Why Humans Won’t Get Global Warming Right

Most intelligent people who can read understand the story of global warming and that it is caused by human actions, viz., we burn lots of carbon fuel which creates lots of carbon dioxide which traps the sun’s heat energy in the biosphere, raising the temperature of air and sea and land and creating the conditions to raise the temperature further faster.

In sum, humans are committing suicide and intend to take most life on the planet with them.

Solutions proposed include cutting the use of fossil fuels and increasing the use of non-polluting energy sources. Naturally we haven’t cut the use of fossil fuels, and are, in fact, using more of them, and the nonpolluting energy sources so far contribute to the problem at the very least in their manufacture.

Most of the humans in positions of power are too stupid, too willfully ignorant, or too politically or economically compromised to actually want to do anything about the problem.

And the problem is not quite so simple as stopping gas emissions.

At the same time as we are pouring out carbon dioxide, we are destroying the oceans through outflows of toxic material and by acidifying the oceans with carbon dioxide. Much life in the ocean cannot adapt to acidification, not as quickly as we are doing it, and will die. The ocean dies, we die.

The people who deny the existence or harm of global warming say cheery things like, “But a warmer planet means more arable land, thus we can feed more people.”

Well, no. Mass food crops don’t do well in warmer temperatures. Whatever land might open up likely won’t replace the land lost to flooding and to desertification. And in point of fact we cannot feed all the people who are alive now. A goodly number of them are starving to death right now, and a larger number go to bed hungry every night. Less arable land, weaker crops, more people: sure, that’s a good solution.

The point is that there are a host of things about global warming that are being discovered, and there aren’t any truly good things coming to light. There are lots of little things the scientists are discovering that suggest that as a species dealing with global warming, humans can’t find their ass with both hands.

For example, from Science Daily:

Plants give off water through tiny pores in their leaves, a process called evapotranspiration that cools the plant, just as perspiration cools our bodies. On a hot day, a tree can release tens of gallons of water into the air, acting as a natural air conditioner for its surroundings. The plants absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis through the same pores (called stomata). But when carbon dioxide levels are high, the leaf pores shrink. This causes less water to be released, diminishing the tree’s cooling power.

The warming effects of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas have been known for a long time, says Caldeira. But he and fellow Carnegie scientist Long Cao were concerned that it is not as widely recognized that carbon dioxide also warms our planet by its direct effects on plants. Previous work by Carnegie’s Chris Field and Joe Berry had indicated that the effects were important. "There is no longer any doubt that carbon dioxide decreases evaporative cooling by plants and that this decreased cooling adds to global warming," says Cao. "This effect would cause significant warming even if carbon dioxide were not a greenhouse gas."

Multiply that by a multiplicity of other things we don’t know, or we might suspect but don’t know, or that are just coming into the light, and multiply it again by the refusal of the political establishments around the world to accept the science and act with the strength required, and multiply once more by the corporate interests invested in fossil fuels and continuing corporate attacks against cutting oil and gas and coal out of the human equation, and the future looks grim for life on earth in the current round.

What humans have set in motion is not a mere passing effect, not something that we can make go away with half-measures and half-hearted international meetings. The things in motion cannot be compromised with, cannot be bargained with, cannot be brought to a table in Washington or London or Paris for discussions.

The forces of the laws of physics have been set loose on a planetary scale. It is as if the moon were rolling down on us from the sky. Nothing could stop it.

By the time humans realize that they must act, they will be in a position where they must act drastically, and if they are in that position it will be too late. We currently pour some forty billion tons of carbon dioxide into the biosphere every year, worldwide, and the temperature keeps rising, and rising faster, and the forests die and the oceans die. We are doing virtually nothing to stop what we are doing and to change course to save our lives, to save the biosphere that makes our lives possible, other than blither at each other about it, and all blithering does is put more gas into the air.

If we screw this up, there is no place else to go. If we screw this up, no one will be left to care, and no one in the entire universe will give a damn that we are gone. Life itself won’t care. Earth won’t care. We’re alone in this and only we can fix it. We save ourselves or we and most life here dies. Sooner rather than later.

image

The tiny dot in the upper right quadrant is the earth seen through the outer rings of Saturn. The image in the upper left is a magnified image of the dot. The moon is the little bulge to the upper left of the Earth’s sphere.

That’s all we’ve got. That dot. That bit of nothing.

That’s home. That’s our shack.

Love it. Or die.

We’re dying.

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3 Responses

  1. […] A good one at Grumpy Lion, a new site I just came across. It’s entitled Why Humans Won’t Get Global Warming. Go read it. […]

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  2. But- won’t Gawd be stepping in to save us soon?

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    • But if Gawd were to step in, then Gawd would have to admit that he allowed the mass destruction of life on his planet in the first place. Yada yada yada. Nope. Gawd’s sitting this one out at a cosmic Starbucks somewhere, probably in one of the bubble multiverses where he may still be welcome and has no warrants from the Cosmic Police.

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