Friday, May 8, 2009
Those darned chickens got into the spray paint again!
These are the raised beds all ready to plant. Now, if the weather would cooperate...
It's nice to have fresh greens again.
The Greenhouse. Note the smoke stack.
This is the woodstove Murph put in the greenhouse
I have been having a difficult time coming up with new posts lately. Thankfully, ras took up the slack last week. But, last night we watched the movie, “Doubt,” with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymore Hoffman, and it just came together for me. Funny how the Universe works, isn’t it? The movie, by the way, is well worth watching.
It seems that I am once again, in a state of doubt. I watched the interview with our Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, on Charlie Rose the other day. Although Mr. Geithner does have a rather disconcerting habit of leading with his furrowed forehead when he speaks, there didn’t appear to be any signs of sawed off horns on his head, and there was no spittle running down his face. He did not seem, in other words, like a reptilian cousin of Dick Chaney. Maybe he is actually trying to stop a total meltdown of the global economy, not just funnel all the possible money from the next two generations into the pockets of his friends on Wall Street. I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t matter much at this point.
Because, when I read the posts and links to articles on climate change from Survival Acres, we may have already added enough crap into the atmosphere that the tipping points may have already been reached. Here’s an example of a recent report:
“… New evidence not only suggest that we are headed for catastrophic climate impacts, with the near-extinction of most life on Earth, but that our only hope for survival is to reverse our past emissions.
Those studies showed a 550-p.p.m. world as warming quite a lot. In 1979, a panel of the US National Academy of Sciences led by Jule Charney, a prominent weather and climate researcher, estimated it would be 1.5 to 4.5 °C hotter. That estimate for what has become known as ‘climate sensitivity’ has stayed remarkably solid ever since: the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pegged the sensitivity as being between 2 and 4.5 °C, while adding that higher values could not be excluded.
Although early policy discussions focused on the 550 p.p.m. mark, researchers and politicians soon concluded that such warming would be too much. In 1996, the European Union declared that “global average temperatures should not exceed 2 °C above pre-industrial level and that therefore concentration levels lower than 550 p.p.m. CO2 should guide global limitation and reduction efforts”. Over the following decade, 450 p.p.m. became increasingly cited as a level to aim for, because some studies associated that concentration with 2 °C of warming.
In their 2008 paper, Hansen and his colleagues offer a number of reasons for arguing that even 450 p.p.m. is too high.
Hansen, though, sticks with the new low figure. He argues that realizing the world is already in dangerous climatic territory “completely changes the story. When you say 450 or 550, you’re talking about what rates of growth you are going to allow. When you say we have to get to 350, that means you have to phase down CO2 emissions in the next few decades.”
Failure to reverse past emissions can result in some very long lived, but unlivable results:
Solomon and her colleagues tested what would happen if CO2 emissions immediately ceased after concentrations peaked at various values, starting with 450 p.p.m. (ref. 3). What they found surprised them. CO2 levels subsided so slowly that they remained substantially above pre-industrial levels 1,000 years into the future. Global temperatures also stayed up, and had declined only slightly from their peak by the year 3000. In fact the simulations ended before temperatures dropped anywhere close to their starting point.
The take-home message from his and other studies, Lowe says, is this: “If you do end up somewhere you don’t want to be, it’s probably going to take you a long time to get back to lower temperature levels.”
Unstated in Climate Crunch is what it means for life on Earth to endure for a long time. But that’s been covered here before from other research. The sensitivity for Earth’s biodiversity (including humans) is such that we cannot endure for a long time, or even a short time, GMST increases of even 2C, let alone the probably higher estimates. The impacts upon species, food production, fresh water, sea level changes, catastrophic storms and such like are too severe for us to assume our civilization will remain even remotely intact.
James Lovelock is giving us a final warning — Final warning from a sceptical prophet
Lovelock argues that model projections of the climate a century ahead are of little use. The models of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) extrapolate from a smooth trend of warming, yet the real climate system, complex and fully coupled to the biology of land and ocean, is unlikely to change in this simple way. It is more likely to flip from one state to another, with non-linear tipping points that the IPCC models are too simplistic to capture. Lovelock fears that the climate will shift to a new and considerably hotter regime, and that once underway, this shift will be irreversible.
This view is not officially sanctioned ‘IPCC-speak’, but he is fully within the envelope of scientific consensus when he warns of the possibility of rapid and irreversible change. Other climate scientists — notably Wally Broecker (see Nature 328, 123–126; 1987) — have said much the same for a long time, although Lovelock uses more graphic language and his popular voice will carry further. Palaeoclimate records show that rapid flips have happened before, so this must be a strong possibility for the future if we continue to force up the levels of greenhouse gases at the current rate.
What is controversial is Lovelock’s vision for humanity: rapid climate change will lead to the deaths of most people on the planet, and to mass migrations to those places that are still habitable. He does not spell out exactly how this might happen, but is convinced a hotter Earth will be able to sustain only a few per cent of the current human population. The implication is that Gaia and human society are close to a cliff-edge, and could unravel rapidly and catastrophically.”
SO…. Have we been wasting our time trying to “be the change we want to see?” Is it all for naught? Should we have just taken the money from the sale of our home and become urban apartment dwellers? We could have gone on a cruise. We could be sipping lattes at a streetside café in Portland and going to the theater. Damn! Sometimes that doesn’t sound half bad…
Who’s in charge here? Does the collective or individual consciousness of human beings have an effect on what manifests on this planet? If a whole bunch of us began meditating and visualizing and living the new paradigm of simple living in harmony with the earth, would it make a significant difference? Maybe there is something to that story about Noah and the Ark or Lot and his wife that got turned to a pillar of salt. Maybe this has happened before…
As the earth once again travels into the middle of the galaxy and encounters Hanab-Ku (sort of like “The Destructor” in Ghost Busters, only worse), it might become clear that the Universe is thoroughly in charge, and the stupid problems that we have created are all going to be wiped clean no matter what. It will be like we were never here. “Impermanence,” the Buddhists advise. “Get used to it.” (I’m paraphrasing here.)
So, once again, I find myself in doubt about the future and forced to deal with the here and now. Coming full circle from the 70’s when I first read Ram Dass’s book, “Be Here Now,” I find myself becoming quiet, and remembering one of the early lessons in “A Course in Miracles.” “My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world.” And, another one, “I am determined to see things differently.”
“When in doubt,” the Hindus say, “chop wood and carry water.” Yeah. Murph is tending the rabbits. I am baking a loaf of bread. The sun is finally shining. The chicks are growing. Right here and right now, things are good.