February 14th 2007
In response to: Climate change & Bob Brown
Scientists don't really know how fast the air and seas will heat up with the rapid rise of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere.
They can't even explain why the CO2 level in the air has been skyrocketing the last few years.
The last few decades the air has been warming about .2 C/decade, but it is probable that this will speed up due to feedbacks and rapidly increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Abstractly, complex systems tend to settle into stable states, and when forced, resist, then finally quickly change into a new stable state.
Simplistically, the earth's climate has three states: Ice Age, the Holocene, and the Thermomaximum (i.e. cold, just right, and hot). The Ice Age and the Thermomaximum aren't very surprising, they are just what happens when it is really cold, or really hot.
What is surprising and unique is the climate we've been experiencing the last 10,000 years, explained by the homoeostatic system that keeps the Earth's climate within a comfortable range for our kind of life, the system nicknamed "Gaia."
When the homoestatic system is upset, and the ecosystems disrupted by excessive heat brought on by elevated amounts of greenhouse gases in the air, a tipping point will be crossed, and we will leave the Holocene and enter the Thermomaximum.
I submit to you that we have virtually crossed that tipping point because, while the greenhouse gas levels aren't quite high enough yet, the committment we've made by building fossil fuel burning machines will put us over the tipping point within the next few decades.
It is unrealistic to expect mankind to so quickly reduce their emissions so fast as to avoid this rapid climate change. Furthermore, as the earth warms, carbon sinks will become carbon emitters big-time, overwhelming any cuts we make to our emissions.
Therefore, the only solution is to remove the CO2 from the air after it has been emitted. Al Gore's contest to find a method to remove the CO2 is the last best hope of mankind.
If our climate tips into the Thermomaximum state, there will be a bottleneck, killing most of the people on earth. I predict with business as usual there will be less than one billion people alive by the end of the century.
If we wait for Governments to act, we will all end up extinct, and soon. I would urge readers to listen to respected Australian scientists like Dr.Tim Flannery (http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/civilisations-darkest-hour/2005/09/23/1126982230888.html) and Professor Ian Lowe (http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bigideas/stories/2007/1842533.htm). If we put our efforts - and money - behind their ideas, we might just survive.
To read Climate Change & Bob Brown (click here)