Global Warming and the potential water crisis
The evidence for global warming is indisputable, and every attempt to debunk this simple fact, is pseudo-science. What is unknown is what the effects will be, and thus global warming resembles an experiment being conducted upon the earth (or perhaps a poker game). The question of the moment - is this a passing drought, or is this climate change?
The effects of human induced climate change is an area of scientific investigation embroiled in controversy. Some of this controversy is due to the efforts of powerful special interest groups. Some of the controversy is due to the lack of concrete scientific data, which makes the predictions of possible impacts subject to controversy and somewhat speculative. Research into the global warming phenomena reveals only one thing for certain, and that is that the climate is warming (in that temperature has increased about one degree) and that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 30 per cent since the beginning of the industrial revolution, with the biggest increase in temperature and CO2 taking place over the last decades of the twentieth century. These two pieces of data emerge from the controversial debate about climate change as two indisputable facts, and attempts to debunk this data (propaganda that is currently making the rounds that states that 'global cooling is taking place' is found to be based on deliberate falsification of data - the governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are two well known culprits when it comes to funding and propagating misinformation surrounding the issue of global warming and climate change).
Aside from these two well established scientific facts, there is controversy surrounding the resulting consequences of this build up of CO2 and the resultant effects of global warming. Some of the consequences are less in dispute. For example, it is well known that glaciers are retreating around the world. A recent story in the New York Times featured anecdotal evidence from those living in the high arctic area of Alaska describing the disappearing ice flows, the warmer winters, and the appearance of a strange nesting bird known as 'a robin' during the summer months (these people, we are told, had no word for 'robin' since they had never seen one before). Sea level has risen about 6 inches, and further rise in the level is expected, and this really isn't controversial since it would be about what you would expect.
The anecdotal evidence of the inhabitants of Northern Alaska confirms scientific research findings that indicate that the arctic oceans are warming.
HIGHER-THAN-EXPECTED ARCTIC OCEAN TEMPERATURES
Where there remains much uncertainty and debate concerns the potential impacts of climate change upon the global weather. A lot of this uncertainty centers around the inadequacies of climate change modeling computer software. According to some research, the Sahara should become an even worse desert than it is today. According to other research, we should expect the greening of the Sahara. In both cases these contradictory results are predicted by computers programmed to model climate change.
IN the paper, Global warming: It's happening
the author states "It is important to realize that we have set in motion on planet Earth an experiment, which we cannot turn off should we not like what we discover to be the immediate or eventual consequences. This is because of the long lifetimes of carbon dioxide (centuries) and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and because of the thermal inertia of the oceans." Addressing the controversial debunking of climate change science, he discusses an article published by the Globe and Mail which claimed that 'global cooling' was taking place. He writes, "It is worthwhile recognizing that there is a class of people who have vested interests in the current situation. Their strategy is ... to publish often misleading or invalid material to deny that global warming is a problem. It is noteworthy that the only two countries who obstructed progress ... were Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Oil companies often publish selective and biased views in their newsletters to shareholders. Coal companies in the U.S. wage negative advertising campaigns and fund the work of skeptics."
He follows this by listing the evidence that is not in dispute, and is the result of a consensus reached at such conferences as that of the IPCC in 2001 (with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait being the only two stubborn participants who refused to reach consensus). The Global temperature has risen by one degree since the industrial revolution began, with half of that increase taking place after 1970. Glaciers are melting, and even disappearing in places such as the Andes, Himalayas, and New Guinea. The oceans have risen by 6 inches. Ice cover is retreating in the arctic and antarctic (which is also something mentioned by those living in the high Alaskan areas). Snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere which is monitored by satellites has decreased by 10 per cent since 1986. There have also been changes in humidity patterns (up ten percent in the last decade) and consequently in storm patterns (due to this enhancement of the hydrological cycle caused by evaporation, which is similar to heating the earth and 'causing it to sweat' much as a person would). CO2 concentrations have increased by 30 per cent since the mid 1800s. They are further projected to increase by another 100 per cent from current values by the year 2100.
While all these things are facts which are not beyond dispute, what the end results will be of this lab experiment on planet Earth, cannot be said for certain, and all that scientists can do is to speak of the possible risks and some of the more probable outcomes. As he puts it, "By modifying the Earth's environment in various ways, human activities are changing the climate, although it is difficult to ascribe the effects with certainty."
Scientists typically have to be careful with their language, and usually heavily qualify their statements and introduce caveats, this due to the fact that there is not enough knowledge on hand at present to make definitive statements. The world's climate is extremely complex, and this introduces uncertainty, given how little we really understand.
One thing that strikes me, however, is that we know that greenhouse gas is a requirement for life on earth, in that it regulates the temperature of the planet. To little and we freeze, to much and the planet turns into a hellish thing like Venus (which has so much green house gas in the atmosphere that its surface temperatures are hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit - the blistering temperatures of Venus are evidence of the remarkable heat trapping power of greenhouse gas.)
