Global Warming 1: Culprits, Scoundrels and Villains

January 29, 2007

All of us like a comfortable life. If we don’t have it, then we strive to achieve it. That attitude will kill us all, unless changed very soon. The comfortable life of today uses a lot of carbon based energy and carbon producing processes such as deforestation. The result is the emission of very harmful gases referred to as Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). These gases end up in the atmosphere, the oceans and miscellaneous other places. They cause Global Warming. CO2 greenhouse gas GHG emissions from a power plant

Millions of people already die each year due to pollution. Somehow that does not seem to bother us. Even so, these carbon intensive, expensive and dangerous habits may be taken away from us quite soon. That may be the good news from Global Warming.

Here is what no one wants to tell you. Global Warming will change your life much sooner than you’d ever believe. It won’t necessarily be that much worse in the long run, at least for our kids. It may end up far better. But there will, at best, be a period of sacrificing what billions of us work and wish for. No one knows exactly when, what or how much will in fact happen. At best, some “comfortable” parts of our life will not be feasible. At worst, this planet will not be habitable to humans.

It is possible that things won’t work out with Global Warming. We may be past the point of no return. If we aren’t yet, we will be shortly unless drastic measures are taken. That’s the apocalyptic version of what we face. No one knows.

You will not hear such blasphemy from George W. Bush, EPA, NOAA, the UN, EU, NASA, the Stern Report or thousands of other recognized organizations and studies. That is because they cover up the worst news. They know telling the truth straight is not good for their grants, popularity polls and job security. I do not have to worry about that.

Tundra warming up melting and thawing due to Global Warming

This series of essays will discuss exactly what is going on in great detail. The discussion will focus on things actually happening right now, not on fancy and complex forecasts. Anyone reading or watching the news today is aware that something is going on.

Unfortunately, different agendas get in the way of straight talk. Neoconservatists such as George W. Bush hate to talk about it. Most industries hate spending the cost to reverse the death path we are on. Politicians hate it, run for cover and issue meaningless platitudes. Scientists love it but spend too much time fighting each other. People do not want to consider the personal sacrifices that are needed. After all, do you really care about thawing tundra and melting glaciers? Maybe not yet, but you will.

I have my own agenda. I hope I will make a contribution to human survival. That’s all.

Below are some introductions and a Table of Content. If you already know this material you can use the button below to skip to the main content. Use the TOC button or the Back button in your browser to return here. If you are new to the material, just keep going.

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About the Essay and The Seven Parts

I split the essay into seven posts numbered 1 through 7 because of its size. Click here for more details. Use the TOC button to return here.

  • The first post examines the basic reasons why we ended up in this dreadful mess.
  • The second post covers the political and UN scene.
  • The third post deals with rising temperatures.
  • The fourth post discloses secrets about the forecasting business.
  • The fifth post explains the contribution of rising populations to our problem.
  • The sixth post looks at ill effects caused, right now, by Global Warming.
  • The seventh post provides a view of possible solutions.

There is an elaborate link and TOC (Table of Content) system to help you get around this mass of material. Use it to find what is of your most immediate interest. Just below, there is a TOC (Table of Content) button that lets you enter the navigation system. Enjoy.

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Table of Contents

Odes, Ballads, Songs and Arias

This essay contains real life mini stories about usually small effects of Global Warming. The aim is to make you consider reality, survival, pain and the future. I cite simple stories about how some of us (humans, animals, plants, oceans and everything else) are already in, or cause, deep trouble. Here are links to the various little puzzle pieces:

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Images in this essay

I’ve chosen to illustrate some of the essays with images from my portfolios. After all, I’m a photographer. I’ll use mostly night scenes that may emphasize the seriousness of the topic. I like night scenes, with their dramatic and quite tricky light. The extremes in contrast, the deep blacks and the Polar bears on melting arctic icegraininess appeal to me. Most of the images are shot handheld with an 85mm F1.2 lens and Delta 3200 film, push developed about 1/2 stop. This post GlobalWarming:1 does not contain any of my photos.

I produced all of the graphs based on my own databases, combining data from many sources. A few graphs and photos coming from various places complement the content.

This blog, its design, text content (except quotes from others) and my own images and graphs are copyright © Leading Design, Inc 2006-2007. All Rights Reserved. I make absolutely no claims on images or quotes from other sources.

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Allegro to “There ain’t no Global Warming”

I like to insert little life stories about Global Eroding waterfront, rising oceans and Global Warming that no one can ignoreWarming as we all work through this massive set of facts, evidence, graphs, photographs, controversy and opinions. That might make this mess more palatable. I choose recent little articles that may not individually mean all that much to most people. Hopefully the little pieces will add up to a real picture in your mind.

There is not much secrecy to the fact I am concerned about a few issues. One is Global Warming. I believe that is a great threat to my life, those of my kids as it is to yours. Another concern of mine is this strange War on Terrorism that George W. Bush insists on escalating in the face of impossible odds by violating lots of laws and treaties. I actually oppose any war because wars hurt people. I don’t like that.

I’m not a liberal, democrat, Neoconservatist, republican, communist, atheist, religious-right or neo Nazi. I’m a photographer and artist, curious about life. I tend to obsess Calving ice bergs from a melting glacier due to warming climate changeabout issues usually far beyond my control. I try to be honest about myself as is required for me to be an artist. You be the judge.

Since this is going to be a long story about how bad this Global Warming thing is, why not in all fairness start out with a song about why “There Ain’t No Global Warming”. Here is my little Allegro, gathered from various sources:

“It is amazing that so many people believe global warming is real and is caused by humans. This myth has been largely promoted by the major media that gives much attention to those who support it and very little to those who debunk it. For example, in December, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma chaired a “Climate Change and the Media” meeting. He said that global warming is a hoax. The meeting received almost no major media attention.”

“The Oscar-nominated documentary An Inconvenient Truth was to have been shown at a school science class in Federal Way, Wash., a Seattle suburb, until one of the children’ s fathers angrily attacked the idea and got its showing temporarily scrubbed for the entire district. Frosty E. Hardiman, father of seven and an evangelical Christian, objected to the film because it blamed the United States for global warming. He believes the change in climates to be one of the signs of Jesus’ imminent return.

“An increase in CO2 would increase oxygen production by plants which each one of us breathes. Therefore, there is no global warming due to CO2 gas. If there is global warming it is because the sun is putting out more radiant energy and has been observed to vary in intensity over time.”

“Many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.”

“They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed — even hastened — as a sign of the coming Apocalypse.

“Zell Miller of Georgia, who earlier this year quoted from the Book of Amos on the Senate floor: “The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land. Not a famine of bread or of thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord!”)”

“[Supportive] politicians include some of the most powerful figures in the U.S. government, as well as key environmental decision makers: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Republican Conference Chair Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), Senate Republican Policy Chair Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and quite possibly President Bush.”

“And those politicians are just the powerful tip of the iceberg. A 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the Book of Revelation are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks.”

“Last year, Inhofe invited a stacked-deck of fossil fuel-funded climate-change skeptics to testify at a Senate hearing that climaxed with him calling global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” James Inhofe might be an environmentalist’s worst nightmare. The Oklahoma senator makes major policy decisions based on heavy corporate and theological influences, flawed science, and probably an apocalyptic world view — and he chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.”

“Inhofe’s staff defends his backward scientific positions, no matter how at odds they are with mainstream scientists. “How do you define ‘mainstream’?” asked a miffed staffer. “[Is it] scientists who accept the so-called consensus about global warming? Galileo was not [a] mainstream [person].”

That’s the entire Allegro of the Non-Believers. These quotes are not 20 years old, they are current views of allegedly grown up people. You certainly may classify some as lunatics. Maybe you should be concerned a few of them still hold seats in the US Congress. Of even more concern is that one of these fruit cakes is the current President of the United States of America.

