A Warming World? Why Should We Care???
“SHOULD WE REALLY BE CONCERNED WITH GLOBAL WARMING?”
Last night while eating dinner at a Carrabba’s near my house I ended up sitting at the bar next to a very charming man who engaged me in conversation for quite some time. As often happens, he eventually inquired what it was I did for a living. In sharing with him that I was currently writing a book, a blog, and had recently put together a website to heighten awareness regarding the ecology of commerce and the negative effects our current economic model has had on the natural world, the conversation as you might imagine, blossomed into a much more elaborate discussion where I was asked to explain what was meant by the “Ecology of Commerce.” This brief exchange is symbolic of where we are as a society in understanding our relationship with the Earth and our impact on it.
Current ecological trends indicate that in the very near future we as a global society are poised for an economic collapse from which there will be no recovery. To understand the complexity of this point of view, we need to look somewhere other than Wall Street as our barometer for how the economy is doing and will be doing in the long term. The Financial sector of our civilization has little relevance in looking at the long-term sustainability of civilization. Countless civilizations before ours have collapsed and none were predicated on the demise of the monetary system.
In virtually every case of a civilization collapsing, environmental decline precipitated the unraveling of the social empire. Water shortages led to food shortages, which led to civil unrest. Those affected the most by food and water shortages in essence became “environmental refugees.” Left in dire circumstances, they fled to other countries where they were uninvited and therefore unwelcomed. As a result nations competing for available resources engaged in war, which ultimately led to the collapse of those civilizations. Today, these issues are very real for all of us and we are in far more decline than we previously anticipated.
Though the economics of commerce in our advancing society have been understood for hundreds of years, it’s the “ecology of commerce” (our effect on the natural world) that until recently, has been poorly understood, along with consequences that have been poorly anticipated.
Today, the evidence is overwhelming. The Earth is in trouble. If the Earth is in trouble then “we are all in trouble.”
Civilization’s advancement in our recent history has been nothing short of extraordinary, but it has not come without extraordinary costs to the planet, a price we may pay dearly for in the very near future, according to numerous studies over the last decade revealing a planet rapidly in decline. It is our failure as a global society, not only on the part of governments, industries, banks, and Wall Street, but by us as consumers, to see that, not money, but our natural resources and the natural world are the only real commodity on Earth. Sadly, our misguided perspective has led to a profoundly misguided focus on maintaining the “economy” as opposed to the “ecology” of the planet. It is this inability to see our connection with the planet and what we are doing to it that is, what many researchers believe, pushing the human narrative into its final chapter.
It’s unfortunate, but we cannot separate our well-being from the well-being of the planet we live on any more than a child developing in-utero can separate its well-being from the well-being of its mother that is providing for and nourishing it. Understanding our delicate and often precarious relationship with the natural world is a story that our distant relatives possessed and passed down to each generation, but today this knowledge has been lost to all but a very small percentage of the population and perhaps some environmentally conscious groups. Each generation is more cut off from this knowledge than the one that came before it. Those that implore the masses to concern themselves with the preservation and sustainability of the natural world are often viewed as sensationalists over dramatizing our plundering of the Earth. This is a reflection of truly how blind we’ve become in understanding that the system we believe we are contributing to in a positive way is the very system that is bringing about our own rapid decline. It’s not yet popular to be environmentally conscious, but very soon it will be, as very soon we will have no choice.
For decades, issues regarding the viability of the Earth’s life support systems have been percolating. Environmental groups have been screaming for the masses to wake up and “Save the Planet,” but the apathy surrounding such concerns has created a new challenge. The challenge now is to save civilization itself.
While the masses remain uneducated about the reality of Earth’s viability to sustain life, the stresses to the environment and to civilization are mounting in number and in scope, and are gaining more momentum with each passing year. In looking at the projections as they unfold in various regions of the world, in countless categories – such as population growth, deforestation, desertification, disappearing species, global warming, ice melt, rising sea levels, environmental pollution, consumption of resources, waste, ever-growing plastic gyres in our oceans, and on and on, we’ve not turned one of them around, despite the fact that these issues have been known about for decades.
Today, every life support system on the planet is in decline, and though there are many contributing factors, the anthropogenic (human) impact on Climate, namely Global Warming, is the one that will reshape civilization and redefine how we live on Earth. This single issue, that is the elephant in the living room that few choose to care to talk about, is an enormous indicator of things to come. The impact of how the climate is trending paints a very bleak picture both ecologically and economically for our children and our children’s children. So let’s take a look at how this single issue, which is just one of many, is shaping our children’s future.
