Four Billion Years of Stored Carbon Fuels Have Been Used in one Hundred Years of Industry
What we Observe
The debate about whether there is global warming or not has raged now for over a decade and has not ceased nor is there any sign that it is going to become a passing trend buried by habit or the wavering attention of the masses. The issue of whether we have the ability to alter our climate is not going to be forgotten any time soon. Our climate has obviously undergone some changes. There is a very significant melting in the Northern Hemisphere especially and there is noticeable change in the world’s largest glaciers. More and more there is every indication that some kind of warming has in fact taken place over the past twenty years. The concern is that if this warming should continue our existence may well be in jeopardy.
However, the peak of the warming occurred in 1994. This is critical. It will of necessity make some doubt the longevity of this warming process and with that doubt the issue of whether we should change the kind of fuel we use to power our world’s industries. If global warming does not continue, then perhaps the theory of man-made global warming due to carbon fuel pollution is wrong. Perhaps human industry had nothing to do with global warming. So why spend trillions of dollars trying to change to a far less efficient form of energy such as the so called green fuels, which are indeed renewable, but are far less useful in that they require large amounts of energy to produce and thus yield far less net energy?
Simply put, to change our fundamental energy source could require the assumption of several hundred trillion dollars of credit globally over a time span of two hundred years. That cannot be good for the economy. So any motive to deviate from the course will be taken by those who see a clear clean profit to the use of oil and gas instead of an alternative.
But the truth is far from definitive either way. Indeed there has been a drop in temperature over the past ten years. It seems as if the weather is coming back to “normal” or at least is not as hot as it used to be. Certainly we are not seeing those constant highs that we saw in the nineties. But is that really significant?
Though we have not seen temperatures continue to rise unabated, we have still witnessed glaciers melting at a high rate and moreover have seen dramatic changes in climate around the world. Areas that were once considered lush and wet, are now turning dry, and vice versa. Areas once considered dry are now turning wet.
However, the most extreme changes are seen in the extreme nature of storms that we have witnessed. The Earth may be cooling, but it is doing so by creating some fearsome storms. And that is as would be expected. Indeed, that is exactly what global warming would create : large powerful storms that would scatter the Earth’s equatorial heat to the poles. Certainly a category three hurricane hitting New York has managed to convince many in the media that there is indeed something notable in the weather. Moreover the monsoon like climate experienced by the American people in particular has left many with the impression that something has changed in the climate.
So even if temperatures have dropped, there is the predictable change in precipitation and the formation of storms which the Earth would use to cool the climate. Thus there is indeed some kind of climate change to be sure. The temperature may have started to drop, but this is only because the Earth is creating powerful storms to dissipate the heat and this is exactly what we would expect of a homeostatic climatic system. Whether this is “normal” or accidental, or part of a general process is unknown. Whether this change is temporary, or will be with us for decades, or centuries or thousands of years we do not know. But there is some kind of change. This we do know. We are also beginning to see that this change can be quite destructive.
What we don’t know
Does this change have anything to do with the use of Carbon Fuels? This again we do not know conclusively. No matter what many claim, the definitive proof is not there. The reason is really quite simple. In plain truth we do not really have a great understanding of climate. We really don’t know why the Earth’s climate is as it is. Listening to the Media you might be tempted to think we know the workings of the most distant object in the Universe, the truth however, is we don’t even know how our own climate works. Knowledge has never come easy. Humbling this may be, but in the end living with a knowledge of our limitations can mean the difference between life and death.
We know the Earth is heated by the Sun’s rays on the surface. However, the Earth is also the container of gigantic amounts of geologic energy. The Earth is hot. Moreover we really don’t know why it is hot. We have always assumed that the Earth would be hot from its birth. The going theatrical theory is that the Earth formed due to the collision of left over solar material which coalesced into the planets we now see. However, this is little more than a computer simulation. Bode’s law, and the newly discovered exoplanets orbiting around distant stars would indicate that the process by which planets formed may well be more complex than a simple random collision of left over solar disk material. In the end, we do not know enough about it, as we said above, we don’t even know how our own local climate works.