These people have no clue what horrors Global Warming might bring. They categorically reject that part and expect divine release at the hands of a benign God. They may receive it sooner than they like. That is what the Allegro to “There Ain’t No Global Warming” is all about.

By the way – here are synonyms to the title of the essay:

Not everyone, in fact very few, involved in the Global Warming issue are fairly described in any of the above terms. Most are better described in opposite terms. Probably no one can be accused of all of the above. But some can be fairly accused of at least of some of the above. A few of those are in very powerful positions. Some are leaders of industry and governments. One still believes he is the leader of the Free World. The point I rudely make is that these people might kill us all while pursuing head in the sand, egotistical goals.

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Adagio to the Krill

That just calls for another song more in line with reality. Here is the “Adagio to the Krill”:Krill swimming in Antarctica or Arctic oceans

“Krill populations, the basis of the marine food chain, are in free fall in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence, according to new research by scientists with the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, a marine science center associated with the federal agency Fisheries and Oceans Canada.”

“A probable cause, the scientists say, is global warming, and the risk is a reduction in the number of whales and fishes in these waters. Since 2000, half the usual numbers of humpback, fin, sei and blue whales come to feed on krill each summer in front of Tadoussac, a town on the Saguenay Fjord that has become famous for its whale watching opportunities.”

The loss of sea ice in Antarctica brought on by global warming may be causing a decline in numbers of the crustacean krill“; ” The amount of krill in the southwest Atlantic has fallen by about 80 percent since 1979,”;A drop in krill population has clearly adverse effects on species that feed on it, such as fur seals, black-browed albatrosses, and gentoo, macaroni penguins and whales”

“The 900-mile-long Antarctic Peninsula which sticks out from the main continent is warming up at a greater pace than the world average. There the ice is melting rapidly, and huge chucks of ice sheets are braking off. The Adelie penguins there have to swim ever longer distances to get food, and there is also less food, especially krill, small shrimp-like animals that depend on the sea ice. If the warming continues, they will be unable to survive there.”

“As would be expected, a warmer climate produces warmer oceans. In turn, warmer oceans wreck havoc with the food chain, beginning with krill at the bottom. Krill are free-floating, 1- to 2-inch shrimp-like crustaceans. They anchor this sea chain and are a key food source for marine life from sea birds to cod to whales. Heat the water, and cold-water-dependent krill disappear.”

“In the Antarctic seas, another potentially devastating feedback loop is taking place. Populations of krill have plummeted by 80% in the last few years due to loss of sea ice. Krill are the single most important species in the marine food chain, and they also extract massive amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. No one predicted their demise, but the ramifications for both global warming and the health of marine ecosystems are disastrous. This, too, will likely feed on itself, as less krill means more carbon stays in the atmosphere, which means warmer seas, which means less ice, which means less krill and so on in a massive negative spiral.”

Truly caring about the poor krill is not easy. You probably never considered the plight of macaroni penguins before. It’d seem the food for whales is not really your concern. You may be right on all three accounts. But you’ll view it differently if it is YOUR food suddenly declining by 80%. That is not a far reached, cry-wolf, bleeding heart liberal invention. It might actually happen.

The Stuff We Breathe

The air around us is what keeps us alive, An Arctic whale looking for krillyet, in the end, it might destroy us. Earth is not the only “near by” planet with an atmosphere. Venus has one consisting largely of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent GHG. Temperatures are far too high for human life. Jupiter’s and Saturn’s atmospheres are mostly hydrogen and helium which is quite different from that of Earth. Mars’s very thin atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide. Our own little moon does have traces of a very thin and unstable atmosphere. None of these planets provide life conditions anywhere close to those of Earth.

Let’s be grateful for the unique atmosphere we have had for so long, supported all living things. Let’s not destroy it as we are right now. Read on to find out how and why.

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The Common Things

The large part of Earth’s atmosphere is quite stable at 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% Argon. Then a lot of trace gases make up the balance of about .04% of the total. Nitrogen and oxygen are quite necessary to life. Argon does not do much one way or another – it’s used as an industrial gas. The devil, as you will see, is in the details – those .04% seemingly insignificant amounts of trace gases are, in some cases, quite deadly.

Atmosphere Content - Oxygen, Nitrogen Arbon, Other

The atmosphere has not always been stable. The oxygen content has been as high as 37% and as low as 15%. These variations happened between 100 and 550 million years ago. About 40 million years ago, the oxygen content was 23%, slowly declining to today’s 21%. Scarily, no one knows the reasons for these variations except a certainty the atmosphere content will continue to change long term. At less than 15% oxygen, fires do not burn. At more than 25%, even the wettest of organic matter will easily burn.

Luckily, our immediate concern is not these parts of the atmosphere and what will happen millions of years from today. Unluckily, we have to deal with the minor trace gases – the killers of today. But first, a few words about the big gases:

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Oxygen

The 21% oxygen is what we so desperately need to breathe. Unless its level is at or above normal levels, we suffocate. Oxygen is generated by photosynthetic organisms, mostly algae in the oceans and many terrestrial plants. There is evidence that Global Warming affects the photosynthetic process negatively.

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Nitrogen

The 78% nitrogen is a required part of all living things. The main source of nitrogen is the atmosphere. Living things “fix” this gas into amino acids and other useful things. The nitrogen is eventually returned to the atmosphere by denitrification of soil and dead organic matter. There are many issues related to the nitrogen balance, such as the excessive use of nitrate fertilizers, the treatment of human and animal waste and the production of gases such as nitrogen oxides, which are GHGs.

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Argon

Argon makes up 1% of the atmosphere. It is used by various industrial processes such as lamp bulbs, welding and wine making. It partly comes from decay of a version of potassium. It’s not a major factor in our quest on Global Warming.

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The Deadly Vandals

While the oxygen and nitrogen content in the atmosphere carry its own baggage of environmental issues that may one day be quite deadly, they are not the focus of Global Warming. It is the remaining .04% of the atmosphere we’ll have to deal with. All of a sudden, there is a lot of complexity and unknown territory. My database lists well over 100 trace gases, all with their own characteristics. Many of those are GHGs. Many are extremely potent but luckily very small parts in the atmosphere mix.

Atmosphere gas mix, greenhouse gases and other trace gases

This graph uses a logarithmic scale or you would not be able to see the concentration of trace gases compared to the much larger nitrogen and oxygen components. While the carbon dioxide part looks almost as big as that of nitrogen, nitrogen is almost 3000 times as prevalent. Put another way, most of the trace gases are very rare. Many are around .1 PPBv (parts per billion on volume).

An allegorical perspective: Earth population currently is about 6.5 billion people. Most of these gases are the volume equivalent of less than one person out of the 6.5 billion. Imagine that single “person” is a terrorist wearing the latest nuclear suicide belt. We know he or she is out there but have no idea where. How do you catch him/her and neutralize the treat? Moreover, suppose there are at least 25 of them, all equally invisible, totally different and enormously dangerous. Maybe 9/11 will look like a minor event after all. In fact, each of these gases carries a potential power exceeding that of nuclear bombs.

Fog, Smog and Pollution

About 4.5 million people die each year from air pollution due to asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide are both major pollutants, mainly from combustion. Formaldehyde is another killer as are others in the graph above. Smog, one form of very visible pollution, typically comes from nitrogen oxides, ozone, peroxiacetylnitrate and other PANs, VOCs and R’Os, most of which are present in the graph above.

Ozone is a pollutant on the ground level, where it is part of the smog problem. At a height of 10-50 kilometers, ozone plays a very different role. It filters out short wave ultraviolet light, protecting us all from skin cancer and other issues. The ozone content is and was threatened by Freon and other pollutants. Regulations have reduced Freon emissions to manageable levels although ozone holes still exist.

