We've been screwing up the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution:Q about timing

I was watching the Discovery Times Channel the other day and caught Thomas Friedman’s Addicted to Oil report about the US’s tie to the Mideast and role it plays in world oil culture. If you get a chance check out the article or the programm it has many eye opening stats like "What’s going to happen when we are paying $8 a gallon for gas? and how the new Flex fuel made from corn is still more expensive than the fuels they are making from hay…

Anyway - all those factoids paled in comparison to what we have actually done to the atmosphere and how humans are contributing to the global warming effect…

I know this is GQ so I will make this short. Here is my question: If climatologists are right and we are screwing up our earth through global warming; and this process sped up beginning with the Industrial Revolution - I am forced to first say: WOW! in geologic time 200 years is but a thousandth of a blink… Is our earth really that fragile? If so how come? And if we screwed up sufficiently in 200 years why can’t after the fossil fuels are used up we shouldn’t be able to clean up our environment enough in the next 200 years to reverse the shit we have created?
**** MODS please move this if it is not a true GQ - I’m on the fence about where to put it****

It’s partially a technical issue, but far more a social issue.

First, we can’t wait until after all fossil fuels are used up to start change. At that point, coastal areas of the earth will be inundated.

Second, we don’t have the technologies to run our world in its current state of development without adding to the problem.

So your reversal of what we’ve already done would depend either on miraculous new technological developments to replace and add on to all human industrial activity overnight or a social will for the entire world to go back to a pre-industrial revolution state of existence. Neither is likely. (A gradual change would simply push the period to the peak and back down to many more hundreds of years than 200.)

It’s also important to note that none of this in any way implies that the earth is fragile. So the level of the oceans rise 20 feet? What does the earth care? It’s only humans who have built up coastal areas who are affected. Humans are fragile. The earth doesn’t even notice.

good point exp

Personally I would like to see a reliable comparison of the amount of CO2 released into the atmospher by human activity versus that released by ole ma nature.

On top of that, a few comparisons of other ‘greenhouse gasses’, H2O or DiHydrogen Monoxide is a culprit.

Plus a bit on how greenhouses /don’t/ work.

We are superbly capable of disturbing our own micro environment, citing LA and the London and other smogs, but does slipping on our own turd mean that the Sahara will be covered with turds ?

I have no dispute that we are undergoing ‘global warming’, IMO a lot better than another ice age, I’m not convinced about the sea level stuff, in the UK it looks like people not being willing to pay to prevent coastal erosion.

Our acid rain in Scandanavia turned out to be pine trees producing acidity, so that one went quiet.

Personally I can’t see any point in fighting Nature, but to blame ourselves for mor than local cesspits is … rather arrogant.

water vapour is the main green house gas. One problem with modelling is that a change in CO2 induces a small rise in temperature, which produces more water vapour, which then induces an even bigger rise in temperature. However these effects are terribly non linear and not all understood, hence the sceptics.

I don’t understand this statement. Can you explain your position better. Are you saying you believe in global warming, but not coastal flooding? You have heard about the unprecedented glacier metldown in Greenland, correct? Related to this, we have photos of clear passages across the arctic (i.e. as a chord, not the diameter). Where is that water going to go? And, what shall happen when this trend continues/increases?


  • Jinx

Cite? :dubious: Pine trees drive changes in soil chemistry that reduce soil pH. They do NOT generate acid, and they do NOT have some kind of ability to drastically effect the pH of nearby lakes, thereby killing the local animal population. Can you explain how they would do this in the last forty years when these trees and lakes have been growing for thousands of years? Acid rain due to industrial emissions of sulfur and sulfates is the culprit for Scandinavian, Canadian and other dead lakes around the world. “The pine trees did it” is nonsense. And yes, the CO[sub]2[/sub] emissions by humans at this point in history is vastly greater than any put out by natural forces since an earlier era in the history of our planet.

scm1001, the mechanisms behind global warming are pretty clear at this point, though the cascade level of effects make it difficult to precisely predict what will happen. That there is an association between rising global temperatures and CO[sub]2[/sub] emissions is undisputable. So-called “skeptics” are lying to themselves and those who believe them. This problem is real, it is rapidly escalating out of control, and we have the power to do something about it.

Water vapor is certainly a greenhouse gas, but it tends to be stable over time. More vapor just creates more rain.

It’s the change in CO[sub]2[/sub] that creates the sudden differences.

My understanding of why the system is so delicate is its not an empty bucket where we can keep pouring water into it until it overflows, its a cycle(IMO this is a bit of high-school science that GW skeptics constantly seem to forget, but I’ll leave at that as this is not GD) …

It is true carbon is constantly being added to the atmosphere by natural processes such as decompostion, but the same carbon was taken OUT of the atmosphere just a little earlier by processes such as photosynthesis. So the net carbon increase is close to zero. By burning fossil fuels (that were taken out of the carbon cycle millions of years ago) we are effective create carbon, and adding to the NET amount of carbon in the system.

What is even more worrying is that the increase in tempratures triggerred by anthropmorphic carbon emissions could be triggering even more carbon to be released, and cause even greater increase in tempratures (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060522150948.htm).

Is it not true that there have been ice ages when there was vastly more CO[sub]2[/sub] in the atmosphere? At the end of the Ordovician, for instance?

Apparently not in the case of the Ordovician:


Ummm actually no…


sorry, is this an informed comment or just your random opinion? Cites?

Wiki: ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas ) “Water vapor is a natural greenhouse gas which, of all greenhouse gases, accounts for the largest percentage of the greenhouse effect. Water vapor levels fluctuate regionally, but in general humans do not produce a direct forcing of water vapor levels. In climate models an increase in atmospheric temperature caused by the greenhouse effect due to anthropogenic gases will in turn lead to an increase in the water vapor content of the troposphere, with approximately constant relative humidity. This in turn leads to an increase in the greenhouse effect and thus a further increase in temperature, and thus an increase in water vapor, until equilibrium is reached. Thus water vapor acts as a positive feedback to the forcing provided by human-released greenhouse gases such as CO2 (but has never, so far, acted on Earth as part of a runaway feedback). Changes in the water vapor may also have indirect effects via cloud formation.
Most scientists agree that the overall effect of the direct and indirect feedbacks caused by increased water vapor content of the atmosphere significantly enhances the initial warming that caused the increase - that is, it is a strong positive feedback.
“While water vapour represents about two-thirds of the natural greenhouse gases, changes in its concentrations are determined primarily by changes in atmospheric temperature and related effects on the hydrological cycle. As increases in other greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere and surface, the amount of water vapour also increases, amplifying the initial warming effect of the other greenhouse gases” from http://www.msc.ec.gc.ca/education/scienceofclimatechange/understanding/FAQ/sections/2_e.html