The planet has warmed by 0.85C since the industrial revolution, or since 1880, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is the baseline for measurement by the scientific community. That doesn’t seem like much; it’s such a small number, less than one (1).
But, remarkably, the increase of 0.85C happened within 150 years, whereas historically it normally took much, much longer for the planet’s temperature to increase by that amount. Ostensibly, it’s speeding up by quite a bit.
Beware! The 0.85C temp increase is mere triviality when compared to some prior events in the paleoclimatic record books. An ominous event much more threatening than a 0.85C increase may be lurking in the shadows. Paleoclimatic studies confirm Earth’s climate has turned nasty “on a dime of geological time,” within little more than a decade, more on this later.
Not only that, temperature changes of only two (2C) degrees Celsius warmer than today can, and did, equate to 16 feet of water for NYC whereas only four (4C) degrees Celsius cooler than today can, and did, equate to a block of ice 1.24 miles thick surrounding NYC. Those two seemingly small numbers, 2C and 4C, are examples used in Sir David Attenborough’s film, Are We Changing Planet Earth? BBC Natural History Unit, BBC One.
Attenborough’s film unequivocally answers the question its title poses: “Yes, we are.”
As explained in the film, seemingly small temperature changes have huge planetary impact, for example: 160,000 years ago when temperatures were 4C cooler than today, NYC would have been in a block of ice 1.25 miles thick.
Then, 30,000 years later, when temperatures were 2C warmer than today, NYC would have been in 16 feet of water.
Those numerical relationships are breathtaking as well as disconcerting, therefore, it’s little wonder that scientists like Dr. James Hansen, who first alerted the world to global warming at a Senate hearing in 1988, agonizes about increasing temperatures that are seemingly so small, yet, which have enormous impact on the climate system.
But, of course, there is qualm by those who do not accept anthropogenic (aka: man-made) climate change, blabbering: “The climate always changes.” Please, that cop-out misses a very significant point, which is “rate of change.” In that regard, it’s entirely possible the rate of change today is “accelerating,” similar to 55 million years ago when temperature change was extraordinarily brisk, in a “geological instant.”
Scientifically, the genesis of climate change is up in the sky, thousands of feet above. It’s where the proverbial “rubber meets the road.” Up above, in the atmosphere, determines what happens down below.
According to Kerry Emanuel, professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (who incidentally is a self-professed politically conservative Republican), What We Know About Climate Change, MIT, April 11, 2014: “Earth’s climate is not stable [and] Anthropogenic climate change is not controversial among climate scientists [and] Human activities influence the atmosphere.”
Professor Emanuel describes the atmosphere as follows: It primarily consists of Oxygen (O2), Nitrogen (N2) and Argon (Ar). These elements “make up 99% of the atmosphere but are almost entirely transparent to solar radiation and terrestrial radiation.” Thus, 99% of the chemical composition of the atmosphere does not cause global warming.
Singularly, it is less than 1% of the atmosphere or “trace gases” that determines whether the planet is inhabitable. Those trace greenhouse gases make the difference between below freezing temperatures and hot temperatures. They entrap solar radiation, thus, the greenhouse effect. It’s also why we have a habitable planet. Yes, less than 1% of the atmosphere makes planet Earth a good place to live.
Accordingly, Earth’s climate is “most influenced by long-lived greenhouse gases like Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), and Methane (CH4) that altogether comprise less than 1% of the mass of atmosphere. These trace elements make the lower atmosphere nearly opaque to infrared radiation, though still largely transparent to solar radiation,” Ibid.
“Interestingly, water vapor (H2O) is an important greenhouse gas, but responds to atmospheric temperature change on a time scale of about 2 weeks,” Ibid. It’s a feedback for climate. If you raise the temperature, you’ll have more water vapor.
Nevertheless, the most important gases controlling temperature are the long-lived gases like CO2 and CH4.
