Some Thoughts on Global Warming

Global warming is in the news and national conversation these days. Some are fervent believers that it's virtually "The End," and should be the number one priority of the UN and the US. To them it's "Global Warming Warning." Others are climate change and warming deniers and feel we can ignore it altogether as a left-wing plot.

Advances in technology allow us to know a great deal of history about our planet. A million years ago, the Earth's temperature was much warmer, five to seven degrees Fahrenheit or about 3.5 degrees Celsius. Back then, before mankind existed, we are told that there was no ice at either pole! The seas were 50-80 feet higher than today ... some data project they were as much as 260 feet higher. Then, for reasons still not understood, a long cooling period ensued. Several hundred thousand years ago, a severe glacial period existed, with extensive ice build-ups on Greenland to the north as well as Antarctica at the south pole. Greenland, with an area three times the size of Texas,  held an ice sheet of 650,000 square miles, and up to 10,000 feet thick in places. In Antarctica, the ice fields were even more vast, covering 5.4 million square miles.

Yet another long warming trend occurred and by 130,000-115,000 years ago, the planet was in what is called the "Eemian Interglacial Period," which resulted in temperatures "only" about one degree Celsius higher than today, however ice melt from both Greenland and Antarctica raised the sea levels  by 20-30 feet higher than today.

The sea levels are quite variable, even though they seem "fixed" to us in our blink-of-an-eye perspective. During the most recent Ice Age, which ended some 12,000 years ago, and well within the existence of modern man, glaciers existed down into what is now the USA's Midwestern states. Sea levels at the time were lower due to fresh water being tied up in the ice, and land bridges existed between Asia and North America as well as in Europe between the present UK and the mainland.  These land bridges allowed early humans to migrate into the Americas and Britain. The sea rose 400 feet from those levels following that ice age, and has been relatively steady since.

Let's turn to the present. Even though the sea levels seem relatively constant, they are changing, and ice is melting in Greenland and Antarctica. Today, the sea levels are increasing by 3.3 mm a year, or about a tenth of an inch. Of course if that continues, this "minuscule" amount becomes nearly a foot over a century. That would be felt in many ways. The recent two years are but a blip in time, but they are the two warmest years since mankind has been keeping records. 2014 had been the hottest year on record until 2015, which superseded it.  In fact, September 2015 was the hottest month on record. Glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at a very fast rate.

The reasons for that are not completely understood. The main driving force is felt by many to be carbon dioxide, which forms a sort of "heat blanket" in the atmosphere keeping the sun's heat trapped and unable to escape into space. Carbon dioxide is produced by decaying organic matter, most of which is natural as trees decompose and other organic matter rots. This production, or emission of CO2, has been equalized by the absorption into the sea, and by the photosynthesis process of plants as they convert sunlight into organic matter. The two mega-effects have been in balance for long periods of time. In addition, mankind now is producing copious amounts of CO2 as well,  and although the man-made amount is quite low in comparison with the natural effects, it's important because the new "industrial" CO2 skews the historical balance and the impact seems to be increasing. This article:

explains that the recent increases in CO2 (starting around 1900) are due to man-made emissions, primarily because they tip the delicate generation/absorption balance that has been in place for many years. As in any debate these days, people can find a report that supports their position, but this article rings true to me. The CO2 levels rose from 300 parts per million (ppm), where they had been for a thousand years or more, to 380 ppm in 2008, and are projected to increase wildly to well over 500 ppm by 2100. By that year, according to many computer models, a sea-level increase of 1.5-3 feet is likely. A few are even more dire, and show 20-30 feet. Some of those assume that a large chuck of ice literally breaks off of the Antarctic land shelf and "plops" into the sea; in that case, a precipitous rise, a catastrophe.

Back to the present, there are plenty of things happening now that ought to worry even the most strident of the deniers. Warming sea waters are ravaging the coral reefs in general and the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's NE Coast. This one-thousand four-hundred mile coral miracle now is imperiled and large portions are dying. In addition, fresh-water lakes are stressed. Two hundred and thirty-five lakes are monitored and these are averaging six-tenths of a degree Celsius (one degree Fahrenheit) warmer temperatures over the last decade. This results in algae blooms, less oxygen (the algae feeds on oxygen) and fish-kills. The water supply of Toledo, Ohio, Lake Erie, was contaminated this way in 2014.

