We evidently have crossed a significant global warming threshold (Christian Science Monitor, October 11, 2007
"A key threshold crossed
" by Gregory M. Lamb).
Some thoughts on the consequences of this event might be of interest:
It seems quite possible that we finally have arrived at the End Times (fundamentalists rejoice)! One might ask the world governments (esp. the United States and China): "What was it about the word 'irreversible' that you didn't understand?"
The impending catastrophe is not simply the disastrous climate changes. It's the ensuing horror of a planet in complete social upheaval as billions of people and their military forces slaughter each other in fighting for high ground and dwindling water, food and energy resources.
Rising sea levels are a well known scenario. Fortunately (for most Western and Continental powers with high ground) much of the low-lying land is inhabited by impoverished third-world people who will die by the millions without posing a nuclear (if not an inadvertent biological) threat.
CNN will give sanctimonious coverage 24/7, while talking heads tsk-tsk about all those poor little hungry, frightened, orphaned children with the large brown eyes, and grieving survivors will squat in the rotting detritus of our uncontrolled cruelty and greed. Priests will mumble about God's will, and fish will feed on corpses. Ho-hum. To a species inured to unspeakable suffering it's deja vu all over again.
US and European real estate brokers will lick their chops as the value of high ground skyrockets, and there is soooo much money to be made! Insurance companies will go bankrupt and repudiate their obligations. Governments will hold pointless hearings. The Swiss, blessed with secure vaults well above sea level, will make even more money as the wealthy and the corrupt reflexively rush to secure their wealth, still believing that it will buy any real security.
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[[ Exercise for the student: Calculate how many billionaires, with their private security forces and hydroponic farms, can live in the Swiss cantons and in the American Rockies, given the available acreage. Proctors will pass out worksheets. You have fifteen minutes. Using Google is not permitted. ]]
But in a severe global chill (a mini ice age can be a consequence of global warming - - yes, it really can) no restraint or quarter will be given.
Old-fashioned ethnic cleansing will look like a schoolyard fight between preschoolers. High ground becomes irrelevant, even undesirable. No people or nations will stand aside and die quietly for anyone else. In the inevitable wars of attrition and extermination, the big nuclear guys will grind down everyone else.
That is analogous to the way in which the massive Soviet Army ground down the Wehrmacht. By the time the nuclear fallout more or less settles to earth, the slaughter has exhausted all sides, and there remain only a few defenseless noncombatants left to kill, the world will have shaken out into perhaps two (at most three) major superpowers (exactly like Orwell's 1984), presiding over their hegemonies of dying, brutish people and radioactive, poisoned territory. Chernobyl and the Cambodian killing fields. Jihad and Crusade. We never learn.
China and Russia are the biggest continental nuclear guys. The United States will own North and Central America. South America will be up for grabs, depending upon who has the strength (military and manpower) to occupy and control it. Argentina and Brazil should not be counted out in that. With the Himalayas as a northern barrier, nuclear India might more or less stay put and defend its turf against nuclear Pakistan (a fun scenario, that!), but China will not be contained. Russia will move aggressively into the Arctic oil fields (which are becoming accessible year-round due to shrinking Arctic ice), and everybody will try to control Middle Eastern oil.
So we have the lovely prospect of China and Russia locked in mortal combat, and the United States, with its central states turning into a dust bowl, barely able to feed its own people. In a global competition for survival between large and small nuclear powers, this sorry planet will become lethally poisoned for millennia. Give or take a few years, the Mayan calendar doomsday prediction (December 21, 2012) appears to be right....
Hell is coming to breakfast. Bon Appetit!
Bob Richardson is a retired electrical engineer and information specialist. He lives in New England.