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Notes from way, way underground

  1. Recap and Bibliography

    So to sum up:

    It is possible, and even probable, that climate change will bring an end to human civilization by the end of this century.

    Four important reasons for this assertion are:

    (1) Because a stable climate is key to all human systems, significant changes in climate will disrupt multiple human systems all at once, or in rapid succession, overwhelming our ability to respond.

    (2) We can't wait until it gets bad before responding, because amplifying loops ("tipping points") may kick in, starting processes that we cannot stop.

    (3) To all the natural amplifying factors, Man himself must be added, as potentially the most dangerous and unpredictable factor of all.

    (4) All this augurs ill for attaining the ...
  2. The Climate Change Threat in a Small Nutshell (4)

    So how do we prevent climate Armageddon?

    Work is already being done in piecemeal fashion on improving efficiency in transportation and industry, on developing sustainable energy sources, on renovating buildings to improve energy efficiency, etc. R&D is also being done on things like capturing and storing (sequestering) CO2.

    Unfortunately, this is a problem that requires cooperation among nations, for the simple and obvious reason that the threat really is global, and cutbacks in energy use by some may not be politically feasible if others do not follow suit.

    There are the following factors which immensely complicate the possibility for international cooperation:

    1) Some regions may see themselves as relative winners in a warmer world. ...
  3. The Climate Change Threat in a Small Nutshell (3)

    There is one feedback loop that is both more threatening than all the rest, and is in fact the least well understood, the most unpredictable of all.

    That feedback loop is (strictly speaking, runs through) Man himself.

    It might actually be more nearly correct to speak of many various human-based feedback loops. But let's look at a few examples, starting with minor issues.

    1) As summertime temperatures rise, and temp records are broken, people will crank up their air conditioners in Texas, Italy, India, etc. More coal will be burned to provide electric power for this.

    2) As crop failures occur, farmers will redouble applications of fertilizer or otherwise try to use fuel to raise yields.

    3) Droughts will spur communities to bring ...
  4. The Climate Change Threat in a Small Nutshell (2)

    One very important, if only very infrequently enunciated, reason for the failure of many to take the threat of climate change seriously, is the assumption that when things really start to get nasty, we'll be able to do something about it.

    We'll ramp up our efforts in several fields simultaneously--alternative energy sources, emissions-free transportation solutions, land-use initiatives. Often comparisons to the effort made by the US in WWII are invoked. We'll get our scientists and engineers working overtime. Maybe we'll finally crack that fusion nut.

    In any case, somehow, it is hoped, we'll muddle through. As George Monbiot puts it, "...I have somehow also entertained a chiliastic belief in salvation [from climate change]. At the back of my mind, at the back, ...
  5. The Climate Change Threat in a Small Nutshell (1)

    There are only a few things one need understand in order to grasp the magnitude of this threat.

    The first of these is the following.

    Every human system extant--our economic and political systems, our systems for food production, for water purification and distribution, for energy generation and delivery, for transportation, communication, and all else...all rest on underlying natural systems.

    "Rest on" implies a direct dependence relationship. All of our human systems depend on ecosystems, hydrological systems, physical and chemical and biological processes.

    And nearly all of those natural systems (basically, everything except sunlight and the diurnal pattern...and in extreme cases, even the latter) depend on climate.
  6. I'm a single-issue voter now

    Never would've thought I'd consider just one issue to the exclusion of all others. Single-issue voters always struck me as...obsessive. To put it charitably.

    However. In the past 15 months or so (as of March 2012), I have read 35-40 monographs on climate change. And I have come to think the following statement is entirely reasonable:

    It is possible, and even probable, that climate change will bring an end to human civilization by the end of this century.

    I will, by and by, explain why I believe this to be true. IAC anyone who accepts the above statement as plausible must ipso facto base her political decisions on the putative consequences for the climate. Because there is no more pressing issue.

    Not even nuclear war constitutes a threat ...