The changing weather patterns affect humans in other ways. In Syria, four years of almost no rain resulted in lost wheat crops from 2007-2011, resulting in significant human migration from rural areas to Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs. The civil war currently underway no doubt has some of its origins in those stresses. In general, studies of agriculture indicate that the current warming trend could result in a hundred million people falling into "extreme poverty" within 20-50 years. Traditionally, this results in mass emigration and resulting civil resentment and stress in receiving areas. This also calls into question the mass hysteria about "GMO" foods, when genetically modified foods can result in drought-resistant grains and pest-resistant crops that could alleviate this problem to some extent.

Let me go back to glacial melts for a moment. Just to drop a shocker into the article, if all of the ice sheets on Greenland and Antartica were to melt completely, the sea levels would increase by 200 feet! In addition, it should be noted that 75% of the world's fresh water is stored in this ice, or it was in 1900. Sea levels increase due to three main reasons:

  • Water expands with temperature. So the bulk volume of sea water increases as it warms.
  • Mountain ice and glaciers melt.
  • Ice Sheets in Greenland and Antactica are melting and "calving" ice-bergs.

There are two massive marine glaciers in Antarctica: Pine Island, and Thwaites. These are  melting and disintegrating slowly by calving off huge chunks as ice-bergs as the ice slides toward the open water. The existential future of hundreds of major cities on Earth depends on this process, and whether if will be tens or hundreds of years before the cities are nearly uninhabitable. (Think about the immigration problems if that occurs.) However if the rise in sea levels continues at or about the present rate, we will see the following (in this order):

  • Water in basements, street gutters, and subways.
  • Streets will flood in storms
  • The top two will occur more and more
  • Brine will infiltrate drinking water supplies and sewage plants
  • Electrical generating plants will go offline with shorts and complications
  • No flood insurance will be available
  • Home values will plummet in major areas
  • Seaside homes and businesses will be abandoned
  • Large-scale evacuations will be imperative

Can you say "mass migration" again? Think of the social disruptions. The following major coastal cities are in the bulls-eye, at least in part:

  • New York City
  • Calcutta
  • Hong Kong
  • Shanghai
  • Hamburg
  • Most of the Netherlands
  • Houston
  • New Orleans
  • Miami
  • Norfolk

In addition to major cities, some of the most painful effects will be on places that don't get the headlines, and in which long-standing small populations live. These include native villages in Greenland, the Pacific country of Kiribati, and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. In the latter two island republics, much of the dry land area is five to eight feet about sea level. The entire countries are threatened.

Given the nature of both human suffering on a personal level as well as the threat of mass migration and competition for scarce resources, the threat of conflict is real. We have only to look at migration patterns from Mexico and Central America into the US, as well as the current Middle East wars and the hysteria to get out of that horror into Europe or Turkey or Jordan and it's easy to pick out the effects  politically. Already, populists are campaigning to secure borders and build barriers and walls; to ban certain religious and cultural immigrant groups; and it's a short leap to the worst side of humanity. In fact, I'd think that more people would be considering the down-side to global warming and it would inspire more science and more constructive discussion on how do we, humanity, take preventive measures that are intelligent. The dark side is threatening and scary. To be a "climate change denier" seems dangerously "head-in-the-sand-ish" to me.

Please leave a comment in the section below, or feel free to email me directly. In addition, I'd appreciate it if you check out my new author's web-site for additional information on my two books, media reviews and comments, and my upcoming and past personal appearances. I'll be pleased to appear at any book club meetings anywhere within two hours of the Austin, TX area.