As I write this article, Anthropogenic (human-made) Climate Change is already having devastating effects on the planet and its inhabitants. In the last few years, entire populations have been displaced by drought and heat extremes that have made access to water and growing food virtually impossible. Entire seasonal weather patterns, over vast geographies are changing and negatively impacting countless species around the globe. In 2017 the results of a multi-disciplinary study were announced to the world, where it was revealed that Earth has officially entered its 6th mass extinction, with over 200 species going extinct every day. If we don’t drastically change the way we live on our planet, scientists now estimate that humans will go extinct by the year 2150, or perhaps more poignantly stated, 130 years from now.
Even the Pentagon has weighed in on the issue that many Americans still believe is a liberal agenda and a grand conspiracy to subjugate humanity and bring about a one-world government. “Climate change is a national security threat!” More than a decade ago that was the conclusion our United States Military Intelligence came to in evaluating all the research made available to them. Why?
As temperatures continue to rise, stronger and stronger storms have been emerging from in the Atlantic, off the coast of Africa, year after year. This clear and present danger will lead to more extensive damage to coastal military facilities and commercial import/export trade ports. Stresses on resources and agricultural demands will increase the global flow of refugees and cause cross-border instability, that will require increasingly difficult political, moral, and ethical maneuvering as countries will be forced, or choose not to be, to take refugees in and provide aid and solace to.
The Pentagon has included the impact of climate change in their defense planning for over a decade. In 2003, the Department of Defense under President George W. Bush declared that anthropogenic climate change “should be elevated beyond a scientific debate, to a U.S. national security concern.” The last several Quadrennial Defense Reviews, which assess the array of threats facing the United States, have considered the impact of global warming. The QDR stated that, “the impacts of climate change will increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of all future missions.” 
The report found climate change is a threat to more than two-thirds of operationally critical installations.
In 2019, a millitary report on the changing climate said that, “recurrent flooding, drought, and wildfires are the primary concern. at 79 installations.” Those concerns come on top of a major government report by scientist at the Department of Defense, NASA, and 11 other agencies, that climate change will have a devastating effect on our economy and society. 
Though there are countless measurements, studies, and sources to draw these conclusions from, the chart provided below, in a succinct but very compelling way illustrates the trending increase in temperatures from 1880 through the present:
Produced by NASA, the chart below illustrates how temperatures have risen compared to “normal” (or the 1951-1980 average) from 1880 to present, from pole to pole (-90 latitude to 90 latitude). From the 1880s to the 1920s, blue and green shades dominate the chart, signaling cooler than normal temperatures in that era. Then, from the 1930s to the 1970s, warmer yellow, oranges, and reds shades ooze in, balancing the cooler shades. But since the 1970s, the blue and green shades rapidly erode and oranges and reds take over, dramatically. The rapid warming at the northern high latitudes especially jumps out in recent decades, reflecting “Arctic amplification” or more intense warming in the Arctic. Although the warming is most pronounced up north, it is apparent at almost every latitude. And yes, you can even sense the much-discussed slow-down in the rate of warming over the last 10-20 years as the coverage of oranges and reds has remained pretty static. Of course, it is widely accepted the Earth has warmed in the last century, or, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it in 2007, the warming of the climate system is “unequivocal.” 
Viewed another way . . . . .
Fig. 2: Definition for global warming: Temp. increase in the last 150 years http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Instrumental_Temperature_Record_png
When viewed across the Last Three Decades . . .
Graph provided by Finnish Meteorological Institute and Finnish Ministry for the Environment
In talking with individuals, such as the gentleman I met at dinner, there tends to be a tremendous lack of understanding in the general public regarding the issue of climate change. It’s a charged and polarizing subject matter that many like to weigh in on but few of which are actually armed with any substantial evidence to support their opinion, relying heavily on mainstream media to shape their opinion. Sadly, the media tends to deliberately muddy up the facts and offer more opinions than actual science on the subject. The opinions solicited by talk show hosts and morning show celebrities are often being offered by individuals in business or economics with no background in climatology or the sciences. Also, there is an enormous disparity in the general public’s understanding regarding the difference between “weather” and “climate” that further clouds their appraisal of the complicated issue of Global Warming.
