The chaos existing in the world today may be just the beginning of a global calamity. However, such a catastrophe need not happen if there is a will to prevent it.
By Dr. John J. Hidore
April 22, 2015—Much has changed since the first Earth Day in 1970. The human population has essentially doubled from 3.7 billion to 7.3 today. Put another way, we have added as many humans since 1970 as existed on the planet in that year. At the same time, the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere, responsible for global warming, has increased from 325 to a bit over 400 parts per million. This is a 23 % increase. Both the growth of the human population and the increased greenhouse gases are major factors in the extremely rapid change in the earth environment in 2015.
Changes Since Earth Day’s Beginning
Perhaps the biggest change since the first Earth Day has been the international concern and evidence that, not only is the planet warming, but it is resulting in major climate change and this information is changing global environmental systems. Another 45 years of data confirms that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is indeed increasing and it is resulting in increasing atmospheric temperatures.
What has also become apparent is how rapidly the change in carbon dioxide has been taking place. The volume of climatic data has exploded, as automated weather stations are now present in many isolated areas of the continents, providing data from the oceans and the atmosphere above the ocean. Satellites and floating buoys record and transmit data automatically to data collection centers. The number of satellites that monitor atmospheric information have grown rapidly, and the variety of data collected has been expanded to include polar orbiting satellites and geostationary satellites. Many countries around the world operate weather satellites and share the data collected. Data from new environmental oriented satellites is made available online and many more are in planning.
Our Changing Temperature
Since what we call civilization began on this planet 6000 years ago, the mean temperature has not varied more than 1 degree C from the average. The forecast change in temperature of from 1.5 to 4°C by 2100 has no equal in the recent history of the planet. A 2 degrees C rise in temperature would move the earth to a climatic position similar to that which existed during the climatic optimum 6000 years ago. Changes in the global mean temperature of 2 degrees C or more would have a tremendous impact on global society. The stress of adjustment would be phenomenal and it would alter virtually all aspects of life.
Politics and Global Warming
The phenomenon of global warming has become a political issue. Thousands of scientists worldwide agree that warming is occurring, except a small but very vocal number of scientists argue against the rapidly collecting global warming data. In the United States, the large oil, coal, and automobile industries have maintained a continuous campaign to denounce the reality of global warming and advocate that no action should be taken to reduce carbon emissions. This is in the face of the fact that the United States contributes more carbon to the atmosphere than most of the smaller countries of the world combined.
Perhaps the best information on the controversy is provided by the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) which is sponsored jointly by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program. The most recent report was issued in 2013. The scientists participating in the study are confident that carbon dioxide has been responsible for over half of the enhanced greenhouse effect in the past and is likely to remain so in the future. Continued emission of these gases at present rates will commit the atmosphere to increased concentrations for centuries to come. To stabilize concentrations at their present levels, emissions of long-lived gases need be decreased by 70 percent.
Global conferences such as the Kyoto Conference, and the work of the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC) present a consensus that the problem of climate change is a serious one. Paralleling the view of the majority of the world’s scientists are recent actions taken by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. This group of scientists developed the Doomsday Clock in 1947 based on the threat of Nuclear War. Midnight on the clock is the projected time of global catastrophe and cultural collapse.The clock has been set forward and backwards a number of times as political and economic changes have taken place.
Surviving Climate Change?
In January of 2007, the clock was moved forward from seven minutes to midnight to five minutes before the hour. The clock was moved forward again when the threat of global warming was added to the nuclear threat. In January of this year the clock was moved forward another two minutes based on a combination of factors, of which a major one was climate change. It now stands the nearest to midnight than at any time since 1953. The chaos existing in the world today may be just the beginning of a global calamity. However, such a catastrophe need not happen if there is a will to prevent it.