The Earth is hot. This we do know. What we don’t know is why it is hot or how it actually maintains its heat. We were, a few decades ago convinced that the Earth’s interior must be cooling. But having witnessed the moons around Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus we can now be certain that something more than left over primordial heat is causing their heating. Our own theory here at HCE is that the Moon’s pull on the Earth is causing differential rotation and is causing a friction like heating in the deep layers of the planet. We also believe that the tectonic plates are in fact moving because of the Moon’s differential pull on the surface and that instead of tectonic plate movement being solely the result of core heating and convection, are actually the cause of some this sub-surface heating being that they are probably causing friction over the underlying magma layers as they move.
Others believe that at the core a type of plasma might exist or that elements become unstable and thus radioactive, or that naturally heavier radioactive materials would trend towards the Earth’s core and are generating the excess heat that we see. But there is little evidence of this in lava flows which aside from the elevated levels of iridium show no signs of being generated from radioactive materials. Why is the Earth’s Moon not showing signs of active volcanism though made of the same material as Earth?
All of these are theories but there is little certainty concerning the source of Earth’s core heat. All we know is the Earth is hot and that’s basically it. All the rest is theory, but far from proven.
But if we do not know the exact mechanism responsible for the Earth’s sub-surface heating then how can we possibly claim that we know anything about its climate which must to be affected by the sub-surface heat to some significant degree?
A very simple truth is this. What happens below the surface is very significant in determining the Earth’s climate. You need only go to San Francisco in the Summer to see the effect. There a cool ocean current keeps San Francisco in the sixties even when the rest of California is in the nineties. Or perhaps you might visit London during winter, which by all rights should be a frozen wasteland but is instead a cool rainy temperate zone. In the South of England there are even palm trees! All this due to the ocean’s heat channeling abilities.
But the ocean is not alone. There is virtually no question but that if the Earth’s sub surface , or mantle temperature were to drop by a few degrees the Earth’s climate would be devastated by cold. The total heat of the planet determines in large part how hot or cold the surface is. This is not a leap of imagination, but very simple reasoning. This is especially true with the presence of a significant atmosphere, and even more significant with the presence of an ocean which two will tend to contain the sub-surface heat and channel it to the surface climate. Along with the Sun’s heating, the sub-surface heat mechanism will create the climate as we know and experience it on the surface.
But all of these gaps in our understanding preclude the possibility of knowing to any significant degree the cause of the temperature spike that took place in the nineteen nineties.
We do not even know enough about the Carbon Sink Cycle. That is to say we still do not know how the Earth deals with carbon dioxide as an element, how it creates it, how it uses it, and how it stores it. All models so far presented, as far as HCE knows have yet to prove that we fully understand where and how Carbon Dioxide is processed. There are seemingly large gaps in the amount of CO2 present and CO2 available. Thus even here there is a hole in our understanding of how the CO2 is processed by the Earth, and if we do not know how it is processed, how then do we know if there is too much or too little of it? We don’t know how much there should be in the first place!
What we know
But are we therefore saying that spewing all this carbon dioxide out is healthy and good for our climate or our environment? Absolutely not! What we know is this : We have seen definite spikes in temperature and these have had a definite impact on our civilization. We have seen the definite melting of glaciers and this will have an impact on our society in that much of our water comes from those glaciers. We have seen an increase in climate activity and severity of events and have sustained billions of dollars in damages because of those events. We also know that the Earth stored all this carbon fuel from dead plant and animal life in a time span of some four billion years. Humanity has lit a match to all this material and burned it all up in 100 years releasing all the CO2 and other elements contained within it during the process! We took a resource that the Earth managed for four billion years and blew it all in 100 years!
Nor can anyone deny that Carbon Dioxide levels have risen dramatically over the past hundred years of human industrial activity. This is not open to question. We have seen levels rise at highly accelerated rates and yes we do know that in a test tube Carbon Dioxide will tend to trap heat. This we know for a fact.