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Ice Age Gases

About 35 years ago, Global Warming was not the concern. The opposite was feared due to high concentrations of sulphur dioxide. This gas comes mostly (at the time) from industrial smoke stacks. It caused acid rain, destroying a lot of forests. It is a cooling gas and the prevailing concern was a possible ice age looming. This possible disaster was largely avoided by the US Clean Air Act of 1970, relatively simple, but not cheap scrubber technology and similar measures elsewhere. Today, some SO2 is still emitted by industrial processes.

Major volcanic activities throw enormous quantities of SO2 into the air which can have a substantial, temporary impact on climate and temperatures. Some, including the US Government considers emitting SO2 into the atmosphere on a massive scale to be one emergency response to Global Warming. The trouble is that SO2 is a poisonous gas, killing people. More later.

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Greenhouse Gases (GHG)

Here is the meat: the Greenhouse Gases and their presence in the atmospheric mix. Again, the scale is logarithmic and the mix of most of the gases is extremely low. All but three are below a level of 10 parts to the TRILLION. We literally deal with a few molecules flying around doing a very dirty job.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide CO2, methane CH4 and Nitreous Oxides No NO2

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How Greenhouse Gases Work

By them selves, GHGs are not harmful to humans in the low, prevailing concentrations. We breathe OK. They are very harmful to the way climate works. Climate works by receiving warming energy from the Sun, then reflecting excess warming energy back out into space. Just about everything on this planet relies on the inflow of energy, the use of energy and the outflow being in balance.

If the inflow, use and outflow of energy gets out of balance, all hell breaks lose. Ice Ages happen or are Out of control and balance pollution of oceans, air and humans alikereversed. Oceans rise dramatically or drop. Temperatures go up or down. Species die. The life of the planet Earth changes irrevocable. Some times that works out fine, sometimes not. The human race probably evolved thanks to a warming abnormality millions of years ago. But many other species went extinct. They still do.

Over millions of years, Earth has handled the balance of the energy, controlling climate all on its own in concert with the Sun. Many times things have been pretty bad. Ice ages are no fun. Neither is the disappearance of coastal areas under 50-150 meters of rising oceans. These things happened and Earth always came back. After all, we are here today, aren’t we? We are here today because Earth has been pretty good at reversing those bad times and returning conditions into balance.

Today things have changed. Our understandable desire for comfort is putting an incredibly strong and unprecedented pressure on Earth’s ability to maintain a balance compatible with human life. That’s because the man made GHGs from energy generation, transportation, deforestation and much else cause concentrations to rise because the natural cleaning act can’t keep up. These gases, once in the atmosphere in excess quantities, allow the Sun’s energy to come in but reduces the reflection of excess energy back out into space. Temperatures rise. Just about everything goes out of whack due to these very unnatural, not to mention offensive but “understandable” acts of ours.

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Why They Happen

Why? There are several reasons, many of which will have to be covered in the rest of this essay series. For now, the outstanding one is the growth in populations demanding products that make their life comfortable or even possible. The second reason is that satisfying this demand causes too many harmful gases to enter the atmosphere. That’s quite simple, really.

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Populations grow fast

Each individual in any part of the world uses products and services that cause carbon emissions into the air. Ranging from simple camp fires to industrial power plants, from the poorest to the richest, people cause GHGs to enter the atmosphere. The issue is that populations started to grow very quickly hundreds of years ago. They are still on a fast upwards path. Take a look:

World and USA Population Growrth from Year 0 through 2006

This graph, going all the way back to Year 0, shows the extremely rapid growth in world population starting in the 1700s. Prior to that, populations grew quite slowly. Not so any more – since the 1700s, world population is up TEN TIMES without any real sign of an overall slowdown.

A lot of factors contributed to that sudden and ever lasting rise: medical breakthroughs, global transportation and communication, industrialization and money exchange systems, urbanization, agricultural breakthroughs, innovations and, not least, carbon energy.

Are medical breakthroughs stopping? Are global communications being reduced? Is innovation declining? How about agriculture, banking systems and industrialization in, say India and China? Slowing, flattening or declining? Will death rates go up and birth rates go down? None of that will happen on a voluntary basis.

Stopping growth in overall populations is real hard. Even China’s 25 year old One Child policy isn’t quite working – fertility still is somewhere from 1.6 to 2.6 children per female. There are even signs of easing the policy. India still has a high growth rate, not expected to slow dramatically.

Overall, less developed countries will increase significantly which will accentuate a labor force supply and demand issue becoming more controversial, in particular in Africa. There is no accident we see civil wars, ethnic cleansing, famines, mass murder, civil disorder and diseases being far more common in Africa than elsewhere.

Populations are stagnating in most of the industrial world. The cause is the general aging of the population, resulting in a 1) relatively shorter fertile period, and a 2) declining birth rate because of more females in the work force as well as 3) birth control and 4) the high price of a child over a twenty year period. The US is an exception where populations will continue upwards.

European fertility is around 1.5 children per female, down from 2.5 in 1960. It’s as low as 1.2 in some Eastern countries. A rate of about 2.1 maintains a stable population. Russia is losing some 750,000 people each year because of a high death rate and a low birth rate, including very high use of abortions. The death rate is almost twice a normal one, much due to male alcoholism. The fertility rate is 1.3. Few people immigrate to Russia compared to the US or Europe.

The little green slice at the bottom right shows the US. It looks quite small, doesn’t? Hard to see how that little piece can be the biggest polluter in the World and, diminishing, the one remaining world power.

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Concentrations skyrocket

Next, compare that growth in population to the growth of world carbon dioxide concentrations, going back a little less than 650,000 years, as measured mostly from Antarctica ice core samples:

World growth in Greenhouse Gas Emissions over the last 650,000 years

The scale is a bit funny: the left third the graph covers 647,000 years while the right two thirds covers about 3,000 years. That’s the way the data comes out of the Antarctica ice cores.

There are three very important points made in this graph: First, in ancient times, there was quite a bit of volatility in GHGs – that’s why there were ice ages, why dinosaurs died and mankind evolved. Second, for 2,800 years up to the year 1700, GHG levels were very stable at about 280 PPMv (parts per million by volume). Third, 1750 rolled around with the industrial revolution. Energy was needed. Populations took off. GHG concentrations started their meteoric rise. Compare the population graph with the concentration trend. Both are way out of historical experiences as of today. There is no sign of an overall slowdown; not in populations or in concentrations. The current all time high concentration is 385 PPMv.

Another important point is that a level of GHGs is necessary in the atmosphere. If it falls too low, we freeze to death in a monumental ice age. If it is too high, all living creatures will be affected with many, possibly all, going extinct in an unstoppable evil feedback loop called Global Warming.

Here is the same concentration data expressed as growth over time. I’m using a logarithmic scale so you can see history clearly. The overall growth for the first 649,750 years (ignoring the early ups and downs) was very low – only averaging about 1/1000 of a percent a year. From 1750 it rose steadily. Today, the rate is 0.25 percent per year.

Growth of Greenhouse Gase Concentrations over 650,000 years

A flat growth rate (horizontal level in the graph) represents very fast exponential growth. What you see is an accelerating rate, trending upwards. That is very bad news. That trend must be reversed.

Here is what we deal with so far: A bunch of very low concentration gases whose mix in the atmosphere changes at a very low rate. After all, who wouldn’t be happy with a credit card interest rate of 0.25% rather than 25.25%? Why care about something so infrequent it’s hard to even imagine it? The problem is that even a low, and accelerating, growth rate results in concentrations increasing exponentially over very long periods of time. Further, Earth’s balancing climate act is very sensitive to even the slightest change.

