Thursday, May 2, 2013

No Planet B


By Andrew Glikson
Earth and paleo-climate science, Australian National University
IPCC Reviewer

The global CO2cide 400 ppm milestone

Figure 1. Mouna Loa Month ending May 1, 2013, from:  http://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/


Figure 2. CO2 levels over the past 800,000,000 years, from:  http://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/

Figure 3. Mouna Loa CO2 level 29 April, 2013 keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/ 
On the 29 April, 2013, NOAA recorded a CO2 level of 399.50 ppm, while some readings in April 2013 exceeded 400 ppm (Figures 1, 2 and 3, from: http://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/), signifying a return to atmosphere conditions of the Pliocene (5.2 – 2.6 million years ago).

This followed a rise from 394.45 ppm to 397.34 ppm (March 2012 – 2013) at a rate of 2.89 ppm per year, unprecedented in the recorded geological history of the last 65 million years (Figure 4).

Pliocene temperatures - about 2 – 3 degrees C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures, resulted in an intense hydrological cycle, ensuing in extensive rain forests, lush savannas (now occupied by deserts), small ice caps and sea levels about 25 meters higher than at present (Figure 5).

Figure 4. CO2 rise rates vs Temperature rise rates for the Cainozoic (65 Ma to the present). 

Figure 5. The Pliocene Earth compared to the modern Earth 
http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/features/199704_pliocene/page2.html
Note (1) the lower albedo in the Pliocene poles signifying the smaller
size of the ice caps and (2) the high albedo of 
the modern Sahara and
Gobi deserts signifying the a larger extent of Holocene deserts.
Life abounded during the Pliocene. However, regular river flow conditions such as allowed cultivation and along river valleys since about 7000 years ago, and temperate Mediterraneantype climates allowing extensive farming, could hardly exist under the intense hydrological cycle and heat wave conditions of the Pliocene.

Gradual to intermittent advents of Pleistocene ice ages over the last 2 million years allowed many species to adapt to changing conditions. Abrupt warming events, such as the DansgaardOeschger cycles, occurred during glacial periods (Figure 4). Extreme shifts in state of the climate exceed the rate to which many species can adapt.

The basic laws of atmospheric physics and chemistry and the behavior of past atmospheres indicate changes in the level of atmospheric greenhouse gases constitute a key parameter determining the current trend of the terrestrial climate. Concomitant rates of SO2 release, mainly from coal burning, have regulated changes in temperature.

Increases in SO2 release about 1950 and 2001 are responsible for slow-down of temperature rise (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Comparison of the rate of warming and variations in SO2 levels.
Temperature from 
GISS/NASA (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/); SO2 levels after
http://www.atmos-chemphys.net/11/1101/2011/acp-11-1101-2011.html.
          Note the overlap between slow-down of overall 
temperature rise rates and increase in SO2 emissions
(http://www.atmos-chemphys.net/11/1101/2011/acp-11-1101-2011.html) around 1950 and 2001. 
The current CO2 ppm/year rise rate of ~3 ppm/year surpasses any recorded since the last 65 million years of Earth history. High CO2 and temperature rises occurred about ~55 Ma ago. At that stage release of methane drove a CO2 rise of near-1800 ppm and a temperature rise of about 5 degrees C over 10,000 years, namely a rate of 0.18 ppm/year and 0.0005 degrees C/year (Zachos et al. 2008; http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v451/n7176/full/nature06588.html).

The K-T asteroid impact of 65 Ma-ago resulted in a rise of more than 2000 ppm CO2 within about 10,000 years, namely ~0.2 ppm /year. This triggered a temperature rise of about 7.5 degrees C, namely 0.00075 degrees C per year (Beerling et al. 2002 http://www.pnas.org/content/99/12/7836.full) (Figure 4). Calculations by these authors suggest a release of approximately 4500 billion tons of carbon from impacted carbonates and shale, ignited bushfires and ocean warming.

The consequences of the current rise in greenhouse gases is manifested by enhancement of the hydrological cycle, with ensuing floods and of heat waves (http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/ ; http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=ec_ctte/extreme_weather/index.htm).

Open-ended combustion of known fossil fuel reserves (Figure 7) would lead to atmospheric CO2 levels of ~800 to 1000 ppm CO2, high degree to total melting of the polar ice caps, sea level rise on the scale of tens of meters and disruption of the biosphere on a scale analogous to recorded mass extinctions (http://www.astrobio.net/interview/2553/under-a-green-sky).

Figure 7. CO2 emissions by fossil fuels (1 ppm CO2 ~ 2.12 GtC). 
Alternative estimates of reserves and potentially recoverable resources are from EIA (2011) and GAC (2011).
We are 
headed toward 800 to 1,000+ ppm, which represents the near-certain destruction of modern civilization
as we know it -- as the recent scientific literature makes chillingly clear. 

(http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/01/28/413955/james-hansen-on-cowards/). 
Carbon emissions may be self-limiting. It is likely that, before atmospheric CO2 reach 500 ppm, disruption of fossil fuel-combusting systems by extreme weather events would result in reduction of emissions. On the other hand the extent to which amplifying feedback processes (methane release from permafrost and Arctic sediments, bushfires, warming oceans) would continue to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere is uncertain.

Preoccupied with short-term economic forecast, daily A$ exchange rates, share market fluctuations and, sports results, with some exceptions (http://www.theage.com.au/national/greenhouse-gases-in-new-danger-zone-20130428-2imjm.html) the accelerating rate of atmospheric CO2 seems to hardly rate a mention on the pages of the global media.

There are few signs the extreme danger the terrestrial biosphere and the oceans are driving the global community to undertake the urgent large-scale measures required to attempt to arrest current trends.

