Air pollution is becoming a major concern in our world. Each year, billions upon billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) is being pumped into our atmosphere by human-related activities. Now, before we go hating on CO2… it is not necessarily bad for our planet. In fact, it is a vital chemical compound in our world. Without it we would not exist. However, as with most substances in life, balance is key. Since the late Precambrian eon, about 4.5 billion years after the formation of the earth, CO2 has been regulated (mostly by photosynthetic organisms) to provide an optimal balance on earth. In the recent history of earth, the increased production of carbon from ‘human activities’ and the ability of nature to regulate itself (among the destruction of photosynthetic organisms; think rainforests) has dropped quite dramatically.
You may ask… why does this matter? The chemical properties of CO2 allow it to absorb and emit infrared radiation. In essence, when light from our sun comes into our atmosphere and is reflected back out into space, CO2 keeps the ‘heat’ from escaping. The net result is a warming of the surface and lower atmosphere, and a cooling of the upper atmosphere; hence, the greenhouse effect. The importance of nature’s inability to regulate itself lies in the increased concentration of CO2 and its effect on global temperature, thus resulting in catastrophic (from a human perspective) changes in earth’s geographic landscape. Many people argue that because our earth has experienced rises and falls in temperature that this is a normal process for our earth. Well, they are not too far off. Our planet has been both warmer than it is now (medieval warming period; which scientists claim was caused by increased solar radiation and decreased volcanic activity) and cooler (little ice age; caused by decreased solar activity).
So, why is this human-related warming different? There are two main reasons why we should take special note of our warming:
1. The rate at which we are warming and the current state of civilizations on earth.
2. The displacement from normal heating cycles.
First, Darwinism’s theory of evolution states that over a period of time, species adapt to changing conditions and those more adept for survival will thrive, thus ‘evolving’ species over time that are adapted to their environments. Such a rapid rate in global temperature changes will have dramatic effects on the environment, which will in turn cause dramatic shifts in life as we know it. New deserts will form, new ocean shorelines will exist, or new tropical zones may flourish (think rainforest in Texas). This is important because civilizations are built around different climate zones.
Imagine Europe having the same climate as Siberia. Food shortages for a billion people in some of the most civilized parts of our world.
Imagine rain stops falling in Brazil’s rainforests. Within a decade the rainforests change to deserts and millions of people lose access to water.
Imagine the Sahara desert suddenly gets the right ingredients and becomes a new vast land of opportunity for forests to grow.
These are all events that would have major impacts on our current civilizations. Not because they are different than what our world has now… but because our civilizations have grown based on the climate of their specific areas and those areas are being threatened. Try convincing millions of people in Europe that they should move to the Sahara desert. It’s simply not happening. Furthermore, the political consequences of changing climates has resounding effects across the globe. When a region has a water shortage, it causes unrest which can result in unnecessary violence or extremist groups. As our world warms at such a fast pace, we as humans will struggle to keep up and maintain our elite status among Darwinian’s theory.
Secondly, while the appearance that this warming may be part of a ‘normal’ cycle of warming causes people to disregard its importance, we must take a look at the normal cycle of warming and cooling and what the consequences are of ignoring abnormal warming (or cooling). Imagine you are a forecaster for a major corporation ordering widgets, you are new to the job and notice that in the past 4 months orders for widgets (which have a shelf life of only one month; where they must be thrown away after that period) have skyrocketed. Therefore, you order twice the amount for the 5th month…the next month orders plummet and you are leftover with nearly 90% of your order; all which must be thrown away. Upon this major discrepancy, you dig into research and discover that your widgets have historically sold well leading up to and during the Christmas season. Yet, after Christmas, they tend to drop off dramatically. This is your normal heating and cooling.
Next season, you recognize this pattern and have a 95% forecast rate the month after Christmas (only losing 5% of products, instead of 90%). Three years down the line, you’ve become an expert at predicting this cycle (to a 99% rate). There is typical buildup to Christmas, however, instead of cooling off after the Christmas season, sales continue to grow (instead of dramatically dropping), thus causing stock outs of millions of dollars while other firms (selling similar widgets) predicted this change and captured the majority of market share. In the following seasons, customers do not trust your brand name anymore and your company goes out of business. This ‘discrepancy’ from normal heating and cooling caused a chaotic scenario for your company because it was abnormal and unpredictable.
This is exactly the danger behind human-caused warming. If we assume it is normal and a period of high solar activity comes along we could see sky rocking temperatures and dramatically changing global geography and changes in climate. By understanding that this is an abnormal warming, we can create our own way to negate the warming and thus reduce the chance of causing a global catastrophe.