Thursday, June 21, 2007

In Imminent Peril

Good news America.

You are no longer the "largest polluter on earth".

Now it's China.

That's the good news. Here's the bad. There is another scientific paper out. This one comes from only six scientists. But they pull no punches. The story comes from The Independent.

The Earth today stands in imminent peril

...and nothing short of a planetary rescue will save it from the environmental cataclysm of dangerous climate change.

Those are not the words of eco-warriors but the considered opinion of a group of eminent scientists writing in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 19 June 2007

Six scientists from some of the leading scientific institutions in the United States have issued what amounts to an unambiguous warning to the world: civilisation itself is threatened by global warming.

They also implicitly criticise the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for underestimating the scale of sea-level rises this century as a result of melting glaciers and polar ice sheets.

Instead of sea levels rising by about 40 centimetres, as the IPCC predicts in one of its computer forecasts, the true rise might be as great as several metres by 2100. That is why, they say, planet Earth today is in "imminent peril".

In a densely referenced scientific paper published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A some of the world's leading climate researchers describe in detail why they believe that humanity can no longer afford to ignore the "gravest threat" of climate change.

"Recent greenhouse gas emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of control, with great dangers for humans and other creatures," the scientists say. Only intense efforts to curb man-made emissions of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases can keep the climate within or near the range of the past one million years, they add.

The researchers were led by James Hansen, the director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who was the first scientist to warn the US Congress about global warming.
The other scientists were Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha and Gary Russell, also of the Goddard Institute, David Lea of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Mark Siddall of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York.

In their 29-page paper, "Climate Change and trace gases", the scientists frequently stray from the non-emotional language of science to emphasise the scale of the problems and dangers posed by climate change.

In an email to The Independent, Dr Hansen said: "In my opinion, among our papers this one probably does the best job of making clear that the Earth is getting perilously close to climate changes that could run out of our control." clip

Their study looked back over more than 400,000 years of climate records from deep ice cores and found evidence to suggest that rapid climate change over a period of centuries, or even decades, have in the past occurred once the world began to heat up and ice sheets started melting. It is not possible to assess the dangerous level of man-made greenhouse gases.

"However, it is much lower than has commonly been assumed. If we have not already passed the dangerous level, the energy infrastructure in place ensures that we will pass it within several decades," the scientists say in their findings.

"We conclude that a feasible strategy for planetary rescue almost surely requires a means of extracting [greenhouse gases] from the air."

As 7/7/7 approaches and Al Gore's concerts go off, we will see another wave of climate raising consciousness. But as these scientists explain, the solutions are not going to be cute little light bulb changes.

According to this report, not only do we have the great challenge of changing how we power our buildings, our transport, and our gadgets, we must also begin to take CO2 out of the environment or, as these eminent scientists believe, humankind will be up the proverbial creek.

That will mean growing a beard on the earth, plus actually "mining the carbon" out of the air. Obviously, the solution is to pay those who take the carbon out, and to penalize those who put it in.

If you look at the CO2 graphs from Mauna Loa carefully, you will see that parts per million varies with the seasons by about 10 PPM. This oscillation is due to the fact that the Northern hemisphere has more annual sequestered carbon than the Southern.

It does give us some idea of the scale of the problem.

Using nanotechnology, we can mine the atmosphere of carbon and cover our structures with power paints and printed films that replace our need to burn carbon, and at the same time, remove a degree of the carbon that we have already burned. But, even if we cover every structure on earth, we will only remove perhaps a decade of carbon emissions.

We will therefore soon see that like many situations, it will be far more economic to refrain from emitting than to remove these gases after the fact.

Think about it.

Every ounce of coal,

Every gallon of gas

that was burned in your lifetime.

Is now in our air.

It was easy to put it in.

It won't be so easy getting it out.

To the climate lexicon of mitigation, and adaptation,

We must now add reclaimation.

For we are all

In Imminent Peril

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