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Emissions Take Off

Above, I only talked about GHG concentrations. That concentration in the atmosphere is not stable. It is subject to a very complex chain of factors that include the exchange between the air and “carbon sinks” such as biomass and the oceans in a never ending cycle of give and take. Both the oceans and biomass store huge amounts of historical GHG emissions. If that complex balance is disturbed, or if the storages fill up or even reverse their role, releasing their GHGs back into the atmosphere….. Well, that’s what is happening right now.

The storage mechanism is getting unstable. But why would such a system stop working after being mostly fine for millions of years? It is because we humans eject billions of tons of GHGs into the atmosphere in our quest for a better life. This has never happened before. It is disabling the natural system of checks and balances. Disaster looms.

World Emissions of Greenhouse Gas 0-2006

The worldwide emissions of GHGs grew from around 0.2 million tons in the year 0 to 6.8 billion tons in 2006. That is an overall growth rate of 0.1% per year over the 2000+ years. The graph looks a lot like the population graph above, so is the rise just a matter of more people? No, it is not – here is the same graph on a per capita basis. The time scale is depressed so it covers 1700 till today. Then you can actually see the changes:

World Emissions of Greenhouse Gas per Capita 1700-2006

The per capita emissions increased as well. That means population growth alone does not explain the total growth in emissions. Working through the math, total emissions grew by 1.1 percent per year from 1800 to 2006. Per capita emissions grew by .7 percent per year. That leaves .4 percent per year to other factors, mostly industrialization.

In short – the increase in emissions leading to a potential disaster is caused by population growth (65 percent) and technology (35 percent) as we strive for a “better life”. That is looking over a 200+ year perspective. In real simplistic terms: Convince people to use less carbon based products and to abandon bad ideas such as deforestation. That could go a long way towards a solution. Now, that’s not only simplistic, it’s naive. People will not do that. So let’s keep looking.

Next, let’s examine the US in more detail as an example of how economic trends play a big role:

Industrial Production in the United States, USA, from 1785 to 2006

This really is quite a remarkable graph. The US has managed over 4% growth in Industrial Production quite consistently for more than 200 years. The graph uses a logarithmic volume scale so a straight line represents a constant percent growth rate. The rate has slowed a bit since the 1970s but it still is a tremendous economic performance. But what’s the price? Here it is:

US Industrial Production versus CO2, Carbon Dioxide, emissions

Here I go back to the common linear scale. The emissions (greenish in the graph) truly took off in the mid-late 1800s. The growth rate for CO2 emissions from 1785 till today is over 5% per year. That’s why the US is the biggest and saddest cause of Global Warming.

In the background, you can see a reddish trend that represents a forecast of emissions based on 1) US population and 2) economic activity as measured by Industrial Production. In tandem these two factors explain the rise in emissions. The story is simple: more and more people want more and more comfort, leading to a lot of cars, toasters, air conditioners, heaters, air planes, oil wells, farting cows, refineries, power plants, fertilizers, barbeques and trucks, all producing GHGs.

Here is another graph for all of you statistics fans: it shows the same relationship of emissions vs. population and Industrial Production. It simply amplifies the strong relationship between the number of people, the goods they desire and the resulting emissions. I use a multiple, polynomial regression technique in case you are really curious. No? Well, ignore it.

Correlation between emissions, populations and economics

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The Real Bad News

We have seen no good news so far, but the full scope of the possible disaster is by no means yet clear. We need to dive much further down to understand the cause and effect. Why bother? You should bother because your life and those of your kids depend on actions that are not easy to accept. Read on.

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Very Small Quantities

On the one hand, we throw billions of tons of harmful gases into the atmosphere. On the other hand, concentrations of these gases are very low. What gives? Simple – the world’s atmosphere is very, very large – it actually has a mass of about 5,000 trillion tons. In simplistic terms, the oxygen content is maybe 1,000 trillion tons. CO2, the most common GHG, makes up a mere 2 trillion tons. The very potent Sulfur hexafluoride gas makes up maybe 0.002 trillion tons. These are big numbers but very small compared to the 5,000 trillion total mass. Here are some details:

Main Greenhouses Gases and Oxygen Nitrogen Argon trillions tons atmosphere

Beware of the logarithmic scale: nitrogen (green for OK) is over 2,000 times as common as carbon dioxide(red for Bad). The green Oxygen is almost 6 million times as prevalent as Chloromethane. The red GHGs are very rare. Unfortunately, it is neither mass nor volume that counts.

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Extremely Potent

CO2 outweighs all others GHGs by a mile or two. Luckily for us, it is one of the least harmful of gases by the ton. Other GHGs are much more powerful potential creators of Global Warming. These gases are not very common, I’m happy to report. If they were common, then I wouldn’t be able to report to you at all. Nor would you read this. Mankind would not exist. Did you ever watch the movie or read the book “On the Beach”? If not, please do and use your imagination.

The graph below shows the Global Warming Potential of most GHGs on a 100 year perspective. I use the logarithmic scale. As an example, the Sulfur hexafluoride gas I already mentioned is 22,200 times as harmful as CO2.

Global Warming Potential of various Greenhouses Gases

What you see in the graph is a lot of awful stuff. It certainly would make sense to minimize the emissions causing the problem, wouldn’t it? That’s a good idea but not that easy to implement. One big problem is that once the gases are emitted, they hang around for a long time.

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Long Shelf Life

Using a logarithmic scale, this graph shows the shelf life of most GHGs. A few go away fairly quickly after entering the air. Most do not. Many ethers, for instance disappear quickly. Freon-14, on the other hand, may hang around for 50,000 years. There are 17 gases, including CO2, which will be present for more than a hundred years after release.

GHGs have a long shelf life - details by Greenhouse Gas

The long shelf life of the gases creates a lot of inertia in the system. For instance, CO2 emitted today will not reach its full Global Warming impact for up to a hundred years. There is only a limited amount of actions available to us to tackle that issue. The one sure thing is that continuing to emit these gases is a very bad idea.

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Which ones really matter?

On the one hand, we have warming potential. On the other hand, we have concentrations. High warming potential is bad. Low concentration is good. But do they offset each other? Here is a simplistic attempt to find out:

Relative importance to life of major GHG Greenhouse gases

Still using a logarithmic scale, I multiplied the warming potential with the concentration of the various gases. That may (or not) be a reasonable measure what danger we face from each of the gases. I’m happy to report, assuming my theory is right, we really only have to be terror struck by three of them: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrious oxides. There are a few border cases , mostly Freon type. The rest may be potent but their low concentrations prevent major impacts, given my no doubt oversimplified assumption.

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Hard to Reverse Trends

We face two issues. The first and obvious one is to reduce emissions. As I’ve pointed out, that immediately leads to many people issues and political time bombs. Consider the Religious Right that finds the extinction of mankind its ultimate blessing. Consider those that have Carbon pollution in ocean water not cleaned but emitting greenhouse gasesinevitably found ways to cash in on Global Warming. Consider the mass of people that will ignore any issue.

The second issue – can we clean up the already polluted air? The answer is maybe – some technologies are available but none are operational. This is complicated by the large amount of gases involved. The graph above shows 75 different greenhouse gases, each with its own behavior and origin. There is a big price tag attached to this and any other solution.

Speaking of origin, where does all this awful junk come from? Who should be blamed? Hopefully you have got the message. All of us are to be blamed. But some will be blamed more than others.

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From Where Does the Bad Stuff Come?

