Monday, March 16, 2009

World faces irreversible climate change, researchers warn

The world is facing an increasing risk of "irreversible" climate shifts because worst-case scenarios warned of two years ago are being realized, an international panel of scientists has warned.

Temperatures, sea levels, acid levels in oceans and ice sheets were already moving "beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived," scientists said in a report released Thursday.

The findings came at the end of a three-day conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where nearly 2,000 researchers gathered to discuss climate change.

See the rest of the story here.

5 comments:

dusty said...

Thanks for the warning. I'm ready.

ShutterSparks / KW2P said...

Haha. So am I, I think, I hope. I probably won't live long enough to see things really get ugly but who knows?

It's interesting because I've been discussing this with friends for years. I'm not a climatologist, I'm an engineer, but just a cursory glance at the earth shows there are at least two big positive feedback mechanisms that might cause a "thermal runaway" problem. 1) Increasing temperature causes ice and snowpack to shrink, lowering the albedo (reflectivity) of the earth and more heat is absorbed. 2) Enormous amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas, are trapped in frozen regions like Siberia, Northern Canada, Alaska. Increasing temperature softens those regions, releasing the methane, and accelerating the heating. Both are disturbing observations.

I may be more sensitive to it than most because back in the mid-60's and prior to the age of silicon transistors, electronic design with germanium was fraught with thermal runaway problems that had to be compensated for. Your design would work fine unless the temperature rose above a certain point and then suddenly all the operating conditions would go awry and in a heartbeat your design would blow up. Silicon is a much better behaved material and younger engineers don't have to think about thermal runaway.

So seeing the potential for positive feedback in the earth's climate gives me a creepy sort of unease.

Anonymous said...

Time to crank the rhetoric up full throttle as holes in the sham that is now known as Climate Change (formerly, Global Warming) are being revealed with increasing vigor. Science fact related to a cooling earth and the non-human impact on change is becoming harder to dispute - unless you're a politically-funded alarmist.

ShutterSparks / KW2P said...

I'm not politically funded.

The term was changed because "global warming" was a confusing term for people who assumed that every point on the earth would get warmer, which is not the case. The average temperature of the earth is rising which changes weather patterns making some places warmer and some cooler, some drier, some wetter, but the overall average for the whole planet is warmer. To avoid some of the confusion people started calling it climate change, which is much more accurate.

If it's a sham, how does one explain that during the summer before last was the first time in recorded history that a northwest passage opened up allowing one to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific over the pole? The rapid shrinkage of the arctic ice mass is a simple fact.

Or what about the tundra of Siberia softening over millions of square miles, distorting railroad tracks, cracking buildings as the ground shifts, thousands of new lakes forming, some boiling with methane gas being released from the ground? That's never happened in recorded history.

Or what about the giant rivers of meltwater flowing out from under the Greenland ice sheet? That's never happened in mankind's memory.

8,000 years ago the earth was coming out of an Ice Age. Central America was savannah, not tropical rainforest. The warming process has been going on and continues to go on.

Mankind may or may not be contributing to the change in climate but there's no question that radical changes are happening. Some would like to argue that man is responsible for it. I don't think it makes much difference. The earth is on its way to a warm cycle between Ice Ages. It's done this before as recorded in the fossil record, whether or not man was around.

When people talk about climate change, they are not necessarily talking about man-induced climate change unless they say so. And "irreversible" does not mean reversible by man's intervention. It means that the earth's climate model goes into a runaway situation where it will not reverse until it hits some max limit or new point of equilibrium in the climate model. This has nothing to do with man or whether we're around or not.

Whether man can do anything to slow or reverse the process seems doubtful to me but we need to prepare for the warm cycle that is to come and figure out how to ride it out. And when that's over, if man is still around 20,000 years from now or whenever the next Ice Age comes, we'll have to prepare for another big freeze.

norm said...

Your points are all good. We are in an ice age now, have been for about 2 million years. All those "inland seas" they talk about in geology, yep, no ice periods. When Greenland and Iceland were settled by the Norse, it was much warmer than today. I do not know if the warming trend is going to be a bad thing or not, the Norse migrations were triggered by population increases that may have been caused by the milder weather. On the other hand, that same warming period has been blamed for the end of the Classic Maya Period in more than one study. I suspect stopping the warming at this point might be compared to stopping a train by hand, myself, I think we should be more active in looking at how we deal with the change that is upon us.