State of the World: Global Warming
Global warming, over the past several decades, has been conveniently configured to suit various agendas. Perhaps this is implicit in its nature as its acknowledgment would lead to tremendous economical and political consequence. This has led to the dispensation of misleading, obscured, and entirely inaccurate information. My intention is to display the facts of global warming, not as an oil company or a politician, nor as a representative of any other group, but as an observer.
Any individual who has cared to learn the facts pertaining to global warming recognizes its existence; its trajectory, however, is multi-faceted. The facts create a concise range of possibilities, which have been misconstrued in most outlets with the usual exception of scientific journals.
According to the latest release from the Mauna Loa Observatory, a highly regarded atmospheric research facilities, the level of CO2, as of February 4, 2018, is at about 408 ppm (parts per million). That is incredible. Put in context, this is more than a 45 percent increase in carbon dioxide levels since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Scientists differ on exactly when levels were last this high, but the estimates range between 800,000 and 15 million years ago, the majority opinion leaning towards the latter.
Although the anti-global warming movement is entirely nonsensical, entertain me as I disprove the one piece of evidence that could have conceivably held some ground: The notion of the global warming hiatus. This is a term for the stagnation of the global surface temperature for over a decade, from roughly 1998 to 2013. The scientific explanation at the time was that events such as La Niña caused a temporary respite from global warming effects, as natural disasters, such as hurricanes and volcanic eruptions, tend to do. This entire attempt to negate global warming was largely falsified when, in 2015, surface temperatures increased more drastically than in several decades. When missing data from the rising temperatures in the Arctic was, retroactively, inserted, they found the hiatus never existed.
Usually groups will emphatically state the incredible rise of global surface temperatures over a relatively short period of time. They will quote theories such as the Keelings Curve, a proven method that Charles Keeling, the previous scientist and director at Mauna Loa Observatory, invented to quantify the acceleration of atmospheric CO2 levels. This is of course all irrelevant if it avoids the basic question of how this affects people. At what levels are our physical abilities impaired? At which levels can humans survive? Incidentally, this question largely remains outside the vast swath of media attention and so has required some digging.
An occurrence at Lake Nyos, Cameroon in 1986, when CO2 levels skyrocketed leaving 1,700 people dead and 5,000 in various degrees of injury, sheds light on the matter. Within proximity of three kilometers to the lake people experienced fatigue and dizziness before unconsciousness which persisted for as long as 36 hours. At distances three to ten kilometers, individuals experienced confusion prior to unconsciousness. It is evidenced that the results varied greatly by individual for survivors who were near the deceased. The study then proceeds to list various recorded patient symptoms at the local hospitals and the respective survival rates. The CO2 levels were estimated in excess of 8 percent, which is 80,000 ppm, establishing what levels we can state with near certainty as inducing fatalities.
A more recent little-publicized study in 2012 may be more relevant. A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study tested the effects of variable CO2 levels on the human decision-making process. They found that “statistically significant and meaningful reductions in decision-making performance” as the CO2 level rose from a baseline of 600 ppm to 1,000 and then 2,500 ppm. A more significant study conducted by Dr. Joe Allen, Director of Harvard’s Healthy Buildings program, and Dr. John Spengler, Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation at Harvard, found that on average an increase in CO2 levels by 400 ppm resulted in a 21 percent drop on cognitive testing scores.
There are other ominous effects of global warming, such as the melting ice sheets in Antarctica. This has been a controversial topic. The ice sheets are losing mass at an accelerating rate, however, there are studies that show a significant increase in localized snowfall as well. According to an article in Scientific America, “Brooke Medley, a NASA research scientist, and her colleagues” extracted a 500 foot deep ice core from Queen Maud Land, a location south of Africa’s southern tip. What they discovered was a 25% increase in snow precipitation from the pre-industrial era. “It’s not all doom and gloom,” Medley said.
Many scientists, however, differ. Phil Plait, otherwise known as “The Bad Astronomer,” disagrees with this notion, writing, “no matter how you slice it Antarctica is losing ice, and losing it fast.” He references data amounted by NASA’s Grace satellites that shows a present loss of 134 billion metric tons of ice per year in Antarctica. He calls another study referencing snow precipitation as “problematic,” as the “process” of snow converting into ice “isn’t completely understood.” Greenland, an area many overlook, he says, actually “outpaces” Antarctica in melting ice.
The facts are apparent. Ocean levels are rising and global temperatures are increasing. Industries are pumping out over 40 billion tons of CO2 pollutant every year. Although asphyxiation is a long way off, the effects of global warming, even on a year by year basis are, as evidenced, quantifiable.
In a decade old interview with F. Sherwood Rowland, who shared a Nobel Prize for discovering the effect CFCs incur on the ozone layer, he was asked what he predicts peak CO2 concentration levels to be. Many noted scientist have suggested numbers such as 500 ppm, one even declaring a reversal to 350. Rowland said, “1000.” When asked exactly what that would look like, he somberly retorted, “I don’t know.”
Lincoln’s words from time immemorial remain applicable today. “We know how to save the world. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last, best hope of earth.”