Industrialization and urbanization led to a lot of new processes and material introduced into our eco system. We needed more food to feed more mouths, leading to deforestation and the use of copious amounts of carbon based fertilizers. We needed cars, air planes, trucks, ships, SUVs and motorcycles to get that food into our heated or air conditioned homes. We needed indoor lights and some needed outdoor lamps to display their carbon fertilized gardens. Our homes were and areReindeer and elks suffer from melting and warming eco systems built from all kinds of hazardous materials, many nonrenewable. Each home consumes enormous quantities of energy. So does most living creatures on Earth. So do our toys.

So far, we have identified two villains of Global Warming: population and, vaguely, technology. Let’s look for some more specifics. We need to consider several layers, starting on a National level, drilling down to Industry behavior and finally, the people level.

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National Infrastructures

Industrialized countries possess a large infrastructure and investment built around carbon energy and products. That infrastructure successfully delivers not only what the people demands for their standard of living, but is intertwined into almost all aspects of a country’s social, economic and industrial fabric. It is a vital national asset. Unfortunately, it became a liability as well. Eskimos fishing with no concern for Kyoto Protocol OPEC or China

Global Warming is a political quagmire of monumental proportions. It largely revolves around a United Nations initiative called the Kyoto Protocol. This deeply flawed agreement depends on international cooperation that is inequitable by dividing the world into those that pay and those that receive. It directs money from a few developed countries to highly polluting less developed countries including rapidly growing countries such as China and India. OPEC is also doing its best to capitalize. So are numerous banks, clearing houses and individual consultants.

The Kyoto Protocol is one problem. Another issue is the inability of politicians to deal with bad, expensive news that do not, right now, directly and visibly benefit themselves or their constituency. Today, most of the obvious signs of the impact of Global Warming occur in remote areas – Greenland, the Arctic and deep in the oceans. It is not yet affecting most suburban neighborhoods. Hence, politicians can afford to avoid the whole mess. And that they do, with a few exceptions.

I know well this is oversimplifying. There are many very concerned people, even politicians, taking a an active interest in Global Warming and its cure. Some even act in various ways. There is a clear trend of increasing concern. But so far there is little evidence any initiative has a substantial and proven impact on Global Warming. We most definitely still deal with a major time bomb.

Global Warming is not just an environmental or social issue such as the protection of whales or pygmy hogs. It is a difficult political issue of world wide scope. Different countries have vastly different agendas. They also contribute to Global Warming in different manners. Let’s look at some of the national differences:

Total Greenhouse Gas GHG emissions by selected countries

The US leads the way in total emissions. Europe and China come close. Transitory economies (mostly the former Soviet sphere of interest) emit a lot although their emissions are down as the Soviet empire collapsed and took with it high pollution, non competitive industries. But are we comparing apples and oranges here? These countries and areas are vastly different. For instance, consider the same data on a per capita basis:

Emissions of carbon gases into the atmosphere by selected countries on a per capita basis

Suddenly, the picture changes from before. The US, Canada and Oceania (mostly Australia) are the top polluters on a personal basis. India and China, both heavy polluters on a total basis, are at the bottom of the scale. Their huge populations and fast development is offset by a major imbalance: some of their areas are highly developed while other parts are not much different than from hundreds of years ago. The picture is not yet complete: we need to consider economic differences:

Economic factors in Global Warming, selected countries

Here again, the picture changes. The graph shows emissions per unit of economic activity – a measure of how efficiently a country uses carbon resources from an emission point of view. The US, Europe and Japan are highly developed and quite efficient. They drop to the bottom. Less developed areas and Indonesia jump to the top of offenders. You will shortly see why.

Now, let’s combine the effect of populations and economic activity to see who the high and low emitters are. This is done by using well established statistical methods:

Comparing greenhouse gas GHG emissions with populations and economic activity in selected countries

The green line represents the expected emissions given a country’s population and economic activity. The red line in the graph tells you the US and China emits more than expected while Europe emits less. Here is more detail, expanding on the difference between actual and expected emissions. The data is the same as in the graph above:

Expected versu actual GHG emissions by selected countries

So here is the conclusion so far: Western Europe and Japan are efficient users of carbon technology. China and the US are not efficient users. Neither is the Mideast where its huge oil industry emits a lot of harmful gases. Russia, another poor performer, still carries a lot of inefficient industry around while also being a major energy producer results in high emissions.

This is not the final conclusion – some of the areas the look good above have some very bad habits as we’ll shortly see. I simply go step by step towards some solution to the villain issue. This is actually a case where there is no real stopping point. Every anomality has its reasons and making simplified, naive statements is quite easy and possibly very unfair. Regardless, some issues stand out very clearly and that is what I want to identify.

Finally, let’s consider growth in emissions by major countries as expressed by units of economic activity:

Change in GHG emissions 1990 to 2005 in selected countries

This graph introduces “Annex 1″ and “Non Annex 1″ countries. This classification comes from the Kyoto Protocol. Annex 1 countries are essentially the industrialized countries. These are subject to restrictions and mandatory reductions in carbon gas emissions. Non Annex 1 countries are mostly less developed countries that are subject to no mandatory reductions. Emissions are rising much faster in Non Annex 1 countries than in the industrial Annex 1 countries. Middle East and its oil industry increased emissions the most, followed by Korea, China and India. Western Europe, the US and Japan increased emissions modestly relative to their economic base. The former Soviet block emissions declined sharply as parts of their high pollution industry was forced to shut down.

What is the overall picture in terms of “villains”? Overall, China is the leading poor performer, as are the fast growing emerging economies in general. The less developed areas emit more than the developed areas on a comparable basis. The US is not doing well, neither is Canada or Australia. The best performers are Western Europe and Japan. Now we will drill down to find out the reasons for these differences.

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Track Down The Bad Guys

Here is the world wide picture of the activities that produce GHGs, expressed as percent of total emissions.

Activities producing GHG Greenhouese Gases world wide

Of all things, deforestation is the worst villain in the emissions game? What about agriculture, livestock and manure ranking high as poor performers? That road traffic, building heating and cooling together with emissions from oil and gas processing rank high is hardly unexpected.

Add up agriculture, live stock and deforestation and you look at 37% of total emissions. Transportation makes up 14% and buildings (heating and cooling, mostly) amount to 15%. The rest of the many activities make up the remaining 34%. Some activities actually absorb carbon gases: reforestation and afforestation are positive factors.

Here is another step down in our search for villains. We’ll look at the same data broken out by type of gas:

Emissions of greenhouse gases by type of gas and activity - world level

Narrowing things down: CO2 emissions in deforestation (18.3%), buildings (15.3%) and transportation (13.8%); methane (CH4) in livestock, manure (including human) and landfills (7.6%) and, finally, nitrous fertilizers (1%). These five categories represent 56% of the world wide emissions. Now, let’s look at where these emissions are happening. Here is the first clue:

emissions by activity

Now, here is a real clear picture: the emissions from Industrial nations (Annex 1) come mostly from the Electricity, Heating and Transportation sectors while Less Developed countries cause most of their emissions from Land Use (Deforestation, mostly) and Agriculture.

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Energy

Let’s keep tracking down the villains first by looking at the energy section we already know dominates the industrial world but not the less developed countries. Here is what I call the Cost of Comfort since the main part of the energy is used to control temperature (comfort) in buildings.

CO2 emissions from Electricity and Heat generation by country

No question about the guilty party here. The US emits twice as much CO2 to satisfy its heaters and air conditioners as the second on the list, Japan. The US out-pollutes the less or emerging countries by a factor of 9:1. That is a pretty high price to pay by not only the US but the rest of the world as well.

Broadening the scope a bit, here are the emissions broken down into Energy versus Land use by country:

Land Use versus Energy, selected countries

Categorizing the emissions as “Expedience” versus “Deforestation” is perhaps generalizing a bit too far. The point is that developed countries, with the US in the lead, cause emissions for entirely different reasons than the less developed countries. Developed countries produce emissions due to energy demand, the less developed world cause emissions mostly from agriculture and deforestation activities. You might make a note of China’s emissions coming from industrial sources rather than land use and agriculture. So do India’s emissions.