16 Responses

  1. Excellent article. Yes, there may be natural forces at work BUT we humans are adding significantly to the problem. Those that dismiss what we humans are doing, is usually those that state the the Earth is 9,000 years old! Some "heads will remain in the sand". Keep up the good work. Max
    • JK James George
      Hi Max, and thanks for the comment. You are correct. The article, and perhaps I didn't make it clear, states that the man-made component of CO2, while much lower than the naturally caused emissions, plays a key role in the overall increase in the atmosphere. That's the main reason why the CO2 amount has increased from 300 ppm to 380 ppm within a few years. Or said another way, we (mankind) are upsetting the delicate balance that nature had established. Man-made CO2 emissions are a major problem, and need to be cut back very sharply.
  2. Jim: While the evidence that is being gathered concerning climate change is valuable, it is risky to overstate the maturity of the evidence. President Obama's Director of the Office of Science in the Department of Energy, Dr. Steve Koonin published a compelling cautionary note on the lack maturity of climate science for driving policy decisions.
  3. Yep, it is coming and when flooding gets really severe, with people wading most places they want to go, those people will definitely try to get out and live with you. (not me because I will be dead.) Corrective efforts will fail. Smart and rich will prep well before hand. Victims will find an armed, closed door at the escape places. My three female progeny, all thankfully smart and pretty, hopefully will attach themselves with one of the rich and live above it all, maybe on a yacht. I would say good luck, but the world used that up winning WW2.
  4. There is only one sane way to prevent the impact of climate change. Child bearing couples should only have one child per couple for two generations. That would cut the world population by three-fourths in two generations. Less people, less impact on the environment. Of course, there are many groups opposed to this. But we need to start thinking as a global society. We need to make choices for the global good of mankind and for all the other flora and fauna on the on the planet.
  5. I really like your ariticle Jim. The "dropped shocker" (clever pun) yes sir, if those big ice chunks "drop", low laying countries (all over the earth) Holland, Bengladesh, Singapore, the Thai peninsula, in addition to the Indian and Pacific Ocean atolls along with most of the U.S. Gulf coast will be victims of the "dropped shocker" alright (Can't stop laughing - excuse me, its really not funny) It looks like the coast line would move in to around Huntsville, TX. I think I will move to the Equator to get maximum distance from those shockers when they drop because I want to be as far away from the "ripples" (sunamis) as I can get, and live on a mountain top with plenty of fresh water and stache of rations.
  6. JK James George
    This is a thoughtful albeit skeptical comment from a PhD and very bright man: All clues to his identity are erased since this came in on a private email. Label me a skeptic..... I was an R&D person... I was paid to be skeptical as I was in the company of many "wishful thinkers" trying to advance their careers with inventions that were doomed from the start by a lack of critical thinking and awareness. No doubt CO2 levels are rising and humans have contributed to that number. But I'm skeptical at the data being reported on the long-term trend of global temperatures. From what I've read (under-reported to be sure) temperatures are actually flat over the last ten years are so. Along comes a heat spell or a temperature record of some sort, and the hypesters are out preaching doom for the low-landers, etc. Me.... I'm on the sidelines observing the "watch out the sky is falling" crowd. What can't be denied is the use of this topic to advance the political agenda of those that want to control my life through "carbon taxation," regulation..... all the control mechanisms that the progressive crowd want to use to "save" me. If you're a "climate change denier" God help you in keeping your job, etc. in many circles. Well, it didn't take me long to come up with the graphs in the link above. History reveals lots of CO2 data that varies with who/where/how it was gathered and analyzed. No wonder there's a controversy. But to say global warming and the future consequences are set in stone leaves me to repeat the song lyric "it ain't necessarily so". (name removed)
    • JK James George
      A few more comments along this particular line: I've seen the comments on that web site before. That man, Monte Hieb, is a prominent climate change skeptic. The web site is related to the West Virginia fossil fuel industry, from what I can tell. Also, the last updated information was in 1998, so none of the latest climate research is taken into consideration. A good update of the 2007 IPCC Assessment was published in Scientific American here: In 2013, Scientific American published this: I suppose the argument will go on, but it seems to me that it's in the best interests of mankind to take measures rather than do nothing. It's analogous to the decision to cut down the last tree on Easter Island, or to harvest the fruit and replant some new trees. We know how that decision came out.
  7. You frame the issues extremely well. My views, in short, are based around the fact that the earth, depending on who you believe, is 3.8 to 4.2 billion years old and has survived everything thrown at it to date. The Earth systems are of such magnitude than humans are a mere speck. Humans will not destroy, nor save the earth. We are eternally subject to it. Enviros and taking a century or two of real data and extrapolating it out 100 years or so and treating it as fact. If you read the predictions from the 1970's and 80's from global warming experts, the seas would be boiling by now, they aren't. The same "experts" were saying the world was at "max" oil and we would run out by 2020's. All of these prognostications were based on severely inadequate data and ignorance of what future technology and learning would provide. Is climate changing, yes.Has it happened before, yes. Is it reversible by man made actions, I strongly doubt it. We should spend our time trying to figure out how to optimize our planets dynamics rather than creating political strife with weakly supported claims. We only understood global tectonics in the 1970's, one day we will better understand what really drives our climate as well.
