GLOBAL WARMING DEMYSTIFIED : PART II
June 24 2015
Revised August 1,2015
This is an oversimplified explanation; but, so many people “don’t believe” in
Global Warming. Either that, or they “don’t believe that Global Warming represents
any threat to us.” This paper is an attempt to break through these levels of resistance based on false “beliefs”.
Our young planet, in geological terms, has had five different extinction cycles.
Each has been caused by global warming from millions of years of volcanic eruptions all over the planet. Huge masses of molten rock from the planet’s core covered everything in layer after layer.
When the volcanic activity settled down, the evolutionary process as described by Darwin and Wallace led to giant forests that covered most of the land mass.
Imagine the forests of the Pacific Northwest, trees about 350 feet tall for as far as the eye can see, as well as the trees of the Amazon Rainforest. These forests were everywhere that there was land to support them.
The earth then went through another phase of belching toxic gases (CO2 and methane) with lava that covered everything, including the enormous mass of trees.
Cellulose, that forms the structure of all plants, is composed of chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached as well.
Over millions of years of time, through five cycles of growth and extinction, the buried tree masses were “condensed” by pressure from the layers of lava above.
The result was pockets of “fossil fuels”: condensed energy from trees that had captured energy from the sun through photosynthesis. Then after the last extinction cycle, which led to the current evolutionary cycle, the young planet continued to cool down. With this cooling, evolution progressed long enough to produce a more intelligent species : homo sapiens or “us.” Ironically “homo sapiens” means the “wise ones”, but we certainly are not behaving like Wise creatures, as we have yet to even acknowledge threat of Global Warming, much less take any actions to reduce our burning of fossil fuels. The politics of such actions are complex, and beyong the scope of this essay, but are discussed in depth in other essays on my blog:
A couple of centuries ago, this clever new species (us homo sapiens) discovered the pockets of oil and gas, staring to use them to expand the ability of living more comfortably anywhere on this planet and expand the industrialization of the planet. Little did we know, however, until a decade ago, that we were essentially releasing the energy of five gigantic forest fires of enormous trees that once covered the planet ALL AT ONCE !
There have been 5 previous extinctions and four of them were caused by Global Warming caused by volcanic activity, either one enormous volcano that emitted an unfathomable amount of CO2 and methane (ten times the global warming effect of CO2) along with enough volcanic mass to cover an entire continent with layer after layer of lava that covered the huge forests (that stored energy from the sun by a process called photosynthesis which means using light to create living tissue mad up of organic compounds) present at the time. This process went on for a few million years, before it stopped.
The global Warming caused the extinction of 95+% of the biological life on the planet, leaving only primitive organisms in the oceans. Then the evolutionary process as described by Darwin and Wallace started over again. Then after millions of years new species of trees and other vegetative masses again covered the planet. Meanwhile the previous species of trees covered by huge masses of lava were undergoing the process of transformation into oil and gas due to pressure and time. Then another round of volcanic activity occurred on our young planet, covering the new species of organic matter as before. “Organic” materials are composed of carbon and hydrogen and the more advanced the vegetative matter the longer the chains of carbon and hydrogen became. The pressure and time process converts complex organic compounds to simpler structures that are easier to burn. Depending on the depth of the organic matter in the new layers of the earth’s crust and length of time determines the “quality” (meaning how easy and how hot it burns), which accounts for the great variety of fossil fuels that “modern man” found when the drilled holes in the earths crust to extract the liquids(oil) and gases (natural gas) and solid forms (coal)of organic matter.
Hundreds of millions of years that it took to compress and store all the energy from the sun captured in trees and other plants through photosynthesis is being released in a nanosecond of Geological Time. Our ecosystem is very adaptable; but, the equivalent of five forest fires that covered the planet all at once, just cannot be absorbed. Vegetation removes CO2 from the atmosphere to use as building blocks for the growth of the vegetation. And we are hampering this organic process of removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere by the frenetic cutting down of the massive forests as exemplified by what is happening to the Amazon. Not only are we cutting down the trees but the Global Warming itself diminishes the effectiveness of the photosynthesis in the trees. Thus, the global temperature is rising, heading rapidly toward another extinction cycle…caused solely by us! This drama does read like a science fiction novel in many ways. It is as if there was a global plot to destroy the homo sapiens species by tricking us into doing all the thing possible to hasten our demise. Global Warming is a scientific issue with political ramifications that are like those of a science fiction novel. Like it or not, this situation is not science fiction, but a real as the drought in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and the western 2/3 of Texas. We must deal with it NOW, or our species will perish just like the dinosaurs.
We seem so terrified by the projected possible outcome and we retreat to our television for escape, and the television viewing weakens our cognitive faculties to deal successfully with the crisis. Again, the drama sounds like something from the 120 science fiction books I read when I was 12 years old. Having already been exposed to seemingly bizarre scenarios based on science as perceived to be in the future, has made it easier for me to not be shocked and not be frightened when exploring the real life issues that have emerged in last two decades.
We are failing miserably at our first encounter with Climactic Change, but the story is not over.
There are well defined strategies for coping with Global Warming. Science isn’t the weakness that will cause us to fail, but the lack of political will, will cause us to fail.
People whine about “it just seems all to difficult” to deal with Global Warming. So what if you have to live with less creature comforts that you have been conditioned to expect, but for example, my grandparents in Texas had a good life living on and totally dependent on the 90 acres of land. They had no air conditioning, no store bought clothes (my grandmother made all the clothing for a family of eight). Their “cash crop” was cotton with witch they bought fabric and sugar, everything else the made themselves. Worked hard in the repressive heat, but they accepted it as just part of life, picking cotton in the scorching sun in August. It was the only thing they knew, so they accepted it as part of life, and did their best, which was good enough. Have we lost our courage to deal with some hardship in order to live?
Or to put it another way, have we anything more rewarding to do than to do everything in our power to ensure that our children and grandchildren survive?
A scholar and a gentleman