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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Four Scary Surprises of Global Warming



Every once in a while I'll get an email or comment that can be roughly paraphrased as "I'm not actually that big a fan of cold weather...so why should I be worried about increasing CO2 emissions?"


Well, for you, I've put together a list of four somewhat surprising (and quite unsettling) things that that scientists have determined are occurring because of rising CO2 levels.


  1. Global Depression
    Depending on who you ask, the necessary changes the world will have to make as a result of global warming (everything from building higher sea walls to relocating entire cities) will cost up to 20% of the world's GDP. So, yeah, you think it's bad when we have a financial fall-out from a little housing bubble...imagine having 20% of the world's economy sucked into a hole the size of the Larsen Ice Shelf.
  2. Global Fish Kill
    One of the oft-overlooked, but possibly most devastating consequences of global warming is the acidification of the oceans. Oceans suck up huge amounts of CO2. And as the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere increases, so does the amount absorbed by the world's oceans. Unfortunately, when the CO2 enters the water, it creates carbonic acid. So, over the last hundred years or so, the acidity of the ocean has increased so much that it is literally eroding the shells of mollusks. Unfortunately, these mollusks are the base of many marine ecosystems, important to everything from salmon to sperm whales. The possibilities of an oceanic mass-extinction are on the rise.
  3. Global Hunger
    There is a massive amount of infrastructure in place to create the world's food. And that infrastructure depends on a fairly stable climate. We expect the rain to fall where and when it falls, we expect the thaw to come where and when it comes. But global warming does more than change the temperature, it changes the climate. Projections show more rain in dry areas and less rain in wet areas, the result of which could be the need to completely re-create much of our farming infrastructure. In th meantime, while that infrastructure is being created, we should expect that a lot of people will be very hungry.
  4. Feedback Loops
    A positive feedback loop is not something one likes to see in nature. For example, if melting snow creates more heat-absorbing land which creates more melting snow which creates more heat absorbing land, we have a positive feedback loop that is likely to exponentially increase its effect on global climate. These feedback loops are everywhere in climate models. From decreasing albedo (the example above) to increased wild fires puffing cities-worth of CO2 into the atmosphere to the Canadian boreal forests dying due to climate change and thus releasing their 27 years-worth of stored carbon into the atmosphere.


So yes...this time of year, I appreciate a nice warm day as much as the next guy. But those who get excited about global warming just don't know what they're talking about. And my thanks go to the scientists who work tirelessly to determine what effect climate change will have on us all, and what we need to do to deal with it.

1 comment:

  1. My credit goes to those who get excited about global warming just don't know what they're talking about. And my thanks go to the scientists who work tirelessly to determine what effect climate change will have on us all, and what we need to do to deal with it.

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