Continuing from Part 1: Monster #2 Greenhouse Gases (“GHG”) alter ecosystems.
The biggest impact of anthropogenic GHG hits the oceans. There is no doubt about the importance of the oceans as a great sink, 2/3rds of the planet. After all, the oceans have saved humanity’s butt ever since industrialization started emitting CO2 over 200 years ago.
Sorrowfully, CO2 with consequent global warming, when excessive, literally kills the oceans. As it happens, the oceans absorb 30-40% of CO2 and 80-90% of planetary heat. Otherwise, one can only imagine the awesomely horrendous, gruesome, horrid consequences, but maybe not, as human imagination has trouble focusing on total annihilation. It never seems a reality.
However, a new carbon sink theory claims the oceans have maxed-out, thus unable to absorb additional CO2 after taking up approximately 130B tons of CO2 over the past century (all-time approximately 38,000 gigatons of CO2, which is 16xs terrestrial CO2).
Further to the point, it is believed the oceans could reverse course and start emitting CO2, a “reverse sink,” at some juncture. The implications are daunting, putting it oh so mildly.
Also, dreadfully, ocean chemistry is changing because of excessive CO2, more acidic, thus imperiling the life cycle of pteropods, tiny pea-like free-swimming snails at the base of the food chain that multiply by the billions, maybe trillions, serving as a source of sustenance for everything from krill to large whales. Analyses of pteropods in the Southern Ocean revealed failure to fully develop protective outer shells (acidification at work), which inhibits maturation and reproduction. It goes without saying, after enough time, it could evolve into a major ecosystem collapse.
Not only is the marine food chain at risk, excessive warming kills coral, for example, one-half of the Great Barrier Reef, one of Nature’s Seven Wonders of the World, died in 2016-17 from extreme heat. Scientists around the world were, and still are, totally freaked-out.
Making matters even worse yet, a recent long-term study shows plankton production down 40% over the past 50 years. This is one more endangered resource of planetary oxygen, too much heat.
Additionally (more nasty stuff) global warming slows down the thermohaline, ocean conveyor belt, which is now at its slowest in 1,600 years. The thermohaline is the deep-water circulation pattern around the world that forms the structure of ocean currents and ocean health.
Given enough time, in addition to other nasty repercussions, the slowing thermohaline will cause Europe to turn colder than ordinary rather than experience a temperate climate as the great conveyor belt brings warm tropical waters to Europe’s shorelines; it’s why Paris’s January temps average 38 F even though Paris is 3 degrees farther north latitude than is North Dakota (12 F January temps). It’s paradoxical in the face of global warming, which may bail Europe out of an icy hole, but to what avail?
Topping off the above-mentioned impending ecosystem disasters, global warming is killing off underwater kelp forests, key to survival for many species. Along the northern California coast for hundreds of miles bull kelp forests died. Australia now lists its giant kelp forests as an “endangered ecological zone” (read all about it, Google: “As Oceans Warm, The World’s Kelp Forests Begin To Disappear,” YaleEnvironment360, Nov. 11, 2017)
Finally, within the category of monster #2, GHGs altering the planet: Methane clathrates in the Arctic pose extraordinary risks to all humanity, especially in the shallow waters, depth 50m, of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, A joint U.S./Russian research effort out of the University of Alaska/Fairbanks has discovered ever-increasing zones of methane bubbling to surface, in some cases up to a mile in diameter. The major concern is the risk of a massive methane burp of 50 gigatons, or thereabouts, versus only 5 gigatons of CH4 currently in the atmosphere. Hands down, the consequences would be dreadful.
According to the esteemed Arctic ice authority, professor emeritus Cambridge, Dr. Peter Wadhams (Farewell to Ice, Oxford University Press, 2017) in response to the question: “Can civilization withstand a 50-gigaton CH4 burp?” His answer: “No, I don’t think it can.”
Monster #3 concerns collapsing ecosystems, which may be a problem of more immediate urgency than CO2 and global warming, as hard as that is to accept or believe. Some things are simply impossible to grasp.
The Colorado River Basin ecosystem –CRB- may be the prototype of collapsing ecosystems as a result of the human footprint. The collapse is happening now as two forces combine to rip it apart at the seams, (1) excessive GHGs warm the planet and alter hydrology systems such that the Rocky Mountains, the source of the river, receive less moisture in the form of snow, and (2) human consumption, as well as water usage mismanagement, drains the system dry.