  8. JK James George
    This comment was sent to me by private email, so I've taken out any reference to the sender. However it represents the doubt and skepticism that many people are expressing: **************************************** It is very cold April here in (my country), but global warming cult members will tell you that it is very hot somewhere else. They will never say that if it is hot here, somewhere else is very cold � they will just blame global warming for that. The shocking truth is not about 200 feet sea level rise in case of Arctic and Antarctic ice melting but that the average temperature there is close to minus 50 degrees Centigrade and it will never happen. Before start talking about CO2 impact on global climate take a look at - no coal power plants, no cars etc. And final piece of advice � take a flight to Europe. Take a look into (the day/night) illuminator while flying at the ocean below for hours and you will understand how small and unimportant humans are on the face of the Earth.
  9. JK, this is a recent post of mine relative to climatology. I know that you are old enough to remember this. Today is Earth Day! It will be my 46th Earth Day. No one has seen more Earth Days than I have. I was a lowly grad student on that first "Earth Day" back in 1970. I took copious notes (which turned out to be superfluous when "Google" was invented, 30 years later). Here is my compilation of the "high points" of the days speeches (with apologies for the length. They were a windy bunch, even then).Behold the apocalypse as predicted on Earth Day, 1970: "Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind." — Harvard biologist George Wald "Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years." — Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich "Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born… [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s." — Paul Ehrlich "It is already too late to avoid mass starvation," — Denis Hayes, Chief organizer for Earth Day. "Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions…. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine." — North Texas State University professor Peter Gunter "In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half." — Life magazine "At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it's only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable." — Ecologist Kenneth Watt "Air certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone." — Paul Ehrlich "[One] theory assumes that the earth's cloud cover will continue to thicken as more dust, fumes, and water vapor are belched into the atmosphere by industrial smokestacks and jet planes. Screened from the sun's heat, the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born." — Newsweek magazine "The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age." — Kenneth Watt
  10. JK James George
    Here's another comment from an email. The identity has been (hopefully) removed. Here is my comment…. There is a 3rd group of people when it comes to “global warming”. This is where I fall. Obviously, man has created a world with some increased CO2 and it could be a factor in global warming. If so, the effects are so minimal over time that it is not a problem that I will ever have to deal with. That may sound harsh when my grand kids and their kids may have to deal with it, but I trust that these bright young people will come up with solutions to the problems long before Armageddon. Hopefully, those living on the coasts will have the intelligence to move inland over the course of a few hundred (thousand?) years so that they won’t get their feet wet. And then, they can move back over the next hundred (thousand?) years when the next ice age comes. I have too many pressing concerns (aching bunion, sore shoulders, inability to run faster than 14 minutes per mile, and chronic sinusitis) to deal with incremental (0.1 % degrees increase over 10 years) changes when my life span won’t exceed that time frame. I wish I could be around in a 1000 years to see how it all works out….
  11. JK James George
    From someone who's more on my wave length, via direct email: Interesting blog, though I suspect, at least for now, you’re preaching to the choir. A couple of thoughts on the subject: 1. While warming water may have had an impact on the Toledo water problems, it was more driven by fertilizer runoff. 2. Yet another scary factor: climate change driven by the impact of cold freshwater runoff on ocean currents, notably the Gulf Stream. I understand without it, England and Labrador would have similar climates. I’m sure the Antarctic melt would likewise affect southern hemisphere currents, but I’m not as familiar with those. 3. Noted in articles in just the last day or so, the impact of diminished Arctic sea ice causing stable blocking patterns in the weather. The piece was mostly concerned with those patterns causing warmer conditions over Greenland accelerating the ice melt there, but my unscientific personal observations is that we seem to have more weather patterns here that persist for longer than what seemed to be normal. Unfortunately in (ed: my home area, near the Great Lakes), that usually means cold/damp/cloudy weather :-). 4. The Panglossian notion that warmer climate will simply mean that food production will move north into Canada or Russia ignores that current crops are used to certain daylight/dark cycles, which aren’t what will be encountered at higher latitudes.
