Friday, October 09, 2009

Hell on Earth (Updated)

I want to recommend the article, "Four Degrees of Devastation," by Stephen Leahy, presently posted on

Often I wish that surely my outlook is too gloomy?  Surely I'm wrong about this?  But no such luck, unfortunately.  Nope, I've been dead-on accurate all along, as one might expect from an outlaw planetary astronomer.

I'll run some quotes from the article, with whatever commentary comes to mind, not that the article needs any.  In short, scientists are now prediciting that the average global temperature will increase 4 degrees celsius within 50 years.  This is 7.2 degrees fahrenheit.  This is way beyond anything ever predicted before.  

"Eighteen months ago, no one dared imagine humanity pushing the climate beyond an additional two degrees C of heating, but rising carbon emissions and inability to agree on cuts has meant science must now consider the previously unthinkable.

" 'Two degrees C is already gone as a target,' said Chris West of the University of Oxford's UK Climate Impacts Programme.

" 'Four degrees C is definitely possible...This is the biggest challenge in our history,' West told participants at the '4 Degrees and Beyond, International Climate Science Conference' at the University of Oxford last week.

"A four-degree C overall increase means a world where temperatures will be two degrees warmer in some places, 12 degrees and more in others, making them uninhabitable."

( 12 degrees C. is 21.6 degrees F.)

"It is a world with a one- to two-metre sea level rise by 2100, leaving hundreds of millions homeless. This will lead to 12 metres in the coming centuries as the Greenland and Western Antarctic ice sheets melt, according to papers presented at the conference in Oxford."

Like I said in an earlier post, I bet this figure is rapidly revised upward. 

"Four degrees of warming would be hotter than any time in the last 30 million years, and it could happen as soon as 2060 to 2070.

" 'Political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it's completely useless,' John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told the conference.

"Schellnhuber recently briefed U.S. officials from the Barack Obama administration, but he says they chided him that his findings were 'not grounded in political reality' and that 'the [U.S.] Senate will never agree to this'."

Like I always say, democracy is now a failed concept.  The American political process is not capable of dealing with the climate emergency.  This is a very sad situation indeed. 

"Schellnhuber had told them that the U.S. must reduce its emissions from its current 20 tonnes of carbon per person average to zero tonnes per person by 2020 to have an even chance of stabilising the climate around two degrees C.

Reduce emissions to zero in 11 years?  This will simply never happen.  I'm very sorry.  Heartsick is more like it.

"Even with a two-degree rise, most of the world's coral reefs will be lost, large portions of the ocean will become dead zones, mountain glaciers will largely vanish and many other ecosystems will be at risk, Schellnhuber warned. And there is the risk of reaching a tipping point where the warming rapidly accelerates.

"These scenarios do not include potential tipping points like the release of the 1.5 trillion tonnes of carbon in northern permafrost or the melting of undersea methane hydrates."

I'm glad this article mentions that the inevitability of a runaway greenhouse effect isn't even factored into these calculations.  Perhaps the scientists are afraid of freaking people out even worse?  However, I'm sure that within a year or two, the oncoming runaway greenhouse effect will no longer be ignored. 

"The climate negotiators heading to Copenhagen in December must accept the fact that the world's carbon emissions must eventually stop - and stop completely. There is no sustainable per capita carbon emission level because it is the total amount of carbon emitted that counts, explains Myles Allen of the Climate Dynamics group at University of Oxford's Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics Department. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for many centuries, which makes it the most important greenhouse gas to reduce and eliminate."

(Pause to let it all sink in.)

We now resume our regularly-scheduled programming on the Happyland Express!  Have a great weekend!



Wait, there's more:


ScienceDaily (Oct. 9, 2009) — You would have to go back at least 15 million years to find carbon dioxide levels on Earth as high as they are today, a UCLA scientist and colleagues report Oct. 8 in the online edition of the journal Science.

"The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today — and were sustained at those levels — global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland," said the paper's lead author, Aradhna Tripati, a UCLA assistant professor in the department of Earth and space sciences and the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences.

"A slightly shocking finding," Tripati said, "is that the only time in the last 20 million years that we find evidence for carbon dioxide levels similar to the modern level of 387 parts per million was 15 to 20 million years ago, when the planet was dramatically different."

"During the Middle Miocene (the time period approximately 14 to 20 million years ago), carbon dioxide levels were sustained at about 400 parts per million, which is about where we are today," Tripati said. "Globally, temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, a huge amount."

Some projections show carbon dioxide levels rising as high as 600 or even 900 parts per million in the next century if no action is taken to reduce carbon dioxide, Tripati said. Such levels may have been reached on Earth 50 million years ago or earlier, said Tripati, who is working to push her data back much farther than 20 million years and to study the last 20 million years in detail.

More than 50 million years ago, there were no ice sheets on Earth, and there were expanded deserts in the subtropics, Tripati noted. The planet was radically different.