Now we know that the planet was kept in a comfortable blanket of warmth before the mid 1800s and we know that we have increased the level of CO2 by 30 per cent. It is therefore obvious that when you make that dramatic an increase in the level of greenhouse gas, you will of course get warmer temperatures and global warming will occur, which explains why you would find robins showing up in Alaska, glaciers melting, and the seas rising, and the global temperature rising by one degree Fahrenheit. The trend towards Global warming is an indisputable fact, what is not indisputable, the great unknown, the great experiment, is attempting to determine just what the effects of global warming will be.
The fact that we are running an experiment on the planet can prove to be quite useful to those who would like to debunk climate science, since it is difficult to get a really clear picture of what we can expect, at least until happens (and then, once the results of the experiment start coming in, we know, of course, and then, should the results be less than positive, its a little to late, given the inertia that exists in climate systems and the long lasting effects of global warming). While there is certainly a confusing mix of possible scenarios to describe the results of global warming, and very little in the way of definite predictions (only highly qualified statements, probabilities and potential risk statements loaded with caveats) it remains a fact that global warming is a fact, and only is coming effects remain uncertain. All attempts to debunk global warming are misinformation, plain and simple, and can always be dismissed on sight, since they simply aren't true. Other propaganda is put out, such as that put out by the CATO institute which states that 'Global warming is good for' and then paints a rosy scenario of all the coming benefits of global warming (by the way, Globalization, that's good for you, too, according to the CATO institute. They also insist that consuming the environment is good for you as well, since it worked out real well for Americans, and therefore poor countries should be encouraged to consume their environments as well, this being the type of propaganda they were aggressively promoting during the recent WTO meetings - while at the same time launching attack after attack on the environmental movement. They have an obvious agenda and are not unbiased commentators.)
I am not a scientist, and therefore I feel a little more free to make 'unqualified' statements, and not hedge what I am saying with caveats. For example, we know, it is a well established fact, that a one degree warming of the Pacific results in devastating droughts in the Western United States. It is also true that the oceans have a great deal of inertia and take a while to incorporate higher temperatures than the land or the atmosphere. Now we know that the oceans are in the process of incorporating these higher temperatures, given the melting and retreating of ice cover, and the expansion of the oceans by half a foot so far (with a projected foot or two yet to come). Now what this suggests is that the drought that is destroying the forests in the Western half of the United States is one of those consequences of global warming, in other words it is not a 'passing spell of bad weather' but rather one of the results of global climate change. What is happening in the Western United States we could say, then, is a change of climate, not a change in the weather.
It is not very likely that the Pacific is on a cooling trend. This change in climate one would expect to persist, while a change in weather would just go away at some point. Now if this is in fact a change in climate in the Western United States, this will have serious repercussions over the entire continent. For example, we know that since the late 90s, when the forests began to deteriorate, the level of the Great Lakes has been dropping, and this is due to the fact that the Rocky Mountain ecosystem out west feeds the rivers and lakes of the nation.
The trend continues this year, as it is reported that the Great Lakes Water Level continues to decline and that the water level has dropped two feet, with a one foot drop having taken place just in the last year. It will take years of heavy snow fall to replace that much lost water, and here we are assuming that climate change has not taken place, and that this snow fall will be forthcoming. Similarly in the West, there is a growing Water emergency in Southern British Columbia, as the reservoirs are now only at 30 per cent (the premier of British Columbia has said that he plans to 'take shorter showers'). I watched an aerial tour showing photos of the reservoirs across the province on the weather channel the other day, and it didn't look like there was much left in them at all...once you get down to 30 per cent you are heading for big trouble. (Southern British Columbia is heavily populated).
Last year the 'river' which runs through my home city, which is fed by the Rockies, became a mud flat. The same conditions exist on the Mississippi (which drains 40 per cent of the United States).
Dry conditions hurt barge traffic - Companies looking for other options if Mississippi can't be navigated
The possibility of a future water crisis that affects the North American continent is very real, should the ecosystem of the Rocky Mountains not recover due to sudden, rapid, climate change. What is worse is that for years, Americans have been depleting their ground water. Hundreds of trillions of gallons of ground water are removed every year, much of it for agricultural purposes (in particular to finance agriculture in the deserts) and also to supply America's desert cities and for various industrial purposes. Groundwater is also being polluted by run off from landfills and pesticides and various fertilizers used in agricultural. Ground water is being removed at a far greater rate than the natural recharge rate, and currently the country is pumping up fossil water (thousands of years old) for that very reason. Inconveniently one begins to hear stories about ground water depletion, and given the rising danger of water problems in the future, this sort of news couldn't be coming out at a worse time.
Disappearing Groundwater Means Big Problems For Boston Residents
Receding Water Could Mean Millions In Repairs
Official warns of shrinking groundwater supplies
" Last year, as the drought deepened in the Enterprise area west of Cedar City, farmers and ranchers were forced to drill deeper wells.
Their old ones were sucking air. As we learned last year, that's not a small matter.
the declines are happening because water rights granted decades ago were based on faulty estimates of Mother Nature's ability to replenish the aquifers.
They have been over-appropriated. There's more water rights that have been granted than there is physical water available."