    • JK James George
      In retrospect, logically, there are two broad considerations for policy: 1. Global warming will not result or occur in any meaningful manner, either because of "normal" cycles of the Earth, or, since the CO2-related predictions are false. Mankind will compete for resources in the same way that's been done for the last century. Strife will exist albeit on a manageable level. 2. Global warming will result either naturally, because of CO2 emissions by industrial pollutants, or both, and the weather changes will cause sea level rises, famine, and other causes of human migration. In this case, the migrations of humans will strain governmental ability to deal with it and significant warfare and social disruption could very well erupt. As a policy, it makes sense to me to deal with Item #2, as that will be the worst case, regardless of the cause. The one thing missing from any criticism I have with all those who disagree with the fundamental result of a warming Earth, is this: "What should we do if they are wrong?" It almost comes out to be a radical Libertarian approach that we should not do anything. Do we all move to Idaho and get guns, live in remote cabins, and listen to Alex Jones (who is an American crack-pot who teaches that a "New World Order" is taking over and we are all doomed) on the radio and buy freeze-dried food and become survivalists? I'd say that the people who live in the Marshall Islands, Seychelles, Bangladesh, New Orleans, etc. and other places susceptible to coastal flooding and weather changes might have more of a concern about "what can we do" about this. I suppose simply telling them to move to another place is one answer. From the articles I've read in National Geographic, Scientific American, and other journals, the question is an open one.
  12. JK James George
    (This exchange represents another person's (I respect this person) perspective, along with my response. The skeptics seem to be winning the number of feedback comments from this blog subject.) ****************************************** you seem to feel free to circulate what some might see as blatant propaganda.....and as there appear to be legal moves afoot in the USA – previously a renowned upholder of the principle of free speech (isn't it in your Constitution??) – to throw naysayers in jail (three strikes and you are out??) – I feel I should bring to your attention that there ARE two sides to the story. Sign up to GWPF and make sure you are aware of all sides to the debate!! ******************************************** (Person's name), I read the complete attachment you sent. It's clearly from an organization, albeit it one with some distinguished members, which is well known as follows (Wikipedia) "The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is a think tank in the United Kingdom, whose stated aims are to challenge "extremely damaging and harmful policies" envisaged by governments to mitigate anthropogenic global warming.[3][4] It has been noted as promoting climate-change denial.[5] In 2014, when the Charity Commission ruled that the GWPF had breached rules on impartiality, a non-charitable organisation called the "Global Warming Policy Forum" or "GWPF" was created as a wholly owned subsidiary, to do lobbying that a charity could not. The GWPF website carries an array of articles "skeptical" of scientific findings of anthropogenic global warming" *************************************** This characterization does not make the Foundation's positions or publications incorrect or faulty by themselves, but certainly confirms the organization has an agenda. I suppose that no matter that a large number of scientists or UN members agree that climate change appears to be an increasing danger, there always will be some (maybe they are the correct minority, a group of wise people who refuse to go along with a clamoring tide) who represent the contrary view. As you know, there are those who contend that mankind has never landed on the moon and that NASA and other national space agencies are made up and the whole thing is photo-shopped. I read every word of your link, and find myself in the camp of watching developments, taken together, that signal fundamental climate changes that stand to displace millions of people due stronger storms, rising sea levels, and weather extremes such as floods and droughts. No matter what our individual beliefs are, what will be will be, and I'm on the side that believes that an ounce or preparation is worth a pound of cure/remedy. JG
  13. I'm just an ordinary citizen of Canada. I'm a woman with no scientific background whatsoever. I hear a lot of hype about Global warming and I just can't believe what the panic is. Apparently, for millions of years, the planet's temperature has risen and fallen many times. It's cyclic I say. What excuse will they use for the temperatures falling in a million years from now? I bet they will say that they saved the planet. But I won't be around to find out. Everything is so perfect from the way our bodies perform to the plants and animals and what nature has provided them. It's people and civilization that are trying to change the cycle. A perfect body takes in food, digests it, sends the nutrients to the organs they need to go to and emits the waste. The animals do the same, just a little different in their path. The food chain goes from biggest to smallest and the plants and trees grow in soils that suit them best. Why then, would the global changes be any different? After a forest fire, other vegetation grows prolifically because it was shadowed by the growing trees. I haven't figured out all the reasons for the natural disasters, but I'm sure there has to be a cyclic reason. Maybe the world gets too populated and needs to be culled. Ok. I feel better now. Have a wonderful life. It's short.

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