By Michael Collins
We don't have a substantial cushion between today's climate and dangerous warming. James E. Hanson
The head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James E. Hansen, announced the results of break through global warming research last week. The earth's temperature is rising at a much quicker pace than previously anticipated according to research by the nation's preeminent climate scientist. We have little time to reverse the trend. (Image)
An example of the dangerous pace of change is emerging on Russia's Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf. Long-frozen permafrost is beginning to melt due to global warming. This threat was identified years ago due to the potential for highly toxic releases of heat-trapping methane gas. Recent changes are both a surprise and a cause for alarm. There is more methane gas released from the Russian cauldron "than the CH4 emissions estimate for the entire world ocean." Methane is a "far more potent GHG [greenhouse gas] than CO2" with a greater potential to cause "abrupt climate change."
At the same time, researchers at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich developed a more efficient analysis of contributors to global warming. They found man-made causes can now be linked with at least 75% of global warming.
Hansen's warning is brought to life by the methane gas event starting in the Arctic. We are in the danger zone. By the time we know it's too late, it won't matter. Without prompt, concerted action through readily available technologies and programs, we face increasing calamities through midcentury. After that, the displacement, destruction, and death assume unthinkable proportions.
As these evidence-based warnings were issued, the military effort to seize effective control of oil and natural gas regions of the Middle East and Central Asia continued unabated. Ironically, as our rulers engage in endless military conflicts to secure access to oil, they are delivering a weapon of mass destruction, an oil-based economy that will create massive disasters and dislocations that plunge the world into chaos.
Domestic policies have the same anti life outcome. The Keystone XL pipeline to accommodate tar sands oil production ensures continued CO2 pollution resulting in a collapsing world social and economic structure.
We are headed for a new world disorder of epic proportions. Past performance indicates that the current power structure is unable to handle disasters on a much smaller scale. The August 2003 heat wave in Europe killed 35,000, devastated crops, and sparked massive forest fires. It had never occurred to these nations to plan for or even consider the impact of heat waves. The failed response to the New Orleans disaster in 2005 offers a sneak preview of one hapless response after another to tragedies of ever increasing magnitude. How will we plan for consequences we can't predict?
What will the rulers do when entire agricultural regions disappear due to accelerating global warming?
How will the planet offset these losses as the world climate system becomes more hostile to agricultural output even in those areas where growing can be sustained?
What will the people do when drinking water becomes scarce due to the evaporation of runoff and water sources? What happens when the glaciers melt down and cease to store fresh water?
How will the world economy function as the flawed the assumption of endless growth becomes painfully apparent?
These were all questions that we were told were a generation or two away. That is no longer the case according to the new evidence, analytic and empirical.
An Example of the New World Disorder
Florida, the coastline of China, the Netherlands, and the entire nation of Bangladesh will be acutely affected by sea level changes should the world slip into Dr. Hansen's danger zone.
With just a 2 meter rise in sea level around 530 million people around the world will need to find new homes because theirs will be gone. (United States Geological Survey) The impact on Florida is evident in the image. There will be 3.5 million people in need of new homes.
The time between now and midcentury will be marked by ever-increasing devastation and displacement for human beings in coastal areas. About 40% of the earth's population lives within 60 miles of a coastal area.