Lost Opportunities at Copenhagen, Life at 3.6 Degrees Warmer

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Craig Scott Goldsmith, author of the new book, “UNINHABITABLE a case for caution,” comments on the recent Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

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We will need to start preparing for the symphony of catastrophes that will befall us in our bid to adapt to life at 3.6 degrees warmer...We are now heading into a war with nature that we cannot win and may not even survive.

According to Craig Scott Goldsmith, author of the new book, “UNINHABITABLE a case for caution,"

“We will need to start preparing for the symphony of catastrophes that will befall us in our bid to adapt to life at 3.6 degrees on average warmer. It appears that the back room agreement at the Copenhagen summit of world leaders on Climate Change was to try and contain temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and to stabilize C02 at 550 parts per million (ppm) or less by 2050.

“Simultaneously we will bring online at least 1000 new coal fire burning plants, one per week in China alone. We will add 2 billion additional automobiles onto the world’s highways and fossil fuel engines will still power 70% of them. We already have a 14.5-year inventory of gasoline-powered automobiles on the road. We will be bringing an additional 2 billion more people onto an already overcrowded and overburdened planet each bringing with them a heavy carbon footprint. This will certainly swamp any real C02 reduction efforts that have been tentatively agreed to without any binding agreement or penalties for countries that do not comply.

“We have debated and denied away our best opportunity to address this problem over the last 20 years. We are now heading into a war with nature that we cannot win and may not even survive. She will not negotiate nor capitulate and has all the time in the world to wear us down then knock us out. We have had skirmishes and even some major regional battles with her before as we have dammed her rivers, cut down her forests and cleared her land.

“But this will be the first world war with nature with no place to run. We have been constantly changing the composition of our atmosphere a little more each day since about 1750 and just as the Stramatolites did in eons past when the Cyanobacteria was able to change the C02 carbon dioxide dominated atmosphere into an oxygen rich atmosphere where mammals and oxygen breathing marine species could more readily multiply, usurping the plants and reptiles that had thrived in the warmer C02 environment. We have now changed our atmosphere that has been stable for the last 650,000 years by digging up ancient sunlight stored in plants through photosynthesis. When the plants died they were buried in the earth where pressure turned them into carbon fossils of coal, oil, and gas. We are now digging up those ancient carbon deposits and burning them for energy, re-injecting the C02 and other green house gasses like methane and nitrous oxide back up into our atmosphere. In the process we are turning back our atmospheric clock to an earlier time in earth’s history when tropical plants, reptiles, mosquitoes, bacteria and vector borne viruses thrived, but it was not necessarily a good time for mammals or other species.

“If you put 1000 (ppm) of C02 into a green house you will kill every fly, nat, spider or any other oxygen-breathing creature in that green house. The earth acts like one giant green house with protective ozone that keeps out excessive radiation and a troposphere that helps keep heat in. We have changed our atmospheric composition from 285 (ppm) of C02 to 389 (ppm) in a little over 150 yrs since the industrial revolution began in earnest and the invention of the automobile. We now have the same C02 levels as the Pliocene Era of about 2.5 million years ago when temperatures were about 3 degrees on average warmer, the same approximate temperature they want us to try to adapt to.

“What they don’t tell you is that if you add in the methane and nitrous oxide emissions into the equation we are already at 433 (ppm) and we are adding 2 (ppm) of C02 per year and 1 part methane and nitrous oxide every year; at that rate we will pass a potential tipping point of 440 (ppm) within 2.5 yrs or in 2012; 440 (ppm) to 550 (ppm) is the range that many scientist fear could trigger a positive feed back loop, where warming initiates more warming or runaway global warming.

“We are now at the beginning of the 6th major extinction event in earth’s long history and have already lost hundreds of species. We Homo Sapiens are the sole survivors of over 24 hominids in our ancestral family tree. I cannot help but think that the Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon and all our other ancestral cousins thought, we have some nice caves here, the latest spear chucking and fire making technology. We are pretty smart. We have worked together to kill off the Mammoths, Saber Tooth tigers and just about every other large animal around. I’d say we’re in pretty good shape here. Hey, what could possibly go wrong?

“Of the last 5 major extinction events in Earths history, 4 were triggered by rising C02, most likely from volcanic activity until it triggered a massive disassociation of methane which increased temperatures until it triggered oceanic anoxia. We know this because light carbon 12 the telltale fingerprint of methane was left behind in all 4 major extinction events. All but the one that killed off the dinosaurs and a giant meteor appears to be the culprit there having left the finger print of Iridium in that event.

“Methane Hydrate is 23 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than C02 and represents an unimaginable 10% of the entire biomass of the planet. Much of it buried in the frozen Tundra of Alaska and the Artic lakes region of Siberia, which by itself contains an estimated 70 billion tons of methane. There are countless more giga tons of methane located in the shallow seas around the world like in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Calif. and Louisiana just waiting for warmer temperatures to melt the lattice ice crystals that holds the methane molecules safely in place. Once released, if the disassociation is large enough, it will have an immediate impact on temperature sending it soaring another 3 to 10 degrees higher than the scientists are predicting.