Today, 97% of climatologists and the rest of the scientific community see the evidence to support global warming and dramatic climate change in the future as “overwhelming and irrefutable,” and they have good reason for holding those beliefs. For those continuing to believe climatology is not an “exact science” guess what? It’s not. Nothing in science is. But as the graph below of the peer-reviewed climate studies conducted in the last 21 years demonstrates, the overwhelming majority support the idea that global warming (occurring at the rate it is as opposed to the time frames found in the ice core studies), today is caused by the human, or anthropogenic, contribution to greenhouse gases.
Image provided by SLATE
Let’s me be clear on this point. Despite what the mainstream media is purporting, “there is no huge controversy over the anthropogenic contribution to global warming in the scientific community.”
Science thrives on dissenting ideas, it grows and learns from them. If there is actual evidence to support an idea, it gets published even if it goes against the mainstream.
The media’s presentation of the issue is where the controversy lies. The loudest voices offering up “opinions,” instead of publishing papers, are coming from fossil fuel funded groups, such as the Heartland Foundation (who are funded with the sole intention of disseminating disinformation), bankers, businessmen, and economists, not scientists. Everyone can have an opinion on global warming and almost everyone does to a greater or lesser extent, but opinions don’t change the immutable facts . . . the world is getting hotter, with each year’s temperatures, breaking the records and heat indexes of the previous year.
We shouldn’t be debating Global Warming in as much as we should be debating what to do about it. As I will illustrate later in this article, everyone, irrespective of what country we live in, will have their lives dramatically changed. This is because we compete in a global market where we are not connecting the dots and seeing how what effect other countries ultimately effects us. That’s what is simply NOT understood by the masses. Focusing only on the economy is an end game scenario that’s not pretty.
Estimated Temperature Projections
So, why be concerned? Estimating population growth, increased industrial contributions, increased ocean exposure as ice melts, continued deforestation, desertification, and a number of other contributing factors, such as Agribusiness, computer models predict temperature increases of about 3° to 5° C (5° to 9° Fahrenheit) by the year 2100 or soon afterward accounting for a rise in sea levels by approximately 25 meters (about 82 feet).
Fig 4: Definition for global warming: Temp. increase until the year 2100
So what are the main culprits? Without a doubt, it’s Methane and Carbon Dioxide. Otherwise known as CO2, its increase in concentration is very disconcerting because the dramatic continued rise of this greenhouse gas since this Industrial Revolution, is not slowing, it’s accelerating. Investigations reveal that catastrophic changes in the environment will be seen as the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches a level of 450 ppm (parts per million). Remember that number!
Because ancient climates are preserved in ice core samples, that allow us to very accurately measure the concentration of gases in the atmosphere at various times in history, the Glaciers themselves are telling us a story.
Ice Sheets are ginormous domes of ice that preserve climate records much like tree rings contain the history of their growth. Snow added to the top each year compresses into ice creating a distinct layer that scientist can drill holes into and pull a core sample from that allows us to examine bubbles of ancient air trapped in the ice. By measuring the chemistry of the ice we can determine past temperatures and measure the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere. What we’ve learned from these measurements is the corresponding relationship between Carbon Dioxide and temperature. They go up together, they go down together.
Over the past 800,000 years, until the last 40 years, the concentration has never been more than 280 ppm. That is until we started adding CO2 to the atmosphere. Since the Industrial Revolution, over the last 220 years, CO2 levels have risen on average 2 – 3 ppm each year. In June of 2013, we reached 390 ppm which is 40% higher than CO2 variances that occurred due to natural reasons. Now we’re heading for 500 ppm or more.
Do you remember the number I told you to commit to memory. As of June 2019, CO2 measured 411.2 ppm, an increase of 3.5 ppm over readings taken in June of 2018.
Image provided by Johns Hopkins University http://jhupressblog.com/2013/06/
It was predicted that if this rate remains unimpeded, the critical value of 450 ppm’s will be reached in approximately 25 to 30 years from now, or maybe sooner. The rate of increase at which CO2 is being added to the atmosphere is 500-1000 times greater than the pace at which CO2 fluctuations occur due to natural causes. Sadly, this still hasn’t made headlines. The anthropogenic (human) contribution to this phenomenon is indisputable.
SO WHY ALL THE CONFUSION?
