I appreciate the numerous emails thanking me for providing an understandable explanation of the global warming scenario. The book, Unprecedented Crime, about which I reported, caused me to start thinking more seriously about man-made global warming. I already was thinking about it, because capitalism owes its profits to the costs that it imposes on the environment, costs that are external to the capitalist entity. I have been thinking about this since I addressed "external costs" in my 2013 book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism.
I am thinking that if man-made global warming is indeed in the cards, as the current evidence supports, the external costs of capitalism will far exceed the total value of all the goods produced over the course of the industrial revolution. Past material comforts will be paid for by future curtailment of life on Earth. Greed, gluttony, envy, lust, and pride will have proven to be five of the seven deadly sins that were deadly for planet Earth.
I hope I can find the time and energy to get around to a book on the subject. For now, like you, I am learning. It struck me, as it strikes many of you, how a one or two degree rise in temperature can cause ice caps, glaciers, and the Greenland ice shelf to melt. We don't think of the Arctic or glaciers hovering on the temperature border of frozen and melting. It is not intuitive that small changes can make such large differences.
Like you, I also found it puzzling that as carbon dioxide is only a small part of the atmosphere, how its increase can have such dangerous effects.
While struggling to put what I learned into understandable language, I thankfully came across this explanation in Scientific American:
"Small changes in the Earth's heat balance can lead to large climatic changes. For example, the ice ages during the last several million years -- and the warmer periods in between -- appear to have been triggered by no more than a different seasonal and latitudinal distribution of the solar energy absorbed by the Earth, not by a change in output from the sun. The geologic record shows that the differences in ice cover, sea level and precipitation as well as in plant and animal populations were quite dramatic between the ice ages and the warm interglacials. Yet the global average temperature differences corresponding to these radically different climates were only about 5 degrees C in the tropics and 8 degrees C in polar regions."
In case you don't understand what is being said, the message is that very small differences in temperature are the difference between ice ages and heat extinction ages.
Scientific American asks this question --"If carbon dioxide makes up only a minute portion of the atmosphere, how can global warming be traced to it? And how can such a tiny amount of change produce such large effects?" -- and Pieter Tans, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory, provides this answer. Read it, and you will understand.
Keep in mind that however small the temperature changes seem to you, that it is not a theory but an observable fact that arctic ice, the Greenland ice shelf, and glaciers are melting. Indeed, many glaciers have completely melted away. They are no longer present on Earth.
Ocean acidification is also an observable event. weather.com reports this from the just published Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
"Human Activity Is Dissolving the World's Seafloors, Raising Alarm for the Future
"Typically, the seafloor is milky white and comprised of the mineral calcite. Today, excessive carbon emissions have turned the milky white seafloor a murky brown in some hotspots such as the Northern Atlantic and the southern oceans.
"Ocean acidification driven by human activity is dissolving the world's seafloors at an alarming rate, a new study says.
"Typically, the seafloor is milky white and comprised of the mineral calcite (CaCO3), which is formed from the skeletons and shells of planktonic organisms and corals, according to the study published this week in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States (PNAS).
"Today, excessive carbon emissions have turned the milky white seafloor a murky brown in some hotspots, such as the Northern Atlantic and the southern oceans.
"Dissolving calcite helps to neutralize the acidity of carbon dioxide and prevents ocean water from becoming too acidic. However, levels of carbon dioxide are so high in some areas and the water is so acidic that the calcite cannot meet the demand and is dissolving at a rapid rate. Researchers with Canada's McGill University say it could take decades to see the full impacts of human-caused carbon emissions on the seafloor but the outlook is grim.