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Deforestation

Here is a drill down on Land Use emissions:

Land Use Emissions less developed versus developed nations

The pattern remains clear. Tropical areas with forests are busy cutting down timber for sale or pursuing slash and burn techniques to make room for farming. The scope of depleting a vital world wide resource is staggering and has a major impact on Global Warming. Under the Kyoto Protocol, these countries have no obligation to change the very destructive actions. In fact, there are numerous ways to make big money out of these practices. At stake are 100s of billions of dollars. I will cover this in detail later.

Note that the US Land Use account is negative. That means that returning deforested areas to its natural state actually helps clean up the air from emissions. That is a trend happening in many developed countries.

Deforestation is the single largest emission source. Let’s see what countries are involved:

nd use abuse by country

I use a logarithmic scale so you can see the emissions from the smaller countries. In effect, there are only four countries with a large emission impact: Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia and Myanmar (ex-Burma). The importance of the emissions from these countries, essentially due to greed, is worth a note: their practices accumulate to about 12% of the world’s total emissions.

Here is an update on the villain analysis: CO2 emissions from Deforestation in Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia and Myanmar (12%), other Non Annex 1 Land Use emissions (25%), emissions from Electricity and Heat in the US, China and Transitory countries (18%) and the same in other Annex 1 countries (19%). These four categories add up to 74% of all emissions.

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Transportation

Let’s continue our quest just a little bit longer by examining the transportation sector.

Emmisions of CO2 from the Transportation sector in selected countries

There is not much of a contest here. The US wins hands down, followed at a distance by the EU25, essentially Europe. The US emissions, due to transportation, are 5.4% of the world total emissions with Europe following at 2.8%.

Here is a closer look at the transportation sector in the UK:

UK Transportation Emissions Trucks Cars Rail Airlins and more 2005

Cars and trucks lead with a huge margin over all other sources of transport emissions of GHGs, CO2 mostly. I was surprised to see airplanes so far down the range, I expected far more emissions from this sector. Part of the explanation is that international air traffic is excluded which is a large part of UK’s total air program. Likewise, keep in mind that the UK is a small country relative to the US. That means long range domestic truck freights are far less common than in the USA.

Compare with the US picture:

US Transportation Emissions Trucks Cars Rail Airlins and more 2003

Both trucks and cars are still the top polluters although the order of the two reversed. Aircrafts are a surprisingly small factor as it was in the UK. But there are some unique aspects to the US market – here is the growth in emissions by type of vehicle:

US Growth in Transportation Emissions Trucks Cars Rail Airlins and more 2003

Light trucks are the second fastest growing polluters in the US. This segment includes vans, mini-vans, SUVs and pickup trucks. The vehicles are mainly used as a substitute for regular cars – the US love of gas guzzlers has not changed. This category even enjoys a totally absurd tax break. The cars hardly increased emissions at all.

Breaking down the light truck&car growth tells an important story. Cars declined from 80% to 47%. SUVs went from nothing to 27% while all other reached 26% from 20%.

The “light truck” segments emit 68% of the US Transportation emission. The US Transportation emissions amount to 6.5 % of the world’s total emissions. Thus, US SUVs, hummers, mini vans and a few more represent almost 4.5% of the world’s total emissions. It exceeds the total energy sector emissions of Japan as well those of India. That is pretty outrageous. Especially considering they also get tax breaks.

Commercial airlines in the US hardly increased emissions, seen from 1990 to 2003. However, up till 9/11 airline emissions were up 20%. Then 9/11 caused a drastic cut in traffic. That explains the low emission growth over the full period. Emissions today are increasing. Still emissions compare favorably to passenger miles. The airlines are getting more efficient operationally.

The large US truck segment grew their emissions rapidly. Part is due to the decline in rail freight, benefiting trucks. As long range trucking increased, so did emissions. Not only that, gas mileage declined as rigs got larger.

A last transportation issue: an ever increasing mode to get to work in the US is going there, all alone, in your car. That mode went up from 64% in 1980 to 76% in 2000. Carpooling, public transportation (always a minor part in the US) and walking/biking all declined. As I have said, comfort is a major driver of sky rocketing GHG emissions.

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Here are the Villains

Here is the final list of major emission offenses around the world:

Major Culprits in Global Warming

The major countries: the US, China and Indonesia. The major areas: Deforestation, Electricity & Heat and Transportation, in particular SUVs and the like in the US. Fixing these emissions would go a long way towards a solution. It won’t happen. At least not given today’s situation where the comfort, biases, reluctance and pass-the-buck attitude of most “decision makers” still rule.

Let’s cut to the chase again. Here is the ultimate list as far as I can break down the data. First the 10 worst performing areas by activity, then – why not – the best performing areas in terms of GHG emissions. You’ll find some of the same names in both the best and the worst categories:

Ten worst GHG Greenhouse gas performers Emissions by activity and area

Here we are: the ten worst performers in Global Warming as specific as I can be. The US and China keep their top bad guy positions. Electricity & Heat sectors remain major problems in Industrial and emerging nations. The US love of SUVs, Hummers and cars in general isn’t doing the world any good.

Indonesia’s forestry practices not only show up poorly here: the smoke, haze and pollution result in running eyes and abused lungs of its own people and those in surrounding countries. Governments in Singapore and elsewhere are not amused. Here are some details (Source: here):

Indonesia’s forests are being degraded and destroyed by logging, mining operations, large-scale agricultural plantations, colonization, and subsistence activities like shifting agriculture and cutting for fuel wood. Rainforest cover has steadily declined since the 1960s when 82 percent of the country was covered with forest, to 68 percent in 1982, to 53 percent in 1995, and 49 percent today. Much of this remaining cover consists of logged-over and degraded forest.

Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of tropical timber, generating upwards of US$5 billion annually, and more than 48 million hectares (55 percent of the country’s remaining forests) are concessioned for logging.Slash and burn deforetation in Indonesia

The fastest and cheapest way to clear new land for plantations is by burning. Every year hundreds of thousands of acres hectares go up in smoke as developers and agriculturalists feverishly light fires before monsoon rains begin to fall. In dry years—especially during strong El Niño years—these fires can burn out of control for months on end, creating deadly pollution that affects neighboring countries and causes political tempers to flare.

Fires in Indonesia’s peat swamps are particularly damaging due to the high carbon content of the ecosystem—Dr Susan Page, of the University of Leicester, estimates that Southeast Asian peat lands may contain up to 21 percent of the world’s land-based carbon. The 1997 fires released 2.67 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Now, that’s how you get to a top spot in the evil emission game. Greed, expedience, winds carrying the pollution elsewhere and great profits fuel the practices. Meanwhile, together with the other rain forest countries cashing in; not only do the burns produce GHGs, the biomass’ ability to store CO2 is destroyed and actually reversed. This hurts on a world wide scale.

Let’s flip the coin. Here are the winners – those that actually contribute to a small part of the solution. Recent studies claim significant reforestation occurs in many industrial countries. That view is supported here:

Best performing land use and CO2 uptake areas

For once, here the US is leading the pack in a positive manner. China and India are doing quite well, too, negating a small part of their other offences. These biggest overall villains do a little piece of good in the forestry area. Most of the reforestation is natural through fast growing hardwoods. Some parts are supported by planting and seedling programs. The US gain in negative emissions amount to about 2% of world wide emissions – not a big number but significant, especially considering the overall 18% going the opposite way thanks to Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil.

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Bad Stuffs Do Bad Things

So far, this discussion has covered the fact that populations and industrialization caused a lot of bad Cleaning up carbon pollution to help balance the climategases to enter the atmosphere. It’s time to cover why that is dangerous and may cause a very substantial impact on mankind.