I believe the reason there is still so much debate amongst the general public is that they are presented with so many mixed messages. In an attempt to bolster their stance on one side of the issue or the other, individuals take a very myopic view of global trends by using their local weather as their personal prognostication of whether “global warming” is real or not. Looking at their local weather, they may choose to believe there is no evidence for it because their weather doesn’t seem to be consistent with what scientists report globally.
For example, in and around the Ohio Valley where I live, an unusually large amount of snow fell this past winter between the months of December 2013 and February 2014, when there was almost no snowfall for several winters prior. In addition, the Northern Hemisphere’s Polar Vortex, an air mass of frigid arctic air, which is normally confined to regions in northern Canada, in and around the Arctic circle, took an unprecedented dive southward plunging deep into the States, creating some of the coldest winter days in recorded history. As a result, many scoffed at the idea of global warming, using the dumping of snow (otherwise known as “weather”) and record low temperatures as evidence that the world is not warming up, and concluded that the topic of climate change is simply non-sensical. It’s disparaging that this abbreviated assessment on the part of many is lacking even the most basic understanding of the fundamental tenets of global warming.
So how do we explain the record breaking cold temperatures in a world that we are told is warming up and breaking heat indexes records every year?
If there is one thing that all scientists agree on with respect to the world that is heating up, it is that climate instability will become the new norm. One need not look any further than the weather patterns in the past two weeks in Cincinnati, where in May, a series of days with high temperatures in the upper 80s were followed literally overnight by a series of days where the high temperatures had fallen into the mid to lower 40s. We were literally wearing shorts and t-shirts one day and winter coats the next. As an update to this article, the forecast for October 1st, 2019 calls for sunny skies and a high of 94 F at a time of the year where highs are in the 50’s.
To be very clear, global warming is NOT a “weather” phenomenon. It’s a pattern or trend of weather over very, very long periods of time that are following a very clearly defined path; with the obvious trend being that temperatures are only continuing to climb to unprecedented levels. In order to understand climate, we look at long-term trends in weather; not over weeks or months, but rather decades, centuries, and even millennia.
Scientists see the erratic weather events in the winter of 2014, (which have also occurred since) as evidence of weather being fueled and affected by Global Warming, not a disproving of it. As the world continues to heat up the differential between two interacting air masses of different temperatures, pressure, and air density, increases dramatically, causing more and more erratic weather patterns.
So the brief interlude of plummeting temperatures in 2014, can easily be explained. Looking at the jet stream for example, the instability created by the increasing differences in air pressure, temperature, and density both above and below the jet stream, as well as north and south of it, creates a push and pull effect on it that makes the jet stream behave like it is drunk, becoming more and more unstable, and wandering into regions it normally wouldn’t. The warming temperate region’s air mass becomes less dense and weakens. As a result, the cooler, denser air of the polar vortex, like a bully pushing around the weaker kid on the playground, capitalizes on this weakening, temperate air mass and pushes south as an unwelcome intruder, cooling and coalescing the water vapor it comes in contact with, subsequently dumping snow in large quantities on the land masses beneath it. The illustration below explains . . . . .
Illustration courtesy of ECO WATCH
Put another way, why does the vortex weaken?
Now it gets interesting. More and more Arctic sea ice is melting during the summer months. The more the ice melts, the more water is exposed, causing the Arctic Ocean to warm. The ocean radiates much of that excess heat back to the atmosphere in winter, which disrupts the polar vortex.
Data taken over the past decade indicates that when a lot of Arctic sea ice disappears in the summer, heating the air mass above the Arctic Ocean, the vortex has a tendency to weaken over the subsequent winter if related atmospheric conditions prevail over the northern Atlantic Ocean. The situation looks something like that shown in the graphic below. (For a full explanation, see the Scientific American article that accompanies the graphic.)
Although the extent of summer sea ice in the Arctic varies year to year, overall it has been disappearing to a notable degree since 2007 and it is forecast to continue to vanish even further. That could mean more trouble for the polar vortex, and more frigid outbreaks—a seeming contradiction to “global warming,” perhaps, but not for “global weirding,” also known as climate change. 
Graphic by XNR Productions – Photo courtesy of Wing-Chi Poon on WikimediaCommons
These “weird” global weather anomalies, happen because we all share the same atmosphere, where the weather in one part of the world can radically change the weather in another part of the world oceans apart.
Powering our day-to-day weather patterns around the globe is the process of “convection,” in which warm air rises and cooler air from surrounding areas pushes into to the vacant space that was occupied by the rising warmer air. Locally, this movement of air is what creates breezes. The wind blowing past you is on its way to fill a void of space where the heated warmer air is rising.
