BEVERLY HILLS, CA (robinsrowe.com) 2020/1/25 – Someone writes: Fossil fuels might just turn the heat up a bit, but wouldn’t wipe out all life on Earth.
Really, climate change can’t wipe us out?
New York City is considering endorsing a resolution for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, according to an article at Grist. Vancouver has already endorsed it. Los Angeles and Barcelona are considering it. By adopting the treaty, cities are building to a multinational agreement to wind down the dangerous production of fossil fuels, not just curbing emissions, in a similar approach toward the global disarmament of nuclear weapons.
Is this approach justifiable? Is fossil fuel production at its massive worldwide scale as dangerous as nukes? An Ecowatch report concludes that we are already locked into more than two degrees of warming, which would bring catastrophic results to our civilization.
As a navy research scientist, I worked with NOAA weather models. I expect the real number is worse than the 2 degrees of the newly revised climate model. It may be much worse than predicted because there is considerable lag in how weather is effected in the real world. That the weather models are too simplistic and optimistic has been repeatedly shown as they are revised. Temperatures in the Arctic are already way past any predicted.
My scientific hunch is that there is 10 or 20 years of lag in the climate change models. That we are experiencing the climate consequences of 2005, not of 2020. If that’s correct, and it might not be, but if it is, we must implement carbon capture and roll back the pollution clock to a decade ago just to put the brakes on the increasing effects from carbon pollution already in the environment.
Recycling, increased energy efficiency and planting of trees are necessary, but way insufficient to undo the accumulating effects of over a trillion tons of excess carbon in the environment.
Excess CO2 is invisible pollution that can trigger Runaway Climate Change. A planet-killing disaster worse than a WW3 nuclear war.
Our oceans could boil and eject the atmosphere into outer space like Mars. Or, our atmosphere could become so choked with greenhouse gases that the whole planet heats up to be as hot as a volcano, like Venus. Or, it could trigger a rapid onset Ice Age.
Many assume an Ice Age takes a long time, but with Runaway Climate Change, it can start snowing and just not stop. An endless blizzard.
Politicians speak of being Carbon Net Zero by 2030, or 2040 or maybe 2050. Nobody knows how much time we have before climate change becomes an unstoppable monster. If we would recycle every last bit of new pollution starting right now, that may still not be enough.
Future Carbon Net Zero is insufficient if it’s true there’s 15 years of lag in environmental consequences lurking in climate change. Lag due to such things as the years it takes for anthropogenic carbon to reach deep ocean currents. Or, just the general fact that the Earth is so large it takes a while for systemic changes to fully manifest.
What does the term positive feedback loop mean?
As our climate science advances, climate models are improved to include missing feedback loops that effect outcomes in the real world. Positive loops increase warming effects and are self-reinforcing. Positive loops include the permafrost and ocean frozen hydrates melting to emit methane. Loops are self-reinforcing multipliers. Permafrost melt tends to cause more permafrost melt.
A outcome missing from a scientist’s climate model doesn’t have to be a loop. For example, jet contrails increase global warming but don’t cause more jet contrails.
Some feedback loops are negative. Global Dimming, caused by the smoke of massive forest and peat bog fires, prevents the sun’s rays reaching the ground. That reduces global warming. And, it is a feedback loop because fires can cause more fires (up to a point).
Global Dimming slowing the increase in global warming made everyone think simplistic climate models missing positive feedback loops and other effects were accurate. Global Dimming was cancelling those effects out. Adding the effects of Global Dimming is a reason climate models have become more pessimistic.
There are still many missing factors in climate models. No climate change model takes into account the new weather pattern that will emerge from a blue water Arctic. According to my college meteorology textbook, such an event would trigger an Ice Age.
During an Ice Age, there are huge blizzards powered by Arctic hurricanes over warm water rising into clouds pushed by a frigid jet stream.
In the Great Blizzard of 1888, 4 feet of snow fell in three days on New York. The snow drifts were up to 50 feet high. Imagine that as a regular occurrence. During the last Ice Age, the foot of the U.S. continental glacier was a quarter of a mile high at its edge in southern Illinois. A glacier so gigantic it carved out the Great Lakes.
The Earth has survived climate change before by having Ice Ages. Venus and Mars were not so fortunate.
Venus once had an Earth-like climate. Being closer to the Sun, global warming became a feedback loop to runaway climate change. The oceans boiled into steamroom-like clouds of vapor and the surface became the temperature of molten lead (847 degrees).
Mars had an Earth-like climate before Mars lost its magnetic field. Without that shield, the Sun’s solar wind blew away most of the Mars atmosphere and oceans into space. Earth’s magnetic field is fluctuating the last 50 years and getting worse, may flip. Unknown if climate change could be a factor.
The result of unchecked anthropogenic Earth climate change could be runaway climate catastrophe like Venus or checked by nature by triggering another Ice Age. Climate is a non-linear system. Gradual changes until it reaches a tipping point, then pow, like a bridge collapse.
What about the power industry’s perennial favorite big solution, nuclear energy, can that save us?
The IPCC 1.5C Report: nuclear energy’s role for effective action to mitigate climate change, published in 2018, is stale data today. Based on the energy prices and technology capabilities at that time, leaders made bad choices based on that report’s flawed premise that there would not be rapid progress made in renewables technology and falling costs.
There are 440 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries, with a combined capacity of 400 GW. For comparison, the total wind power generator combined capacity is more, 435 GW. Wind power and solar are now cheaper than nuclear. Although it’s not economic, about 55 nuclear power reactors are currently being constructed in 15 countries, mostly China, India, Russia and UAE. There are no new plants in the U.S.
U.S. nuclear industry powerhouse Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in 2017. Those who say nuclear isn’t over in the U.S. are asking for a government bailout. The Ohio legislature was arrested for taking millions in bribes to force taxpayers to subsidize the power industry.
Nuclear power costs keep rising and renewables keep dropping. Nuclear plants under construction today may never be completed due to economics.
Coal power plants are being retired early because of cost. They are uneconomic to run. President Trump’s expensive effort to have taxpayers bail out coal was futile, with more coal power plants closed during his administration than the previous. The coal power industry, the nuclear power industry and the fracking industry, are all going bankrupt. Undercut by cheap solar and wind power.
We have over a trillion of tons of Excess CO2 in the atmosphere. Until 1960 there were two trillion tons of CO2 total in the atmosphere, pretty consistently for tens of thousands of years. Today we have three trillion. We can’t smell or see Excess CO2. Unlike ambient particulate air pollution, Excess CO2 doesn’t kill humans directly. However, it’s there and causing harm to the planet.
Nobody understands Extreme Climate Science well enough to confidently quantify the danger we face from Excess CO2. When creating climate models, scientists must imagine the mechanisms and tipping points that would result in Runaway Climate Change on Earth.
We get some clue of how bad it could be from how ancient Mars and Venus lost their water world, Earth-like climate and atmosphere. Their oceans boiled. IPCC underestimated how fast our oceans are warming.
In a completely different Extreme Climate Science scenario, the Earth strikes back with the rapid onset of an Ice Age. With the Arctic Ocean ice melted, what was formerly the driest climate, even drier than the Earth’s deserts, becomes quite wet. Winter storms turn into Arctic hurricanes, dumping hundreds of feet of snow on Canada and the Midwest.
Powered by the jet stream and Arctic moisture, Tornado Alley can increase, with hundreds of mega-tornadoes obliterating anything in their path as they sweep down the center of the the U.S.
Extreme Climate Science models are non-linear and self-reinforcing. The climate can act like a defective building or bridge. What may seem ok as gradual bending can snap and collapse all at once.