Think about it this way. We live on a small planet in an infinitely large Universe. If we move outside the slim protection of this planet’s atmosphere, as some brave people do, we enter a very hostile environment in which we cannot live without very complex support systems. Even under the best of circumstances, the chances of our long term survival against these overwhelming external forces must be very remote.

Planet Earth established a very unique system allowing life going back millions of years. That system depends on a give and take balancing act to function. The balance act is all that protects us from the very hostile Universe outside. Without it fully functioning, we’re literally toasted.

Upsetting the balance in any way is like playing Russian roulette with your kids. Or building a nuclear bomb in your garage. Or imagining you can fly off tall buildings. As some do literally. Less literally, we are playing Russian roulette with the balance act of Earth. We have done that for some 250 years and Earth has taken about Seals swimming with melting ice and nowhere to go due to Global Warmingall it can. Alarm bells are ringing but very few of us are listening.

The immediate impact of the emissions, throwing the balance off, is rising global temperatures. That is creating havoc in the Arctic and elsewhere far beyond what any layman would expect from the change of a degree or two. But whatever you believe as a layman, politician or scientist, very scary things are happening right now.

I’ll jump to the bottom line. Below are some of the conclusions of this series of essays, based on events happening right now. It’s quite a long list but it is based on solid facts. No forecasts. No politics. Plain facts that will be thoroughly covered as I publish the next parts of this series:

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Compounding factors (making Global Warming effects worse):

Extremely Critical: Populations: The two subjects, populations and emissions, are up, up and then up. There is a natural reason why that is happening. Humans breed and they like a comfortable life. Nothing in the historical data indicates that will change. Heck, common sense tells Oxygen and nitrogen on a clear Arctic dayyou no one will want that to change, especially on a personal level. A further complication is the disparity between the have’s and the have not’s. The have not’s want what the have’s have. That, again is perfectly natural from the perspective of the have not’s. It’s all in human nature, deeply burnt in and very difficult to change.

Unfortunately, all evidence of Global Warming indicates a drastic change is required. Otherwise mankind may not survive. A 60-70% reduction in carbon emissions might save us. That will be painful. Anyone may doubt if such sacrifice can happen. Politicians don’t want to even hear about it. Look at that last graph again and ask yourself if it is possible for it to actually become reality

Extremely Critical: Temperatures: Four original questions, four answers:

  • First, is the temperature rise consistent with historical patterns – is it simply a natural cyclical matter of limited, temporary importance? Answer: The current climate pattern is without modern historical precedent and may become as severe as that of the ice ages, inversed. The ice ages produced enormous upheavals on the few living at the time. Given the size of today’s populations, the current issue is far more severe than that of the ice ages.
  • Second, is the rise caused by non-human events such as a natural increase in CO2 or perhaps the natural and temporary effects of solar activity? Answer: Essentially, who cares? The only effect of a possible cyclic pattern is to make matters that much worse, not better.
  • Third, is the data reliable? Some accuse the UN of falsifying historical data to make its points more plausible. Answer: I don’t know. I doubt the UN deliberately is misleading the world using fraud. That would simply be too risky.
  • Fourth, much of the climatic research relies on high speed computers and complex models that have never been accurate, thereby casting doubts on any conclusions. Answer: This concern is valid. Never expect black boxes to make believable decisions for you. They are only tools assisting old-fashioned thinking.

Very Critical: Carbon gases 1 (GHGs): Carbon gas concentrations are up. So are temperatures. Just about all scientific studies acknowledge a causal relationship between gases and climate. Arguments to the contrary are not credible. There is no believable evidence that the increase in carbon gas concentrations will slow over the short term or even mid term (5-20 years).

Not critical: Carbon gases 2 (GHGs): Here is something for astronomy buffs. Check out the planet Venus. Venus atmosphere is quite different from ours. It lacks very much in oxygen. But it contains some 13,000 times as much CO2. That means Venus’ atmosphere is 97% CO2. Guess what? Venus is a very hotCows in polluted carbon waters emitting methane into the air place where no life (in our sense) is possible. Its surface temperature is about 480 degrees Celsius (900 degrees Fahrenheit). Some call Venus a case of runaway greenhouse effect.

Almost hopeless: Politics, economics: The rhetoric, fearful, outrageous platitudes and evasions suggest no proactive or decisive actions any time soon, at least internationally. The official attitudes of major polluters are worse than sad, they are criminal. The controversial CERs (carbon credits) are the only major, observable economic events seen today, apart from some minor tax cases. The lack of results from the 2006 Nairobi Conference fuels widespread frustration. It proves that the current Kyoto Protocol is well on the way towards irrelevance. Can it be fixed? Currently, the answer is most likely no. With US, China and India taking on strong leadership – maybe.

Very critical: Ecosystems: I examined three ecosystems: coral reefs, species at risk and ocean acidification. There are many more. These three samples showed clearly that the Earth ecology is already under attack by Global Warming. Coral reefs are dying. Species are going extinct. Ocean Acidification kills millions of creatures throughout the oceanic ecosystem and beyond.

Critical: The Arctic and tundra: No good news comes out of this section. The Arctic and the tundra are under vicious attack from Global Warming. Ecosystems are destroyed. Possibly the commercial opening up of new exploration areas is good news to some large corporations that will claim they do us all a favor. They don’t. Exploitation will lead to worsening Global Warming. We may not be able to enjoy, for very long, the Arctic diamonds or the gas refined from the new oil supplies.Pollution of carbon materials

Very critical: Glaciers and ice packs: Except for most of Antarctica, glaciers and ice packs are melting at a high and accelerating pace, whether on Greenland or in the Alps. The white surfaces decline which contributes to even warmer temperatures. The impacts on the ecosystems and food cycles are serious and potentially catastrophic. A multitude of animals are threatened, including whales, seals and polar bears. Melting polar ice packs affect all the oceans’ currents with a potential for disaster. The extra-warm Arctic temperatures spread beyond its borders to surrounding fishing grounds – not good news at all for our food supplies. The retreats of glaciers in non polar areas have significant impact locally on wildlife and on fresh water supplies.

Very critical: Changing oceans, changing currents: The complexity of the oceanic environment makes meaningful conclusions almost impossible. Most research concentrates on relatively limited sections of the whole system. Although there are major, comprehensive and complex models, many assumptions and relationships fed into such models are not fully understood, nor completely researched or even quantified in all the required detail. What we do know is that the oceans are overwhelmingly powerful: the energy content of surface ocean currents exceeds the world total energy demand by a factor as big as a thousand times. A minor, unforeseeable upset in that energy balance could have devastating effects. This renders most issues, including Global Warming, almost meaningless, much less foreseeable.

  • Critical factors: Greenland glacial rundown reduces Northern ocean saline levels and may slow the thermohalide process. A weakening of this process could slow or stop surface and deep water currents, leading to devastation of many areas. Higher temperatures, increased evaporation, higher saline levels in the lower latitudes make more precipitation and extreme weather very likely outcomes.
  • Factors too complex to evaluate: Arctic ice packs, air pressures, sea level rise and flooding, ecosystems, sedimentary (ocean bottom) impacts, oceanic CO2 storage capacity and other effects from higher temperatures. See text for details.
  • Factors probably less critical: Antarctica, sea bottom rise (tectonic uplift), erosion, overall density/volumes of seawater, human/industrial salt water use as a substitute for dwindling fresh water supplies (in terms of effect on oceans). See text for details.