This process is illustrated below, in the blue areas dissecting the atmosphere, where the heated surface of the Earth warms the air above it, causing it to rise and be replaced by sinking cooler air.
When we apply this concept to the interactions between enormous air masses (often larger than even the continents they pass over), this is what creates our weather on a day-to-day basis. As the graphic below illustrates, when the edges of two air masses of different temperatures, pressures, and densities collide the moisture in the air at those edges or “frontal boundaries” is affected and creates showers and thunderstorms. It is the interface between these frontal boundaries where “all” storms, rain showers, and snow showers occur.
As a cooler, more dense air mass pushes into and under the warmer, less dense air mass it causes the warmer air mass to rise and the water vapor contained in it, to cool and coalesce, forming water droplets that fall back to Earth in the form of rain, hail, or snow. On the grand scale, as the temperatures in a given region increase, warmer rising air masses sequester cooler air from surrounding regions causing the temperatures in those areas to fall. This creates temperature and weather instability worldwide.
As the atmosphere tries to create equilibrium, the increasing global temperatures cause these weather patterns to take on a more capricious nature creating uncharacteristic weather in different regions for months or years. This is exactly what has been predicted by all the computer simulations and is why some of the hottest summers in one region of the world can create some of the coldest winters in other regions of the world. We cannot look at the local weather patterns that play out in the course of one week as evidence for or against global warming. Viewing them against the backdrop of climate trends that climatologist have been monitoring for decades is the only way to see these anomalies for what they are; evidence that the world’s weather is becoming more unstable as the world heats up. As the world continues to heat up we will see these erratic patterns of weather becoming more commonplace.
It easy to understand why the masses here in the United States, (because this same phenomenon of denial isn’t seen any where else) are confused about this topic. There’s science, and then there’s the news media outlets and the endless deniability and proselytization of the public mind funded by the fossil fuel companies.
As mentioned earlier, few scientists today believe that Global Warming, and for that matter, the human contribution to it, is still a matter of debate. There is NO DEBATE in the scientific community. The longer we continue sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the issue, the higher the stakes get. Never before has the focus on Global Warming and its dire effects been under more scrutiny. In global assessments monitoring ice melt in Greenland, the Arctic, and in Antarctica, it’s obvious why there is so much concern.
Fracturing ice, or what is known as “calving,” is a process by which ice rifts and subsequently break away from the glacier or the ice shelf it is a part of. It is a very reliable indicator of climate change, and everywhere we look, the ice is disappearing much faster than any of the computer models predicted. One dramatic example of this is the Ililussat Glacier in Greenland, which has retreated more in the last 10 years than it has in the last 100 years.
To see this up close and personal, I encourage of viewing of the documentary CHASING ICE, which can be found on YouTube, Netflix, and other media outlets. It’s simply frightening the rate at which the ice is retreating.
Though scientists agree that sea levels have risen and fallen significantly over the 4.6 billion years geological lifespan of the Earth, the recent rate of global sea level rise has departed from the statistical averages of the past several thousand years and is rising more rapidly with each passing year.
This is very disconcerting, as it reveals to us that the climate on Earth is changing dramatically. Other highlights of glacial calving in recent years include an event in 2008, where climatologist observed in one week the disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic larger than the United Kingdom. In January 2010, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island broke off the Ronne-Filchner ice shelf in Antarctica, which was followed in August 2010 by an event at the opposite end of the planet where an area known as the Peterman Glacier in Greenland, saw a massive iceberg, 97 square miles in diameter (an area four times the size of New York City), calve and break off into the sea. In November of 2013, it was announced that an iceberg ten times the size of New York City broke away from Antarctica’s Pine Island Bay. Last week, NASA announced that the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is “unstoppable,” and if it melts completely would account for a 13 ft. rise in sea level.
Visualization of Antarctic temperature changes.
NASA Earth Observatory
Dr. Rignot said in the NASA news conference, “Today we present observational evidence that a large sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into irreversible retreat. It has passed the point of no return.”
Another report last week, deemed the collapse of the Thwaites Glacier Basin in another part of Antarctica, as “inevitable,” which in 2002 saw the calving and subsequent breakage of a 2,000 square mile ice sheet. The melting of this glacier, which has been described as the “linchpin” for the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, would by itself account for a 2 ft. increase in sea level in decades to come. This accelerating trend will have catastrophic effects on the world’s coastlines and enormous effects on the global economy in the future.