“The increased temperature would kill off the one-cell organisms that create oxygen in the oceans, as they will not be able to form the hard outer shell that allows them to survive. As they die off the oceans will become more acidic, void of enough oxygen to support marine life, the coral reefs, the incubator for most marine life, will die off from excessive heat. The oceans will become one huge dead zone. It has happened before.

“Both methane disassociation in the lakes region of Siberia and oceanic acidification appear to be happening now and are likely to increase as our C02 emissions continue to rise. For the first time in over a decade they have detected 27 million more tons of methane escaping into the atmosphere mostly from the Lakes region of Siberia a 58% to 63% increase 3 years in row now. The oceans are becoming more acidic as they try to absorb more and more of our carbon dioxide emissions. There are now over 250 documented dead zones covering all of the oceans of the world.

“In short, we may have already lit the fuse of our own demise. The only question that remains is not who or what is causing it, but when will the Eco-Bomb go off and will we have the ability to adapt to it once it does? When civilization have disappeared in the past it has never been just one thing but a combination of calamites that combined to batter the inhabitants until their societies collapse. In the current climate scenario it would likely start with a reduction of the carrying capacity of the planet or our ability to feed the planets ever growing population. The Pentagon has projected a 15% drop in our carrying capacity by 2020, due to excessive heat. Lower harvests would cause mass starvation for both people and the livestock they depend on, regional conflicts would escalate and regional nuclear conflict becomes much more likely.

“The acidification of the oceans would intensify the stress on society killing off most of the commercial fish species that have survived over fishing. A massive methane disassociation in the Gulf of Mexico or in the Siberian Lakes region would drive up temperatures killing countless numbers of people. Livestock would die of thirst in the fields. Dwindling fresh water supplies would be cause for further conflicts.

“The melting glaciers in the Antarctic could dump enough fresh water into the Atlantic to completely shut down the North Atlantic Current the oceans conveyor belt that brings warm weather to Europe. It would be like switching off the world’s heat thermostat, plunging much of the world that depends on warmer weather for their harvests into the next ice age, just when we may have figured out how to adapt to the searing heat. The wild weather fluctuations could send our species reeling toward the fate of the other 24 Hominids that had to deal with an unforgiving world that scientists say adapt quickly or go extinct.

“Is there a way out? Perhaps if we were to act quickly and with enough mobilization effort to address the size of the problem, there still may be a small window of time left to prevent the most serious consequences of global warming from occurring. However many scientists quietly feel we have squandered our chances and that the time for effective action may have already past us by. In any case it would take extraordinary leadership, but the one way we that we could secure our future is through Geo- Engineering.

“Geo- Engineering is the answer to insuring we will have the time that we need to transition over to safer renewable energy, but there is a lack of urgency to find and implement a good solution, like removing C02 from the atmosphere or seeding the oceans to create blooms of C02 eating algae, or sequestering C02 underground and so forth. This is understandable as there are many who fear that tinkering with our atmosphere is just too risky but we are in fact tinkering with it anyway through our emissions and to our detriment. So why not engineer our atmosphere as we do our water and crops and just about every other natural thing that we get our hands on, only engineer it to benefit us and put the odds of survival back in our favor?

“When the Titanic spotted that iceberg dead ahead almost 100 yrs ago, she had only 37 seconds to react in exactly the right way to avert disaster. Now imagine if that iceberg was invisible, odorless and silently but relentlessly approaching and you have the idea of why attempts to avert the converging disasters of rising C02, methane disassociation and oceanic anoxia is proceeding so slowly. Now add in a very healthy dose of denial, (it is not opinion, its chemistry) and you have the recipe for a disaster of the Permian kind when 95% of all life disappeared. It took anouther150 million years for life to rebound. It has taken 3.5 billion years for life to create one species as smart and as adaptable as Homo Sapiens but that does not mean we are a very wise species.

“If we choose not to heed the 2600 scientists (the IPPC) from around the world and the conclusions they have reached from a monumental amount of research, overwhelming data, with their consensus being verified by super computers that have run millions of models on Climate Change. If we refuse to acknowledge the countless life forms from plants to pine beetles, chipmunks and butterflies that are moving higher up and to the cooler north. If we fail to see the new viruses like Sars, and West Nile virus expanding into new territories previously untouched by these tropical diseases. If we simply refuse to heed these warnings and proceed with business as usual building more coal fire plants to gain an economic or competitive advantage, then like the Titanic that speeded up ignoring all warnings of danger ahead, then we to could be doomed, for not slowing down long enough to properly evaluate the risks ahead and for not responding in time. We will not get a second chance to get it right, nature is very unforgiving. The 99% extinction rate suggests she doesn’t suffer fools for long, about 150 years or about 2 generations would be my guess, a blink in geological time and even if some of our species does survive the 3.6 degrees increase in temperature we will still lose the Amazon Forests the lungs of our planet, Australia will no longer be able to support agriculture on over 90% of its land, and there will be no more tuna fish. I do not know about you but I don’t think I want to live in a world with out tuna fish sandwiches.”

C.S Goldsmith is author of “UNINHABITABLE a case for caution,” available at Barnes & Noble. Goldsmith has spent over 10 years studying the Climate Change issue from the risk assessment perspective of the Insurance industry.

To schedule an interview with Craig Scott Goldsmith, please contact Robert Schechter at 212-499-6809.

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