Just ask Las Vegas as they installed a “third straw” to suck up the last remaining drops at Lake Mead. “The risks of Lake Mead dropping to catastrophically low levels have ramped up dramatically, say federal officials.” (Tony Davis, Risks to Lake Mead, Colorado River Intensifying Greatly, Federal Officials Say, Arizona Daily Star, June 29, 2018)
Brenda Burman is Trump’s appointee as commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, the only Trump appointee to acknowledge in Senate confirmation hearings that climate change is not a hoax. According to Ms Burman: “We need action and we need it now. We can’t afford to wait for a crisis to implement drought contingency plans,” referencing the Southwest.
According to the Bureau, the Southwest is experiencing its worst drought in 1,200 years. So, there’s little mystery as to why Ms Burman doesn’t believe global warming/climate change is a hoax.
Further to the point, the Bureau says 2018 Rocky Mountain runoff will be down 40% in the midst of a 19-year penetrating drought. Ipso facto, there is a high probability of the “first-ever water shortage in the Colorado River Basin- ecosystem” in the near future, which could literally start the process of choking-off major metropolitan areas and crucial farming regions from adequate water supplies.
According to the rules and regs for the Colorado River Basin -ecosystem, the first cuts will hit the city of Phoenix, which could lose 20% of its water flow. Thus, Phoenix may become the next Cape Town (pop 4 mil), which is rationing a drought-induced 13 gallons per day, or enough for 3-4 hefty toilet flushes.
America is not the only country experiencing severe drought conditions. The entire Middle East Mediterranean coastline is drying up faster than anywhere else on the planet. Thus, spawning eco migrants by the tens of thousands. Fourteen (14) Middle East and North African countries are among the most water-stressed in the world. Eco-migrants will continue to be a fixture for decades to come.
Monster #3 concerning ecosystems collapsing is also all about loss of insect abundance as insects are primary to creation and support of soil, new soil, aerate soil, and pollinate crops, ecosystems that support all life. The way it works is as follows: Insects do fine without humans but humans cannot exist without insects. As such, insect decimation throughout the planet is one of the biggest crimes of the century, and it may be a crime in the strictest sense of the word.
Insect abundance has taken a huge hit as of late because ours is the first ever pesticide-based agricultural society, which may be the origin of massive insect decimation. What else could it be? The numbers speak for themselves:
According to the Krefeld Entomological Society, founded in 1905, and dedicated to tracking insect abundance at 100 nature reserves, recent readings have shown a drop of up to 80% in flying insect abundance, extinction-type numbers. For example, hoverflies (pollinators) entrapped in 1989 numbered 17,291 whereas 25 years later at the same locations 2,737.
Jack Hasenpusch, owner of the renowned Australian Insect Farm, is dumbfounded over the loss of insects.
Australian researcher Dr. Cameron Webb claims researchers around the world are at a loss to explain losses.
The Stanford University Global Index for invertebrates is down 40% over the past 40 years.
Connecting the dots, it appears that humans are poisoning the planet. According to Julian Cribb, author of Surviving the 21st Century: “Ours is a poisoned planet – This explosion in chemicals happened so rapidly people are unaware.”
Each year an avalanche of toxic chemicals, amounting to 250B tons, drips over the earth, which over time, will sanitize all life, thus turning the planet into a gooey glob that glistens dazzlingly orange, not vividly blue.
Ecosystems worldwide depend upon insects but sorrowfully insect abundance already shows extinction-type losses. This is a life and death issue that is too easily overlooked. After all, householders are all-in for bug exterminations. It’s the prominent mindset.
The impending asteroid collision replication is now on standby, but clearly, three monster climatic events are on a collision course as the forces of the Great Acceleration triggers one tipping point after another, no turning back. Already, year-over-year, scientists are surprised by past projections, always too low in hindsight!
Ten years ago, the British government commissioned a study, the Stern Report (2008), assuming a “business as usual analysis of worst-case climate change.” It was the first ever major study undertaken and serves as a seminal document of 700 pages. Here are the conclusions from ten years ago:
Sea rise of 15-20 feet in a few decades
Florida, NYC, London, Tokyo underwater
1 billion people displaced, sick, or dead
Massive water and food shortages
Food and water wars throughout the planet
The Stern Report likely still serves as a reliable road map for what happens going forward, “assuming business as usual.” However, the report is dated as CO2 is increasing at a 50% faster rate today than in 2008, which likely means the report is way too conservative. (Here we go again with expectations too low with hindsight).
Otherwise, no update needed, other than tweaking (increasing by a lot, really a lot, and maybe even more yet) the number of people displaced, sick, or dead.
Postscript: “The rate of carbon dioxide growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age. This is a real shock to the atmosphere.” Pieter Tans, atmospheric scientist, Global Monitoring Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, NOAA, 2018.
Still, think about it, Trump is president.