Humanity has without a doubt disturbed the natural balance of Earth’s environment. We are at present witnessing a large mass extinction, and have seen our forests depleted to dangerous levels. We have seen pollution destroy large areas of our world, and only a few years ago our need for energy had seen the poisoning of both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean due to the events of the BP oil leak and the Fukushima reactor breach- which is probably still not under control. These events cannot be doubted
Though we cannot know exactly what the impact of human industry will be, we can reasonably conclude that disturbing the basic order of the Earth’s climatic and environmental processes is going to have significant consequences on our environment. The complexity of the system, and its rather delicate balance guarantees this. If you throw a wrench into a complex clockwork you can be sure something bad is going to happen, but of course you don’t know exactly what. But you know for certain that somewhere that wrench is going to hook into a gear, somewhere, and the whole system is going to break down. This much you can pretty much be certain of. The Earth’s system is so complicated so delicate and so extensive that we don’t know exactly where all this will hit. But instead of expecting things to break down and stop working altogether it is within reason to presume instead that by disturbing the balance of the natural order we can expect to see an amplification of natural events and not simply a break down as you might expect in a non-organic mechanism like a clock.
The Earth’s system is a compensatory dynamic system rather than a direct mechanical system. Where one process breaks down another takes its place, for this reason it’s unlikely that we are going to see the cessation of a given set of processes but rather the end of one process and the start of another in its place. The excess amount of Carbon Dioxide is bound to amplify any normal natural event that has an accord with that element.
Plants use CO2 to breath and when they exhale they create Oxygen. More CO2 will probably mean more Oxygen for example. That might be a good thing or bad. More Oxygen may mean a cooler environment since Oxygen releases atmospheric heat. Thus while one process is enhanced, another process is also enhanced. Unfortunately they may not balance as in a laboratory. The Earth’s organic system is not simply going to take the average and give it to us in summation, it’s going to add up all the numbers one by one and we will experience each and every addition and subtraction.
During the Jurassic period it is believed that both Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide levels were far greater than they are today. This would make sense for as the Earth warmed and became more moist due to Ice cap melting the climate became conducive to the emergence of a richer plant life. Or so we would think in a laboratory. This reasoning might allow us to think that as plant life became more extensive so too would the presence of Oxygen since plants exhale Oxygen as a by product of their life process. The excess Oxygen may have helped the Dinosaurs to grow to the size they did as they would of course require large amounts of Oxygen to power their giant bodies. But as you might see through this oversimplified reasoning, if true at all, is that perhaps the consequence of one process becoming more prevalent is that another is also accentuated. More Carbon Dioxide, led to more Oxygen, led to both more plant life, and more animal life. Like adding a steroid to the environment.
This might indicate that the present climate process is not simply going to break down and result in more heat being trapped and ever rising temperatures, the climate is going to probably become more dynamic, more changeable, more violent, as the Earth compensates, or tries to for this excess in green house gasses. However, the more dynamic it becomes, the less stable it will be.
What we should be concerned about
Therefore, if indeed the Earth does naturally expunge excess heat from its core occasionally, or very likely constantly if in fact there is a renewable source of heat in the core, as we believe there is, then at each of those occurrences there will be an amplification of effects. So if the temperature should rise three degrees naturally, it will likely rise much more due to the excess Carbon Dioxide created by our industry as more heat would be trapped by the excess CO2.
However, the reverse also may be in play. If the temperature would then drop down to normal during a normal cooling process, it would instead drop to a much colder temperature because of manmade pollutants. The longer we leave the water boiling while making coffee in the morning for example, the more heat is expunged. But once that heat is expunged, the less of it there will be left immediately available. So continuing the metaphor, we would have to add more cold water from the sink, and heat it up from the beginning again if we want to have another cup of coffee, but this will take longer and more effort to prepare. This may well be what might take place with an Earthly processes. It may take the Earth longer to bring the warming process back to a state where it can impact the climate again simply because an excess of available heat was expunged during the first warming cycle.
