A note from Madison: Just to clear up some confusion – This is a guest post. It’s not my article. My own opinion on things is a lot more woo-woo and probably a lot less “scientific”, in spite of my past history of a career in science.
To state my own stand on the issue of climate change… I do think there is climate change occurring. While I also think this change is a naturally occurring trend I believe the human impact on the speed at which it is happening is tremendous. I do not believe we can continue to take from the earth, use all of the resources, and not expect some sort of reaction.
I believe the earth itself is a living organism, that all of creation is part of a larger organism, and that just as we have organs/mechanisms in our bodies that science thinks is not important or is not understood (like adenoids, tonsils, appendix, “gut instinct”, etc.), I think humans are incredibly aloof to believe that we can mine the earth’s resources to the point of depletion and there not be a consequence. So on to Richard’s essay…
First of all I’m no climatologist, weather expert or MIT scientist, but it doesn’t take a genius to see what is happening (re: climate change). This is the legacy we will leave for our children if we don’t make drastic changes in the way we treat the place we live.
Just My Thoughts and Observations on Climate Change
We live for all practical intent and purposes in an enclosed system. This enclosed system is Earth. It may as well be a biosphere, which it is, or a box. Everything we do not only affects the earth, but because we live here it affects us, and every living thing on the planet.
To deny climate change is to deny the obvious. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the effects of our carbon emissions, concrete jungle, asphalt, farming, and deforestation.
A Climate Change Metaphor
In electronics there is a device called a Zener diode. A Zener diode is used for several things but its unique characteristic is its ability to control voltage and current at a specific point. It will regulate voltage in a circuit until that voltage reaches a critical point and then it will conduct current in reverse. This point is called the “knee” or “break over” point”. Our forests, ice caps, plant life, atmosphere, oceans, and ozone are a lot like a Zener diode.
When people say the weather hasn’t changed and it’s still getting very cold in the winter and “how can there be global warming” what they are seeing is the Zener diode effect. Here is what I believe is happening.
Our carbon emissions destroy the ozone and form what is called a thermal blanket around the Earth. Ever hear of that “survival space blanket”? That is a thin sheet of Mylar that reflects your body heat and keeps you warm in an emergency situation. Don’t believe me? Just get a large trash bag and cut a hole large enough to stick your head through and pull it down around your body. In a few minutes your body heat will build up inside and after a while you will start to sweat. This is the same effect the pollution in the atmosphere causes. It reflects the radiation that gets to the earth from the sun and warms the earth. With the depletion of the ozone, this effect is even more pronounced, as it lets in more radiation. This same effect is used every day to finish cooking potatoes after they have been in the oven or microwave. The Aluminum foil wrapped around the hot potato will continue to cook it and keep it hot for a very long time, same as carbon emissions around the earth. WE are on that potato!
Current world wide use of just petroleum today stands at 96 million barrels A DAY! That’s 35 BILLION barrels a year and growing! Each gallon of gasoline produces 19.6 pounds of carbon monoxide and each gallon of diesel produces 22.38 pounds of CO2. Multiply that by 42 gallons in each barrel of oil then by 35 Billion barrels a year and that is how much we put in the atmosphere each year! And oil is not the only thing we use that produces CO2. The total amount we put in the atmosphere each year is far higher. This can’t help but contribute to climate change. (Here’s a link to consumption in the US alone.)
Deforestation and loss of plant life in general cause the carbon dioxide to build as that is what plants use to grow and perform photosynthesis. There is also less oxygen because that is what plants emit after using the carbon monoxide to grow. Don’t believe me? Think about the beach where there is no plant life. Ever walk on the sand that was so hot you had to run to get to the beach water or burn your feet? Now think of all the millions of miles of asphalt roads and hi-ways, sidewalks, concrete, buildings, and plowed fields after harvest that do nothing but absorb heat in the world. Plant life shades the ground, produces the oxygen you require to breath, and even clean the atmosphere. We have to have oxygen to live. Without it we will die.
All that deforestation, concrete, asphalt, open plowed fields, carbon emissions, and pollution contribute to the temperature change. The effect of all this heat and loss of ozone are causing the polar ice caps to shrink. The ice caps, forests, plant life, and ozone are the Zener diode I talked about earlier. They all regulate the climate we live in. White ice reflects sun light and solar radiation. Ice also cools the atmosphere and regulates some of our climate. Ever get a glass of tea, fill it with ice and sit on the porch outside on a hot day out of the sun to cool off? After a while if you didn’t add ice to the tea it would get warm again, and the tea gets diluted with the melted water.
Ice Caps, Climate Change, Zener Break Over
The ice caps are shrinking at an alarming rate. Recorded ice cover on the polar caps prove this. Glaciers worldwide are disappearing at alarming rates. Glaciers that have been around for thousands of years. All that ice has to go somewhere. Usually into the ocean. The greatest part of the Zener diode. That ice water right now is cooling the oceans. This is the “knee” of the Zener diode. It does cool the planet causing the cooling effect and making some believe that the planet is actually cooling. But, when that ice has finished melting and the polar ice caps reach a point to where they are no longer cooling the oceans and the oceans start too really heat up again the Zener diode will “break over” and conduct in reverse.
Hot oceans produce massive hurricanes. Melted ice produces higher ocean levels, hotter temperatures produce more humid climate and accelerate global warming. Global warming (climate change) causes deserts adding even more to the warming. Deserts are growing as the ice caps shrink. Our “bread basket” in the central United States is shifting farther north every year. All the water under the ground in the central plains is becoming harder to get and wells have to be dug deeper than ever to reach the water that took thousands of years to build up. When all that water is gone how will we grow our food? Deserts require water to produce food. Without food we will die.
So, still don’t believe global warming is real, or that we should be concerned. What if it is? When the Zener diode breaks over it will be too late and there will be nothing we can do. The future is uncertain and we still do not understand all the dynamics involved with all these things. Do we really want to take that chance and leave such a future to our children?
What We Do Know
One thing we do know is that something unprecedented is happening. All these indicators are there and mean something. What we do know is that Mother Nature has a way of balancing everything. It usually comes in the form of eliminating what was causing the change. In this case WE are what is causing the change. Oh, and remember that enclosed system I talked about in the beginning? It’s called a “Bio-Sphere”, and it was an experiment to see if we could live in an enclosed dome and provide all the things we needed. It was a dismal failure and we would have died if we had to stay there much longer. We’re not smart enough to reproduce what nature has perfected over millions of years.
It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. She has a way of fooling you back. Maybe that is why people still believe there is no global warming. Isn’t Mother Nature perfect! Still don’t believe? You must believe the earth is flat too, but that’s another subject for future thoughts. Just my thoughts on this.
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Richard Kestrel is the woodworker, homestead engineer and jack of all trades at Wild Ozark, and syrup cooker for Burnt Kettle.