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL . . .
Glacier Island Antarctica calving ice sheet
Photo provided by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center CC, BY
THE IMPACT ON YOU AND I PERSONALLY
Though there are countless ways Global Warming impacts us, I will present one scenario of how we are all in the same boat and like it or not we’re all in it together.
One reading this may think, “How does this concern me?” To understand and appreciate the magnitude of concerns surrounding rising sea levels, consider that worldwide more than 100 million people live within 3 ft. of the ocean.  Those affected first by rising sea levels would be the rice farming populaces in and around river deltas in Asia who would see their crops disappear into the sea. But they’re not the only ones who would be affected by rising sea levels. Large cities where human populations have concentrated near coastal areas—Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Tokyo, London, and New York will be underwater before the end of the century if rising CO2 levels and their corresponding impact on rising sea level continues at the current rate. In countries like the Netherlands, where nearly half its landmass is already at or below sea level, the projected economic and humanitarian impacts on their society will be catastrophic. Here in the United States, 39%, (123 million people) live directly on the shoreline, with 52% (164 million people) of our population living in coastal counties within 50 miles of the shorelines and would be directly impacted by rising sea levels.
This poses a threat because as sea level rises, salt from the intruding sea will inevitably find its way into freshwater aquifers, where it will threaten sources of drinking water and also make growing crops very problematic, if not impossible. In areas of the Middle East, for example, where Egypt’s crops and agriculture have been established around the Nile Delta, widespread erosion and saltwater intrusion would be disastrous since the country, which is predominantly desert, contains very little arable land for agriculture. The London-based Environmental Justice Foundation reports, that “a one meter [3-foot] sea level rise . . . . . would account for the loss of at least 2 million hectares in the fertile Nile Delta, displacing 8-10 million people, including nearly the entire population of Alexandria.” 
But they’re not the only ones. River deltas have always given rise to large populations, and are subsequently some of the most vulnerable to climate change. Other river deltas including the Mississippi, Irrawaddy, Niger, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Mekong, and Yangtze, would all be vulnerable to encroaching sea water, as it would eventually seep into the freshwater aquifers that are used to irrigate crops. Irrigating crops with water heavily contaminated with salt would destroy the crops by profoundly changing the pH (the acidity) of the soil, making it very difficult to grow crops for a very long period of time, not to mention what the implications are for their drinking water. One can begin to fathom the unprecedented ecological effect this would have on food production in all areas of the world for literally billions of people.
A rising sea level though is not the only threat created by global warming. In many agricultural regions around the world, snow, believe it or not, is the primary source of irrigation and drinking water. As temperatures rise, there is less and less precipitation in areas of the world that rely heavily upon it. Glacial snowmelt in the snow caps of the Himalayas in Asia and in the Andes mountains in South America are suffering the most from increasing temperatures, with the greatest loss of snow/ice occurring in the Himalayas of the Tibetan Plateau. The disappearing snowmelt would be catastrophic to large populaces in India and China that reside along the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers, because of their heavy reliance on these glacier-fed rivers, where the snowmelt each year provides the water for irrigating crops in the spring and summer, that provide food for the masses.
Lester Brown writes in his book, WORLD ON THE EDGE:
“For Americans, the melting of the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau would appear to be China’s problem. It is. But it is also everyone else’s problem. For U.S., consumers, this melting poses a nightmare scenario. If China enters the world market for massive quantities of grain, as it has already done for soybeans over the last decade, it will necessarily come to the United States – far and away the leading exporter. The prospect of 1.3 billion Chinese with rapidly rising incomes competing with American consumers for the U.S. grain harvest, and thus driving up food prices, is not an attractive one.
In the 1970s, when tight world food supplies were generating unacceptable food price inflation in the United States, the government restricted grain exports. This is no longer an option where China is concerned.”
Each month starting in 2008, when the Treasury Department was auctioning off securities to cover the U.S. fiscal deficit, China was the biggest buyer, now holding over $1.2 trillion of U.S. debt and has essentially become the biggest banker for the United States. Whether we like it or not, our near-sighted view of the global economy by only concerning ourselves with how our country is doing, while failing to understand all the moving parts and the ecology driving it, has to change. Americans will soon be competing with Chinese consumers for our food harvests. Their loss is our loss. As the availability of water and food diminishes in China, the global market sells to the highest bidder, irrespective of nationality or who is producing what in the marketplace. This is just one of a number of scenarios illustrating the complexity of our world economy. Preventing the demise of the natural world is in everyone’s best interests.