In other words instead of thinking that the temperature is going to rise constantly, it may well be that we are going to see monstrous oscillations begin. The temperature may go from normal to very high, then back down to extremely cold weather all while storms and droughts become ever more extreme and damaging. Instead of seeing a constant rise or fall in temperature, we may instead see extreme oscillations in climate while the Earth attempts to restore a natural balance.
Is this to say that we should not then worry about a rise in temperature? Is it possible that the Earth will balance all this out with its compensatory system? The rise in temperature may happen anyway. The next time the Earth is ready to expunge heat it may be in a position to release even more heat for all we know. But just like the stock market, climate is not a constant vector in a constant direction. It oscillates up and down. The higher it goes, the further it falls, but the further it falls the higher it goes on the next swing up.
The Earth’s climate might become so dynamic that life on Earth may become untenable. Remember that it is the constancy of climate that allowed for human society to develop in the first place. Changing that constancy may well result in our own disappearance. No one should question what a short lived ice age would do to our world. We fear the heat now, but tomorrow a little ice age can be just as devastating if not more! We would require far more fuel to run our world and this would only worsen the situation as amplification of natural events becomes ever more extreme. More storms, more droughts more extreme changes.
There are also additions to worry about. For example we have all heard of the possibility of methane gas deposits in the ocean deeps suddenly being released due to increasing water temperatures. This is an addition to the environment which may be in the works. If the Earth’s temperature oscillates enough we can see some very unstable conditions develop where either extreme can cause extreme counter reactions. A release of methane hydrates may indeed cause the temperature to rise, but right after the rise, there would be a giant drop in temperature as the Earth tries to compensate. We may find ourselves subjected to the kind of extremes that one might see on another planet. A Summer ten degrees above normal and a Winter nine degrees below normal. In trying to compensate for those extremes our civilization would reach the limits of its viability in a hurry. It should not be assumed that a wildly changing climate is better than a steadily rising temperature. In practice it may be far worse and present indications are that this is really what we’re facing here.
There may even be a rise in geological activity, which as we know can be the most devastating. Is it really by coincidence that we have had two monstrous tsunami events in ten years? Is it a coincidence that we have had some of the most devastating earthquakes in years so close together? We don’t know! Just as we do not at present know how our climate might reciprocate effects upon the geological activity. It has always been assumed that geology and meteorology are two different realms. This assumption may well have been wrong.
We may be witnessing the birth of an extremely dynamic unstable environment that will require much more flexibility to live with. Unfortunately, increased flexibility requires more energy, resource and effort and expending more energy may result in an even more unstable environment amplifying an already unstable dynamic. At some point the system breaks down, or more likely our civilization breaks down.
Is it time for our Civilization to Change?
It is interesting to note that the Japanese have always maintained that man’s role is to live in harmony with nature. The traditional Japanese civilization esteems the society that manages to live with nature and does not disturb the balance of nature.
To a large degree this was also very true of the Ancient Greek civilization. The Greeks too were very aware of the need to maintain a balance with nature and that imbalances can be quite destructive when created. These civilizations knew that attaining this balance was no small feat. They knew that their citizenry had to be disciplined and some degree of self sufficiency, and limitation was needed. These were civilizations that knew self-control and understood that nature is complex and that only a fine and extensive knowledge of her ways could lead to a successful existence. These civilizations revered nature and her rich complexity and over time developed a sacred respect for her ways. In finding and cultivating those principles they managed to build austere but noteworthy admirable societies for which they are remembered and admired even today.
Perhaps it is no accident that both cultures, themselves separated by both distance and time, having limited resources, lived in geologically unstable regions by the sea. Maybe it’s time for all of us to pay some attention to an ancient wisdom that managed to survive and prosper, for we too must learn to live with nature, quite possibly even as she becomes more dynamic and difficult. If we manage, maybe we too can be remembered for our reverence for natural order and our ability to live in harmony with the natural order of the world. If we don’t find a way to live with nature however, there may well be no one left to remember us.