As further explained by Dr. Emanuel: “CO2 concentration is up by 43% since the dawn of the industrial revolution… [Historically] any doubling of percent of CO2 in the atmosphere increased temperatures 4C… CO2 is on track to double during current lifetimes.”
The “Geological Instant”
Paleoclimatologists study ice core and sediment samples to determine with remarkable accuracy how the climate changed millions of years ago. In fact, as recently as tens-of-thousands of years ago, Greenland’s temperature shot up by 5C-6C within a couple decades, not over hundreds of years and not over thousands of years. (Source, Paul Beckwith, Laboratory for Paleoclimatology and Climatology, University of Ottawa, COP20: Global Arctic Methane Emergency #2, Dec. 5, 2014 Lima, Peru).
Furthermore, only recently, scientists from Rutgers University changed the course of scientific thought. Previously, scientists thought that 55 million years ago global temperatures took 10,000 years to increase by 5C. Now, a seminal sediment study by Rutgers University scientists has proven it only took 13 years for global temperatures to increase by 5C (Morgan Schaller and James Wright, New Finding Shows Climate Change Can Happen in a Geological Instant, Research News at Rutgers, October 6, 2013.)
“We’ve shown unequivocally what happens when CO2 increases dramatically- as it is now, and as it did 55 million years ago,” Ibid.
Indeed, Dr. James Wright’s haunting words “as it is now” are discomforting, especially in light of his discovery that temps zoomed upwards by an astonishing 5C within only 13 years!
Earth’s Climate is Not Stable
“Glacier Man,” a 74-year old former engineer named Chewang Norphel in Ladkah, India at 10,000 feet elevation imparts real time hard-core evidence that Earth’s climate is not stable. In fact, because of climatic instability, he built ten (10) artificial human-made glaciers to provide water for 10,000 villagers in the Himalayas.
Reflecting back on his retirement in 1995, Norphel says: “Every village I visited it would be the same thing: water scarcity. Glaciers were vanishing and streams were disappearing. People would ask me to bring them water. The government was starting to bring in grain rations. Water is the most precious commodity here,” Gaia Vince (former editor of the journal Nature Climate Change, news editor of Nature), Adventures in the Anthropocene,” Milkweed Editions, 2014, pgs. 56-57.
Those villagers, who live in the ancient kingdom of Ladakh, in India’s Trans-Himalaya, where glaciers have routinely provided water since time immemorial, are living testimony that Earth’s climate is not stable.
Not only that, on a worldwide atmospheric basis, trace gases as measured by sites around the planet register “off the map” concentrations. Methane, CH4, which was 720 ppb pre-industrial is 2,362 ppb today. Carbon dioxide, CO2, which was 280 ppm pre-industrial, is 400 ppm today, compelling evidence that Earth’s climate is not stable. By way of historical reference, over the past 20,000 years CO2 ranged between 180-to-280 ppm.
Moreover, the planet’s ice caps and glaciers are melting like never before in modern history, another major clue of instability. As for example, Arctic sea ice volume in September 1980 was 17,000 km3. Today, 35 years later: “Monthly averaged ice volume for September 2014 was 6,970 km3,” PIOMAS, Arctic Sea Ice Volume Reanalysis, Polar Science Center-Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington.
Climate change is most prominent where people do not see it!
Consequently, there are serious, informed scientists who believe the Arctic will be ice-free during the month of September, its annual minimal, within a few years. The corollary for the climate could be horrendous, devastating, and deathly. In other words, a climate holocaust may be lurking in the shadows. Such as, Arctic sea ice loss causing massive release of methane, smothering the Northern Hemisphere and life changing forever, as the planet heats up in a “geological instant.”
Along those same lines, Ira Leifer, Ph.D., Atmospheric Science at the Marine Sciences Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, claims: “Some scientists are indicating we should make plans to adapt to a 4C hotter world. While prudent, one wonders what portion of the population could adapt to such a world. My view is that it’s just a few thousand people seeking refuge in the Arctic or Antarctica.”
Egads! The End.
Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org