China aside, we here in the States are not exempt in suffering the effects of diminishing snowmelt. For example, the Colorado River is the primary source of irrigation water for many southwest states. Snowmelt from the snowfields and snowcaps in the Rockies contribute considerably too much of its volume of water. California, which depends on water channeled from the Colorado River, also depends heavily on snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountain range to supply water for irrigation to the state’s fruit and vegetable crops. As mountain glaciers, snowcaps, and snowfields continue to shrink, the reduced runoff will create unprecedented water shortages resulting in tremendous societal stresses as food supplies tighten in densely populated parts of the world. The impact is already being felt in the southwest as another year of devasting drought has caused the Colorado River to dry up right before our eyes over the course of 3 years.
Butte County, CA. 2011
Butte County, CA. 2014
Orville Lake, CA. 2011
Orville Lake, CA. 2014
Unfortunately, California isn’t the only place suffering the effects of a warming world. Texas has also seen the devastating effects of a planet that is heating up.
Lake Meredith, TX. 1999
Lake Meredith, TX. 2011
And just so the reader isn’t lead to believe these are isolated cases of water loss, one need look no further than the disappearance of the Aral Sea located between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan over the last 30 years
Aral Sea 1977 – 2009
(1,279 sq miles of fresh water lost)
If these were the only problems to consider in a warmer world, it would be sufficient, but as temperatures rise, there are other problems that emerge. Another threat from increasing temperatures is the effect it has on photosynthesis. In a study conducted by Ohio State University, research showed that photosynthesis in plants, namely those that provide us food, increases until the temperature reaches 68° F, where it then plateaus until the temperature reaches 95° F. At this temperature, we see diminishing returns where photosynthesis goes into decline producing fewer and fewer carbohydrates and the plant’s growth is stunted. At 104° F photosynthesis stops altogether. Likewise, the pollination of rice follows the same pattern. Studied in depth in the Philippines, scientists discovered that the pollination of rice falls from 100% at 93° to nearly zero at 104°.  The combination of these two phenomena alone can create an unprecedented diminishing of food harvests.
Adding complexity to this issue, geo-political matters of the State often creates stark contrasts and difficult challenges in deciding what is more important when prioritizing the economy, business, industry, and the marketplace, or sustaining the ecology of a given geographic region of the planet. This is because making the changes in industry will require monetary funds that in the long term will pay dividends, but in the short term can stress the economy by over-extending budgets. Unfortunately, the longer we wait, the stakes merely get higher and higher as civilization continues to grow, which today is occurring at an exponential rate. It’s both sad and ironic that the two countries that were planning to build the most coal-fired powered plants are China and India, the two countries that stand to suffer the most from a decision that will only serve to compound the issue of diminishing snow melt. There is now a drastic effort in both of these countries to consider alternative forms of energy. Thankfully, China recently announced plans to build the biggest solar array and the largest off shore wind farm on the planet. Signs of hope are starting to emerge. Here in the United States, we are woefully behind Europe in moving from fossil fuels, to alternative energy. We can only hope that this movement will gain momentum in the years to come.
WHAT CAN WE AS A SOCIETY AND AS INDIVIDUALS DO ABOUT IT?
If society continues with a “business as usual” approach to industry and business, doing tomorrow what it is we have always done up until this point, nothing will change with respect to the global ecological forecasts. Dramatic changes are going to be required in which future cities, both here and abroad, will have to be built around people, not cars in order to diminish CO2 emissions. Industry has to adopt better practices that minimize our ecological footprint and impact on the natural world. Alternative forms of transportation, such as light rail systems, electric trains, hybrid cars and eventually electric cars, like the Tesla Model S, will have to become implemented into civil engineering plans and become the predominant mainstream form of transportation.
Cities developed around people walking or biking will dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and rising greenhouse gases. Alternative forms of energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal sources can further reduce emissions dramatically. Until they become more prevalent, minimizing our electrical usage with energy efficient light bulbs and appliances helps as does adjusting our thermostats to minimize energy usage. Rooftop solar water heating is a trend that is gaining tremendous momentum. U.S. installation of these systems has more than tripled since 2005. Reducing paper usage to preserve forests is going to preserve the balance in the CO2 and O2 exchange between the plant kingdom and us. This a system with checks and balances that we cannot afford to destroy.
