Saturday, June 21, 2008

We are so screwed.

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
by Mark Lynas

I think my heading pretty much sums it up. Lynas read hundreds of research papers and journal articles relating to what scientists think will happen as the world's average temperature goes up. You may not think one degree would make a difference, but it does. The book is organized by degrees of change, up to 6, describing what will most likely happen to various ecosystems, the climate, and the earth in general for each degree the temperature rises over the next hundred years.

One degree is pretty much unavoidable at this point; if we reach three degrees of change, it'll start a positive feedback cycle.

If, as Chapter 3 showed, we cross the "tipping point" of Amazonian collapse and soil carbon release that lies somewhere above two degrees, then another 250 ppm of CO2 could pour into the atmosphere, yielding another 1.5C (2.7F) of warming and taking us straight into the four-degree world. Once we arrive there, the accelerated release of carbon and methane from thawing Siberian permafrost will add even more greenhouse gas to the atmosphere, driving yet more warming, and perhaps pushing us on into the five-degree world. At this level of warming, as Chapter 5 showed, oceanic methane hydrate release becomes a serious possibility, catapulting us into the ultimate mass extinction apocalypse of six degrees. The lesson is as clear as it is daunting: If we are to be confident about saving humanity and the planet from the worst mass extinction of all time, worse even than that at the end of the Permian, we must stop at two degrees.

Again, screwed. The only way to stop at two degrees is to put drastically lower limits on carbon production/release, which doesn't seem to be anywhere near happening.

Lynas also doesn't point fingers, but does note that Americans use ridiculously disproportionate amounts of energy. Sadly, reading about all the things that will disappear off in the near future (a secluded ecosystem in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, all kinds of atoll islands in Asia) makes me want to FLY OVER THERE and visit. Um, I think that may be part of the problem.

There was a similar global warming episode a few million years ago (at the end of the Permian, mentioned above). It killed off 3/4 of the plant and animal species. And it took about 10 times as long for the temperature to rise as it's currently going now.

So do your part, use a little less gas and electricity, and maybe if enough of us do so, we might make it to the year 2100.

Labels: , , ,

posted by ket at 9:49 AM


Blogger Elizabeth said...

Seriously, you're scaring me.

6/22/2008 8:16 PM  
Blogger reyn said...

That sounds fascinating. I may have to find it in my library.

I'm also going to bike to work forever.

6/26/2008 9:47 AM  

Post a Comment