Less critical: Ozone depletion: The impact of the ozone layer is mostly a health concern. That concern is diminished as the layer restores itself after harmful pollution decreases. There may be a slight contribution to Global Warming if the layer grows thicker or contains a higher ozone concentration.400,000 years of history out of balance due to Global Warming, population growth and industrialization with urbanization

Somewhat critical: El Nino: Is Global Warming related to El Nino? The conventional answer is no, El Nino is a local cyclic pattern while Global Warming is a global trend. But the increased frequency of El Nino years coupled with the warming trend leave many scientists wondering. Considering, for instance, the severe drought in Australia, the answer is important. Obviously, a generally warmer sea temperature will lead to conditions somewhat similar to El Nino off South America’s West Coast.

Extremely Critical: Deforestation (Non Annex 1 countries), Transportation (Annex 1 countries) and Electricity & Heat (Annex 1 countries). To be completed.

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Mitigating factors (maybe making things better)

Less important: Bioengineering: It is easy to write off bio engineering as crack pot ideas. None are implemented today. Certainly some current approaches appear a bit far out. It is, though, an established science. The idea of pouring SO2 into the atmosphere comes from a very brilliant Nobel laureate. The expectation that conservation will cure Global Warming may be unrealistic. That would make bio or geo engineering ideas quite important, especially as an emergency remedy. Smoke stacks emitting sulphur dioxide SO2 and GHG

Extremely important: Storing and converting gases: Storing GHGs underground in reservoirs is clearly a viable and potentially excellent idea. The technology is well known and used successfully today. It should be strongly encouraged by the authorities. Politicians should see a golden opportunity to take low risk (to them) action with a potentially significant positive impact (on us). There are many approaches to convert GHGs to useful or harmless components. It’s impossible not to view these technologies as perhaps the most positive sign of relief so far.

Less important: Reforestation: The net effect on carbon assimilation is not known but the reported reforestation trend is a positive sign. It takes many years to rebuild an ecosystem, assuming it is not permanently destroyed. The growing cycle of timber, for instance is anywhere from 50 to 100 years. Considering continued deforestation in Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia, I can’t accept this to be a major positive impact on overall biomass and carbon assimilation any time soon.

Extremely important: Carbon taxes, CERs: Get the EU, the US and Canada, Japan and Russia to enact a coordinated, had core tax system. Once these major countries have effective and agreed on programs in place, place strong pressure on China and India to join. At that point, over 70% of GHG emissions would be controlled by an equitable system. The rest of the world could join the club only if they prove willing to accept the responsibility, not subsidies, to reduce their emissions.

Extremely important: Imposing limits: Extending the Clean Air Act to cover GHG emissions is an obvious, simple common sense initiative. That would curb the disastrous US carbon gas emissions. CAA has a proven, successful track record. Extending the CAA concept internationally could reduce many ill effects of Global Warming. Criminally incompetent and corrupt, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney see it differently. They do their best to go the opposite way. They force us all to face disaster.

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Next

Here is a little reminder of a car less society. The picture was taken during the US depression of the 1930s. The Kyoto Protocol and most science studies call for a roll back in energy use to the levels of the 1930s. This is what the 1930s looked like to most people. At least the trains seemed to run. I sure will miss my Mini Cooper.

Compounding and migrating factors in real life

Here is a summary of the seven posts in the essay. Navigation links are located just below the summary.

The current GlobalWarming:1 discussed why Global Warming happened, who and what causes it, ended up with a list of villains. It did not go into the consequences of Global Warming. It didn’t discuss what is happening to the oceans, the Arctic, Greenland, El Nino, eco systems, weather impacts, tundra, ice packs, the Kyoto Protocol or the Stern reports or many other Global Warming topics. That is yet to come.

GlobalWarming:2 covers two main subjects. The UN provides a real mixed bag of positive and negative influences on the fight against Global Warming. The positive is that they try. The negative is that they fail. The Kyoto Protocol is not reducing emissions, nor is its associated reports. The CER system is causing more trouble than good. Industrial and national politics do not ensure a safe future. Although simple solutions exist, they are not acted on.

Global Warming:3 examines the basic root cause of our problem: rising temperatures. Is the increase real and does it matter? Is it natural or caused by man? Are the temperatures unusual compared to history? Do GHGs actually cause the increase? What can past temperature variations tell us about what we face today. Can you even trust the basic data and analysis of temperatures? Those and other questions are answered in detail.

GlobalWarming:4 shows Global Warming is not the first disaster forecast ever done, published and hyped. There have been many in the past and as a rule they failed. The disaster in question did not happen. So the question is – why would this particular doom and gloom outlook be right? What is different this time? As you will see, plenty is different.

GlobalWarming:5 reviews the role and issues of population growth. This is a vital issue for future emissions as shown in GlobalWarming:1. Historically over the past 250 years, the explosive growth in populations explains two thirds of the increase in GHG emissions. The rise in personal carbon use must be reversed as must other issues related to unbalanced growth in populations.

GlobalWarminng:6 is the meat of this series. It gets into the details of what is happening right now in the some 25 different real life areas, impacted by Global Warming. These are not forecasts, assumptions or opinions but verifiable hard facts. The picture seen in full is quite frightening and very indicative of your future. The every day signs get worse by the day.

GlobalWarming:7 paints three scenarios (not forecasts) of what might happen in the future. There is a pessimistic, an optimistic and a middle of the road picture. The three scenarios are based on simple, common sense assumptions, very different from the elaborate, multi million $ systems enjoyed by the UN, the Stern Report, EPA and others. These big systems rely on a myriad of assumptions as input, many of which aren’t really known and/or subject to lots of complexity.

I’m by no means competing with the “big” studies or the smart people putting them together. I used to be a forecasting guru working for the UN, the World Bank, FAO, OECD, the EU and many Fortune 500 companies. I guess I have a right to an opinion. No one is required to consider my views.

I am completely nonaffiliated. I have no axe to grind. I receive no monetary compensation, grants or sponsorship. I have no obligations to fulfill. There are no office politics around here. I need not to promote any agendas except mine – the survival of us all.

GlobalWarming:2-7 will follow together with other commentaries and follow ups. Hang in there. The links below help you navigate this monster essay. It’s all quite important to your health.

TOC

A Temporary Link Target

Marching off in Seattle


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17 Responses to “Global Warming 1: Culprits, Scoundrels and Villains”

  1. elise said

    Karl thank you for your brilliant insight and hard work. I am so grateful to have this knowledge – now I just need to work out what I can do… I’m passing this on to all my clients to read

  2. […] Global Warming essays which will come along in a week or so. Previous posts in the series include: Post 1 – Culprits, Scoundrels and Villains and Post 2 – Politics, Scandals, Mass Committees. Check them out, it might be good for your […]

  3. […] new to the series, you may want to 1) start at the beginning of the series using this link: “Culprits, Scoundrels and Villains” or 2) check out the table of content and other explanations of what this is all about – just […]

  4. […] new to the series, you may want to 1) start at the beginning of the series using this link: “Culprits, Scoundrels and Villains” or 2) check out the table of content and other explanations of what this is all about – just […]

  5. […] new to the series, you may want to 1) start at the beginning of the series using this link: “Culprits, Scoundrels and Villains” or 2) check out the table of content and other explanations of what this is all about – just […]

  6. Ich erklare meinen Freunden uber diese Seite. Interessieren!

  7. Karl said

    Viel Dank. Es gibt mehr, zum zu kommen.

    Karl

  8. spartiti said

    sono eccitato circa questo luogo, buon lavoro!:)

  9. novella said

    Was kann ich sagen? Wirklich gute Arbeit erledigt mit dem Aufstellungsort

  10. this is a very well laid out blog. congratulations. it needs wider dissemination and i am doing my bit by posting the link on my fb and also emailing friends. keep it up!

  11. john said

    Very good post. Hope to see more excellent posts in the future.

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