One step that we can take to preserving trees is with respect to “Junk Mail.” The Environmental Protection Agency reports Americans as a whole receive close to five million tons of junk mail every year with the average american household receiving 15-20 pounds of junk mail a month.
The Catalog Choice, is a non-profit group that offers a completely free service that has helped 1.3 million people opt out of receiving 19 million pieces of junk mail. Their website streamlines the opt-out process so you don’t have to contact companies yourself.
Chuck Teller, the CEO of Catalog Choice said, “Companies actually make it pretty complicated to opt out many times. … We’ve taken a five-minute process, and we make it around 10 seconds to make an opt-out choice, record that choice, and if the mail comes back, come back and file a formal complaint.”
New legislation called the “Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights” could help reduce the junk mail clutter by limiting the amount of information that is shared with marketing companies — but that’s being opposed by the direct mail industry.
Reforestation, replacing those trees that have been lost as urban areas expand further and further out from the epicenter of the city, and sprawl into natural habitats surrounding the cities. On an individual level planting trees around our house certainly, help minimize our impact on the environment. Every tree planted is one more removing CO2 buildup from the atmosphere.
With that said, shopping at local farms or gardening in our own backyards dramatically diminishes our carbon or ecological footprint. This is because food sold in a grocery chain arrived there from vast distances and various locales often in other countries. They are often transported by plane, by boat, by train, and by trucks, all of which run on fossil fuels, which only serves to continue adding carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere.
But the single biggest impact we can have in saving both civilization and the natural world is educating our young, teaching them to have a reverence for the Earth and its life support systems. This is the only way our children will have a viable planet left to inherit.
For more ideas on how to protect the environment read my blog titled: THINGS WE EACH CAN DO TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT.
In the future, it will become more and more imperative that we abandon our patriotic identifications with the countries we live in, and far more expensive in our Global View by seeing, that we all share one planet. We are tied together today in ways most will never be able to contemplate because our tendency is to have a very myopic view of the world we live in, preoccupied for the most part with only what is going on in our lives. In a global economy, we are all affected by industrialization, whether it takes place here or abroad because of the interdependence of one nation upon another in importing and exporting resources to sustain civilization. We cannot change the climate dramatically in one part of the world without its effects being felt by everyone on earth. This is a scenario we all participate in. We have to understand, we are all in it together, regardless of each country’s and each government’s economic and political goals
The thin blanket of air that extends above us is a shared system, shared by the entire world. Climate change is not simply a matter of the world getting warmer. What is poorly understood by society is how our impact on global climate change is far-reaching and permeates virtually every aspect of not only our own personal lives, but that of geopolitical interests, economic interests, and agricultural interests. It creates concerns with respect to water shortages and the availability of food in various regions of the world, which spills over in matters of national security, as conflicts along national borders that will undoubtedly occur as people, whose ecology has been adversely affected by climate change will be forced to emigrate to regions or countries where food and resources are still available. Crossing borders in large numbers pose a threat to a country’s economic sustainability and raises a number of moral and ethical questions. Do we simply close our borders and turn our backs on the prodigious number of people facing desperate situations and tremendous human suffering? Or do we provide them refuge as they retreat from their desolation? These considerations would require perhaps reconciling the disparity that sometimes lies between our political, national, and patriotic views, with our spiritual beliefs of being our brother’s keeper, or by all together choosing one point of view vs. the other.
As the world’s climate changes, regions of the world will become profoundly affected and vulnerable on an economic level to being cut out of the equation in the distribution and allocation of food, clean water, and resources. Because financial currency is used as a means of exchange and allocating resources, those countries in the best monetary standing on the global stage would be able to ultimately sequester the majority of the worlds available resources, food, and water, which in turn would put tremendous stresses on far less economically stable countries. One can clearly see how the issue of climate change is far more complex than just breaking out the sunscreen where the world is becoming a warmer place.
 Don’t ignore military advice on climate change Mr. President: Military Times
 Global Warming in One Unmistakable Compelling Chart: The Washington Post
 Extreme Winter Weather Explained: by Scientific American.
 Signs from Earth: The Big Thaw by National Geographic
 Brown, L. 2011. World on the Edge: How to Prevent Economic and Environmental Collapse. 72-73. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
 Brown, L. 2011. World on the Edge: How to Prevent Economic and Environmental Collapse. 47-48. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of discovery,