We need to do something about Climate Change!

I have been reading a really scary book. The Weather Makers, by Tim Flannery,    was first published in 2005. Then the predictions made in the book were far enough into the future as to allow time for scepticism, thought and action. Just seven years on, some predictions are taking place now.  Consider Cyclone Sandy. While cyclones have always been with us, wind speed appears to have increased since 1995. Sea levels have also increased, just a little bit, to be sure, but enough to cause storm surges that travel far inland during major weather events, like Sandy. Perhaps, the most disturbing impact on the storm’s ferocity was the impact of the Jet Stream. Normally the Jet Stream blows from west to east and pushed cyclones away from the American coast into the Atlantic. When Sandy was travelling up the US coast, the Jet Stream was kinked, bending back on itself so that the winds blew towards the North West, pushing Sandy towards the coast. Scientists think that the melting of the polar ice cap and the consequential warming of the North Pole is interfering with the Jet Stream. This was predicted by Tim Flannery in 2005.

Imagine that Sandy was not a weather event but an act of aggression against the United States. The reaction would have been immediate. Support would be by-partisan and no expense would be spared to find and defeat the aggressor.

Similarly, Australia has seen several seasons of severe weather events. Can we be sure that these events have just been caused by some random weather pattern? Can we risk ignoring the possibility that the Earth’s climate is already being affected by human activity?

Consider the reaction when AIDs arrived on our shores.  One could have thought that only a small percentage of people would be affected. Authorities could have argued that people should be morally responsible. If they didn’t use illegal drugs and were not sexually promiscuous, AIDs would not affect them.  Thankfully governments of all persuasions reacted immediately. We had the Grim Reaper, needle exchanges, blood donor testing etc.

If we had a Grim Reaper for global warming would we change our behaviour?

Is it easier to understand that unprotected sex could make you sick, than the fact that humanity’s actions have made the planet sick?  Do we understand the consequences of ignoring Global Warming? Do we understand what is meant by that phrase?

Let’s talk about it.

Consider the Earth. It is the only home we will have for the foreseeable future. When the satellite, Voyager1, looked back from near Jupiter, Earth appeared as a small blue dot in the vastness of space. There is no other planet near Earth that humans could easily inhabit. If our planet becomes uninhabitable do we think we can jump into a space ship and move house to somewhere else?

The Earth has a circumference of just over 40,000 km. Jules Verne was correct.  If it was possible to drive around the equator at the speed limit of 100km per hour, and if the driver took the recommended breaks to prevent fatigue, for meals and a good night’s sleep, it would take roughly 80 days to make the round trip.  Our home really is a small planet.

Science tells us that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. That’s very old isn’t it, – possibly difficult to imagine. Perhaps it would be easier if one was to think that by 2050 there will be 2 human beings for every one of the earth’s birthdays. Today there are nearly 7 billion people living on Earth, by 2050 the population will have surpassed 9 billion. One hundred years ago, there were less than 2 billion people on the planet.

Consider the atmosphere. This important life giving cloak is very thin. The entire atmosphere is 480 km thick. You might think this is a nice thick blanket separating us from space. Unfortunately it is not the case. The air is thickest near Earth. In fact 80% of the planets’ atmosphere is to be found within 16 km of the Earth’s surface.  Even this is a little misleading. We all know how thin the breathable atmosphere is. Those who have visited Cusco in Peru or have been skiing in the Swiss Alps or the Rocky Mountains will have experienced altitude sickness. This occurs when the atmosphere so thin that the oxygen levels too low for even mildly exercise.  Cusco and the ski resorts are between 3 and 4 km above sea level. Mt Everest, at nearly 9 km above sea level is a death trap. Here the air is so thin that it cannot sustain human life.

In our Solar System, only Earth has an atmosphere that can support life. This atmosphere is such a thin and fragile film that you would think any intelligent species would do everything possible to protect it.  Why are we not doing so?

Let’s discuss this subject. I would love someone to convince me that there is no need to worry.

My next post will explain how the atmosphere formed.

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