Guest Post by the Secretariat of the Pink & Purple Polka-Dot Pyrate Parrot Party
Is humanity screwing with the biosphere?
YES, no question, in sooo many ways. Do we even need to list them? (OK why not, just to be totally clear, since there are plenty of self-appointed “Consensus Enforcers” lurking out there: * bumblebee die-offs * mass, chronic whale and dolphin beachings * insect population collapse * bird population declines * charismatic mammalian extinction * over-fishing * red tides (majorly or partially human triggered but natural phenomenon, exacerbated) * wipeout of soil microbial ecosystems from pesticides & monocrop ag * )… shall we go on…?
We’re all about to go EXTINCT, aren’t we?! Well, uh… anything is possible…
And the tipping points?
Probably (tipping points are a fairly new concept in Earth System Science, itself a fairly new science, Cf Vernadsky). Hard to know for sure until in the rear-view mirror. There may even be tipping points we *can’t* identify. Or maybe we’re already past one or more tipping points, and we don’t even know it?
What about crossing “Point of No Return” boundaries?
Maybe – insect / pollinator wipeout and overfishing may be the closest at hand, tropical deforestation too. But, probably – these are tipping points for civilization, not for Life in general. What are we actually afraid of when we invoke “Extinction” – the loss of humanity, or the loss of our comfy Western upper middle class privileges and comforts? (& without us, the planet will trundle on, maybe a tad less diverse, maybe more tropical, and microbes and fungi will have a lot of cleaning up to do. Raccoons, octopi and other critters will have to step up. :-)))
Isn’t climate change the biggest way we are screwing with the planet?
In our (somewhat studied) opinion – NO. It’s only one aspect, & “it’s complicated.” But which “Climate Change” are we even talking about? Because Climate Change can be quite catastrophic without human help, too. But drought from human deforestation can be pretty bad too, also a form of Climate Change, with or without GHGs. Keep reading.
But, the planet *is* warming, no?
Yes, by maybe 1-1.5 degrees F, since we starting keeping good track 150 years ago. And?
BUT, the warming and “extreme weather” must be mostly caused by human industrial activities, no?
Eh, which human industrial activities are you referring to, exactly? GHGs, measured in parts per million or billion? Or industrial aerosols like sulphur, a cooling agent? Or black carbon, that can melt icecaps directly? Or dust from human-driven desertification / deforestation? Or, on a regional level, via land-use changes like monocrop ag and irrigation and paving? Hard to know for sure how much is due to what factors or feedbacks, despite the confident claims of Climate Apocalyptarians, the debates will drag on for decades….
And aren’t we breaking planetary records with CO2 levels. And isn’t it clear that fossil fuel GHGs are the warming culprit?
CO2 is definitely on a tear, but …what does it mean? Sooo many problems with CO2 as the “Control Knob” on global temperatures. Sorry, too reductive. How much of the CO2 spike is due to human activity broadly (again, land use change, plus animal ag, plus cement…) and then how much of that % is due to industrial fossil fuels… might be as little as a fraction of a fraction of 400 parts per MILLION.
But but but …aren’t we in a CLIMATE EMERGENCY?
Only if you believe in computer model outputs and if you’re more comfortable displacing your grief and anxiety about eco-cide onto the technocratic arcana of KlimatSchpiel. Climate activists seem to have an insatiable appetite to recruit almost every other ecological challenge — biodiversity / Extinction, especially — to the Climate Change paradigm. Fear and shock sells, after all. Industrial civilization has been a chronic emergency for ecosystems and indigenous peoples for 200 years. But — it’s also true that humans have been manipulating their natural environment to their benefit for thousands of years. It’s just that the tools we have now are so vastly more powerful, the engines of finance, corporatism and globalization so relentless, the ideology of “instrumental rationality” so pervasive, the amount of energy we have at our disposal for explosive growth, all intertwining and mutually accelerating with the creation of money out of nothing through bank loans and fiat currencies.
CLIMATE (for many people, a close stand-in for the BIOSPHERE),
…is a messy mix of many ‘drivers’, including:
- Land use changes (monocrop agriculture, irrigation, dams and disruption of microbiomes, urbanization / paving / blacktops, deforestation (disruption of biotic factors), disruption of water cycles, also “global greening” from enhanced CO2,…);
- Radiative forcing from GHGs (“Global Warming”), probably, but possibly / probably not as “proven” as people believe — maybe variable depending on the momentary balance of all other interacting factors (Ghil);
- Industrially-generated aerosols (sulphur, soot, NO2, Black Carbon);
- Covert weather engineering by governments (cloud seeding, ionospheric heating (HAARP), more esoteric techniques – a verboten topic on both climate consensus and skeptic sites, btw…);
- Solar other than visible light: particles, UV, IR, solar / Earth Van Allen Belt, magnetic / ionospheric / cloud, cosmic rays;
- Biotic (many many different effects, from cloud-seeding via aerosols (trees and oceanic algae), plankton absorption of CO2 and deposition to the seafloor, transpiration cooling & biotic pump / atmospheric rivers, shade, albedo, others yet to be identified…) — all this was sketched out by Lovelock and Margulis under the rubric of the Gaia Hypothesis back in the 70s and 80s, closely linked then to the rise of Global Warming research (more recently, eclipsed by same!).
- Ocean currents and layers;
…all modulated by a complex tango of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ feedbacks amounting to what the climatologists call, ‘internal variability.‘
Which of those drivers truly dominates after your baseline solar energy (said to not vary by more than .1%) is not truly known (in our non-expert opinion).
Das Neue Energie — the real financial driver behind climate concern?
* Duh, coal and oil are ickky on many levels, they once provided the extremely high net energy to power the expansion of industrial civilization. Check. & let’s acknolwedge that we are addicted to easy energy. But all that is dwindling; plus, they cater to large-scale centralized, ‘extractive’ economics.
* Natural gas not quite so bad, but fracking really suxx.
* Big nuclear is dumb, too expensive & too centralized – seemingly “low carbon” but not if you count the construction footprint.
* SMR Thorium nuclear sounds intriguing, needs more R&D and pilot deployments – might be a good baseline decentralized solution eventually, if we want to get rid of natural gas entirely.
* Solar PV + distributed storage (& longer duration) could/should make up 60-80% of the grid — no technical reason why almost every rooftop should not have PV; almost economic without subsidies; but we haven’t seen the full eco impacts yet from the manufacturing and waste side, as renewable equipment is still only a fraction of fossil fuel infrastructure.
* Wind, kind of klunky with its own eco-impacts, where it works…
* Some natural gas should maybe be kept around for grid backup/emergency reboot and baseload.
* Grids need to be ‘hardened’ against EMPs and Coronal Mass Ejections;
* Hydrogen infrastructure still maybe worth pursuing.
* Economics-as-is heavily drives energy demand / consumption, the other part of the equation. Why must the economy grow? Ask the bankers and the Captains of Capital.
The over-arching question:
Why/how does Climate (alarmist climate projections / predictions) work as a collective displacement from what is actually happening TODAY to the Biosphere?