Continuing to try to answer the question I posed near the top of my last blog: What is it that others see in Global warming that I dont, or why do I see things that others apparently don't?

If you search on the web for "Global Warming Denial," most of what you find relates to willing denial because the denier doesn't accept the basic science reported through the IPCC.  There is a reluctance to believe that such bodies are presenting valid results, or that they are pursuing their own strange motivations.  This can only arise from ignorance.

There are those who claim that the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were fairly recently at levels far in excess of those of today -- 1500 ppm has been claimed within the last few thousand years.  I don't know where these figures come from, since I have not seen them in the literature*.  Indeed the greatest they have been over the last 15 million years, has been less than they are today -- 380 ppm.  (  In our experience as a species, we have never been subjected to levels greater than they are today.  The earliest evidence of the genus Homo is from about 2.3 million years ago (WikiPedia) and of Homo Sapiens much less than a million years ago, perhaps as little as 100,000 years.

Another search I have tried is to find books that support the hypothesis that global warming is not happening, and they certainly exist.  When you search on "Global Warming" on Amazon, you will find 26,704 listings.  If you search on "Climate Change" there are 63,435 listings.  Substantial numbers.

If you go through, a site dedicated to debunking the science, and trace through their bookstore, there are only 22 entries.  If you search on Amazon for "Global Warming Hoax" you will find 384 entries.  Either the hoax site is not trying, or most of the references are not calling it a hoax.

In any case the overwhelming majority of published books are not calling it a hoax.  Man-made global warming is a fact.

But setting the deniers aside for a moment (or two), there may be something else at work here.  Maybe we should welcome the idea that the climate is getting warmer.  Despite many of the dire predictions of increased atmospheric turbulence, perhaps improvements will also appear.  Maybe its good that grapes will grow in the northern part of the Canadian Shield.  Maybe it is good that the Arctic will cease (for a time) to be ice bound, and the Polar Bear will go extinct.  Maybe its good that the Maldives will be flooded to of existence.  Maybe its good that the Antarctic ice shelves have vanished, and Penguins will go extinct.

Certainly there are those that embrace the change.  Sir Richard Branson has hosted a private conference of entrepreneurs (can't find a web reference to this though) asking, prudently, how to benefit from Global Warming.  If its going to happen, let's work out to get the best advantage from it.  On the other hand he has also set aside $25 million for work towards reducing global warming.  So maybe he's hedging his bets -- and I wish I could afford to do the same thing!

Personally I'm with Sir Richard, and Al Gore, and David Suzuki, and George Monbiot.  Unless we do something radical, we are heading for a precipice.  Unless we change directions we are heading to where we are going.

*  Going back many millions of years to the time of the dinosaurs and before that, there were periods when CO2 levels exceeded 20 times today's levels.  But that's not a climate that will or ever could sustain us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why ignorance?

Arrogance comes from ignorance; with knowledge comes humility.

It strikes me as absurd the way there are so many climate deniers, so many willing to believe that this is the best of all possible worlds, and that nothing can or should be done to disturb the course we are on.

Yet, for me, the course we are on is one of disaster, cataclysmic disaster.  What is it that others who do not share this view don't see?  Or that I don't see that they do?

The others of course are legion and include the prime minister of Canada, one King Stephen.  And the CEO of Exxon.

Now that's a staggering thought -- the person in charge of perhaps the largest corporation in history doesn't see the precipice: He was quoted recently as saying that technology will be the solution to global warming.

Well what's wrong with that?  Technology has got us a long way, surely it will continue to enable us to pursue our dreams?

The fundamental issue is that technology cannot get around the physical limitations of our planet.  There is a physical limit to the resources available to us.  That physical limit dictates how far we can grow, how big our economies can become, how many people the planet will tolerate.  Reducing our individual footprint -- how much of the planet's resources we individually consume, will help, but since we are already consuming (in the west at least) more than 4 planet's worth, the reduction to be made are enormous.  We have to reduce our individual consumption by 75%!  And continue our current living standards?  No way you say!  We want to continue to grow our consumptive way.  In fact, unless we do, our economies will suffer!  We will individually be less wealthy and that is not desirable.

What a conundrum!  We must grow to keep our economies vibrant.  We cannot grow because there are finite limits to our growth.

Which is the real problem of global warming.  Anthropogenic contributions to global warming are incontrovertible except to those who don't wish to know.  The rate at which the levels of CO2 are increasing are unprecedented and directly relatable to our human use of fossil fuels.  We show a staggering reluctance (and worse inability) to do anything about this, in the way of substantial reductions in the consumption of gas and oil.  We need an 80-90% reduction in order to avoid catastrophic ecological failure in this century.  Some say we have 10 years in which to take the appropriate action to avoid it.

Since the start of industrialization, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has grown from around 280 ppm (parts per million) a level known to have existed for millennia, to about 390 ppm today.  Global warming has already led to an increase in dramatic weather events, to the loss of very large chunks of sea ice from the Antarctic, the Larsen ice shelves, and to the substantial loss of the arctic ice cap.  350 ppm is the rallying cry to attempt to end global warming.  It is being suggested that if we reach 450 ppm, then the climate will become one that will not support life on this planet sufficient to support our continued existence: at that point coral reefs will vanish.  In other words unless we take action on this, and this is not technology, it is social action, we will be committing genocide on an enormous scale.  Technology is not the solution.

But there is hope.  There are many groups and individuals who are raising their voices to counter the ignorance of both the masses and of our governments, for example: The Post-Carbon Institute, Chris Hedges, Chris Martenson, the Via Campesina, the Degrowth movement, the David Suzuki Foundation,  the Transition Town movement, and many more.

Having got to here, I don't think I have answered the questions I posed in my third paragraph.  That, then, will be in the next blog.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Start up.

Hello blog readers!

Thought for today: How is it that evolution works when each incremental change can only be transferred one generation at a time?  No that doesn't make sense!  Since any change to the genome, can only influence survival up to the time of reproduction, a change that enables survival beyond that date, can have no direct effect on evolution!

Well I guess, continuing the stream of consciousness, it does, since it will operate on the next generation:  A change that enables longer term parenting, will have been passed on, even though the effect of that change will not be apparent until the offspring itself passes its genes on!  Self-reinforcing.

Convoluted!  No-one said that evolution was simple.

I have the view that most of the characteristics of mammals, were developed long ago in the primeval swamp.  All animals, have a similar skin; all livers function in the same way, etc.  The proteins and hormones that govern how nearly all our bodily functions happen were invented by biology long long ago.  The differences are subtle but because they are so similar, they must have been invented a long time ago, in order that the commonality we see in all species can exist.  We are a massive symbiont of (what is it?) some 300 trillion cells.  There are more bacteria in our guts than there are stars in our galaxy.

Just think on it, and try to deny the wonders of evolution!