Utah water levels on dangerous decline
" This is one water supply issue we can't blame on the drought. Dry weather has sharpened the problem. But over-use of groundwater has been a fact of life in some places for a half-century or more. "
The warming of the Pacific is terrible news for the Western United States (it means a permanently in place El Nino, and everyone knows how nasty El Nino is), and the effect ripples over the entire nation, as a water crisis, and then to make matters worse, there is also this ground water problem, and in the new climatic age of permanent El Nino, it turns out you need that ground water a lot.
As I said, I am not a scientist, so I don't need to hedge my words, or introduce caveats. This is what I see happening already, and this is climate change. Now let us assume that we got lucky, and the drought which has been destroying the West since about 1997 suddenly ends. This seems unlikely, by the way, given the fact of global warming and the inertia of the Pacific ocean (it takes time for the Pacific to warm, but it seems to be catching up with the atmosphere recently, and thus the big problems we have been having) However, there may be others who are not convinced. For example, if you read the stories on the Utah drought, they say, 'when the drought is over' their ground water will start to recharge. I am already convinced that climate change is underway, but if this was incorrect then we can say that we got lucky this time but all we have done is that we are putting off the warming of the Pacific for another day, and what we are experiencing right now is a sample of what is to come.
One of the reasons I am already convinced that climate change is underway is the changes that are taking place along the souther borders of the Sahara. Now if you do research, you find out that those climate computers are predicting that global warming will result in an even greater Sahara desert. Then again those climate computers are predicting a receding desert. That is one of the problems with modern climatology. The climate is so complex it is difficult to model on computers, and the fact that there is so much uncertainty about the results of global warming leaves lots of room for those who wish to debunk climate change (even though global warming is a fact, and only the end results have been controversial).
We are running an experiment, and the results on the earth take precedence over attempts to model the climate on computers, and in the midst of all the controversy about global warming (which is a fact) this is a point so many scientists make, in spite of all their uncertainty, and the uncertainty of climate prediction software. There are risks involved in global warming, and thus we might get some unpleasant shocks.
It seems logical to assume that climate predicting computers which suggests a shrinking of the Sahara are closer to correctly modeling what we would expect to see when climate changes. For example, the paper CLIMATE CHANGE IN NORTHERN AFRICA: the past is not the future
discusses the hypotheses that states that global warming should be signaled by a retreat of the Sahara desert. The reason for this has to do with the fact that the temperature in the North Atlantic was a degree or so warmer about 8,000 years ago, and human activity has already increased the global temperature about a degree. Climate change can be influenced by such factors as orbital variations, which contributed to the warming of the North Atlantic, but this will have no effect over the next centuries, so one can isolate global warming and then given a warming of the North Atlantic (which has already been measured and confirmed) the result would a change in the Sahara, since this warming of the North Atlantic causes strong Monsoons in North Africa. They use a computer model to suggest that 'the past will not be the future' in that one should expect only 40 per cent of the Sahara to rejuvenate, according to this computer model. (So then this paper represents a discussion among scientists as to whether or not the Sahara hypothesis remains valid today...I don't completely trust those climate computers so I am not totally convinced by this argument for that very reason.) One thing that is very interesting is the mention of the fact that not only does this warming of the Atlantic cause retreat of the Sahara, it also supposed to cause droughts in Europe, and that is exactly what we are seeing happening.
So then we are seeing rising ocean temperatures, resulting in North American drought, increasing Monsoons over the Sahara region, and droughts forming in Europe, and as well the desert regions in Southern Europe are now expanding (giving rise to the story that the Sahara is hopping north into Europe). There are also other alarming stories in the news lately related to weather phenomena.
Debt, drought, and death
"Farmers and agricultural experts in the southern Indian state of Karnataka are trying to work out how to stop farmers here committing suicide." The drought in Southern four India has been going on for years now, and after crop failure after crop failure, debt burdened farmers are committing suicide.
Meanwhile huge flooding Monsoons are drenching the North of India, and it is interesting to note that in the past India's desert areas received the Monsoons.
Now we know that global warming is an indisputable fact. Every bit of so called evidence which purports to dispute this fact is pseudo-science. The great unknown has always been just what the results of this experiment on planet earth will be. At the present time, are we simply experiencing a spell of real bad weather. I am convinced myself, by the concurrent changes already taking place, that this is not the case, but rather we are experiencing a spell of nasty climate change, which is the result of this particular experiment, and really, in some ways you would think that we really should have seen this coming. The way I see things, nature is just behaving perfectly logically, and doing exactly what you would expect - global warming leading to a warming of the Pacific, leading to a permanent El Nino, leading to a permanent drought, leading to a nasty water crisis, compounded by a ground water crisis, due to the profligate use of natural resources which characterizes Western culture. However, there will still be many people talking about 'when the weather goes back to normal' or 'when the drought finally ends', and if this is climate change, then they will be talking about this until the forests die and the mountains dry and the country is right smack in the middle of a water crisis, while at the same time having a ground water problem, which really couldn't have happened at a worse time. This is the nature of experiments, when you just don't know how they'll turn out. Its like a poker game and you understand when you go in that its a gamble and you just might lose your shirt.
Sudden, rapid climate change is the historical norm
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