In Australia the language has changed, from “the greatest moral issue of our generation” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqZvpRjGtGM) to hit-pocket controversy over a “carbon tax”, a meningless 5 percent reduction in local emissions which overlook the export of hundreds of million tons of coal, ending up in the same atmosphere.

There is no evidence the recent IPA celebration (http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/04/05/abbottbolt-rinehart-fawn-in-the-ipa-court-of-king-murdoch/), attended by the likely next prime minister, the world’s media moguls and mining magnates, as well as an archbishop, was concerned with the future of the Earth’s climate.

In professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber’s words stated in Doha “overriding everything else the 1st Law of Humanity: Don’t kill your children!” (http://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/inshort/files/Schellnhuber-keynote-COP18-state-dinner-Doha.pdf).

There is no planet B.

3 comments:

  1. The alternative reality to what is most certain to happen needs story teller application.
    Joy was a fellow who was in high school and liked life but has a serious doubt if the future is good.
    But rather than be down has met friends including his family who -literally believe change can happen and little guys matter but they are down too. Not thinking future will be good at all.
    But a leader in gov sort of heard their thoughts and wanted to do something to make the change waiting on the cusp of becoming real by the way.
    So Joy comes home one day and it so happens one of those blase' presidential chats on television have been different and the corporate press is having a field day.
    Turns out an anonymous posting had found scrubbed information stockpiles and put them on line showing a dichotomous relationship.
    But Joy was in luck as all the things he looked at were in order of application showing meaning of what was happening in the world and how big gov had merged with corp and it applied to him.
    Everything he hooked up with on line and read seemed to steer him in the same direction of wanting to read more and the ideas came pouring in into his brain about ways things could be med for the disassociate reality of actual life and what was on TV. And the next day press over the whole world was buzzing with an apparent rise of awareness by a whole host of kids in high schools who also seemed to be reading exactly what was on the cusp of their understanding of a better way for them and the world to go. -Now the grown ups were not young enough to grasp what was going on.
    But the change had been set in motion and within a few moth's wing flutter change was set in play or motion to do what no man had thought possible and that was to stop Runaway global warming and so in the nick of time moist runaway on Type M planet was averted essentially and habitable zone
    was set in motion to be saved. Yikes, thought the story teller that reads like Alice's Restaurant..

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    Replies
    1. As a single entrepreneur, I'me preparing to realize a combination of electric systems which will allow me to achieve continuos ecological AND economical advantages:

      The Project:
      -I'm already owning an electric car, the Nissan Leaf
      -I now prepare to install photovoltaic cells on the roof of my medical office
      -Nissan is announcing a converter, which can be plugged into the charging port of the car. Through this inverter the car can deliver enough electricity at maximum rate of 220V / until 30 Amps and enough electric energy for several days - the battery can store up to 24kWh of eletric energy
      -while the PV roof produces the energy needed for my medical office and the car, the battery of my electric car will serve as a store for the electricity. This will allow me to guarantee a reliable "private", individual electric system.

      The Aim:
      The system gives me a climate protection in a double sense. It reduces my carbon footprint considerably, by eliminating the use of fossil fuel for the car and the electric grid.
      With the climate change we must expect storms and floods, causing frequent shut-downs of the electric grid. My installation should protect me against those shut-downs and give me a considerable economic advantage against other entrepreneurs which are still highly dependent on fossil fuel based or nuclear energy based systems and which on depend on centralised energy systems. Those systems will probably prove out to be more and more dysfunctional.

      What are you thinking of my plans? It really is a trajectory to follow on, isn't it?

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    2. Your plan is great as it will inspire others and industry to do things too including municipalities and gov. The thing with the environment is that it will take a full out retooling of not only what makes business and enterprise tick but people everywhere wanting to adopt actual goals that are doable and which inspire hope. Naturally.. -Also, Doctors need cars to get around..
      The retooling of industry necessary to bring forces to bear, equal and opposite of that which tries to extinct us for a lack of a better term has potential to zoom the economy of the world like nothing else can.
      I'm advocating using a writ known as Act of God to alter money to end the externalization of man's negative effect on Earth alive..
      It places essentially the will to live of the whole of humanity v evil. or rather the physics of the properties of elements in total that will rather abruptly snap life gone and shift Earth to a range of

      -The thing is Earth is past point where emission reduction can stop moist runaway global warming from advancing. The carbon dioxide seasonal variation at present is overridden by overall increase rate approx every 4 years and that line will go flat line smooth as extinction proceeds.
      The methane levels measured in Antarctic now at about 19,000 feet or approx the level of atmosphere where Stratosphere begins there in polar region is approx tree times the levels seen in the past 800,000 years.
      -I typed tree instead of three and left it for all to see.. Because Nature is telling a story and the little guys need to speak to have advocate for change.

      But as far as your idea of what you could be doing on a personal level considering your ability financially, the solar array and care of car battery for multiple purpose application and connection to grid is OK.
      Tell the great story of how battery can be switched to ultralight and back to e bike or car or to climate control living space and to keep the doves and the lions happy at the same time.. The story of how fun that could be.. Figuratively speaking.. Of course.. -But the field of battle is Politics to War today and the leaders earth has indeed are blind to essentially a Cheshire Cat disappearing from sight straight from the story book you sort of told me to read. The Tail first disappearance till only the grin remained and lingered.. Not presently exactly feeling like grinning- I get a sometimes semi permanent frown on my face after reading and stuff every day just about and sometimes it's good to delay something like responding to what's posted on line. -Sorry for the delay.. Each time I started to I'd write something different so you can bet this is not an exception.

      Have a good day and thanks for your story.. Adios..

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