Someone said ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ so you really do not want to know this if you think climate change is a far off problem!

 

There was a time when the environmental damage we produce remained somewhat localized, confined to specific the surrounding areas (Bhopal, Seveso, Baia Mare, etc. Well,that time is gone. Today, vast areas, from Greenland to the Antarctic, experience the industrial and deforestation (slash and burn) pollution generated by various countries.

Pollution produced by such nations now scales up, driven by the vastness of destruction, and becomes a planetary problem that drifts back down to hit even those places that did not contribute to the damage directly. I say directly, but those places like Africa, who suffer the consequences, are themselves contributors by way of selling/exporting their minerals to industrialised countries. In truth we are all responsible for our dilemma. We all require our ‘needful things’ in our forever expanding throw away, out of date, technologically advancing society.

 

Greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter such as black carbon) are key causes of climate change. All these are a result of energy, i.e. the energy used to sustain our civilisation.

Human activity has generated 350 billion tonnes of carbon since 1959; 55 percent of this has been taken up by the oceans and land, and the rest has been left in the atmosphere. In 2009 alone, global carbon dioxide emissions totalled 30 billion tonnes. By 2011, annual emissions had increased by 5.3 percent to 31.6 billion tonnes. And by early 2013, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed the critical level of 400 parts per million. This is a level not seen on earth since the Pliocene era 3 million years ago!

 

Under current conditions, global CO2 emissions (including emissions related to deforestation) will reach 41 billion tonnes per year in 2020. Industrial emissions account for 50 percent of greenhouse gases emitted in the United States, and industry is almost certainly responsible for an even higher proportion of China’s huge and growing emissions. This is without calculating India, the rest of Asia net.  At this scale, and with the relationship of carbon dioxide to climate change, industrial pollution is a driver of massive global problems.

 

One major effect of this is rising land temperature. The numbers for the current warming phase are extreme compared to the available historical records. May 2012 was “the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average. The spring of 2012 was the hottest ever, and marked the biggest difference with the average seasonal temperature recorded for any season. In the United States, alone, the month of June 2012 broke 3,215 heat records across the country, and May 2012 was the warmest May in the country’s recorded history

Every now and then the major effects of environmental destruction become visible to a larger public. In 2012, 57 percent of Greenland’s ice sheet melted between July 8 and July 12. This reduced ice coverage to 3 percent of its maximum, stunning scientists, terrifying climate watchers, and mobilizing the media into reporting it.

 

Worryingly, a distinct type of melt is the thawing of permafrost in the Arctic Circle. Permafrost thaw creates a feedback loop that accelerates the type of climate change we are observing. As permafrost thaws, the trapped organic matter begins to decay and to release methane and carbon dioxide. Permafrost thaw is especially dangerous because it is likely to produce methane (CH4), which has a much stronger warming effect than carbon dioxide. Scientists generally agree that between 9 percent and 15 percent of the top three levels of permafrost will melt by 2040.  The estimated carbon release from permafrost degradation alone is 30 billion to 63 billion tons of carbon by 2040.

Current efforts by many governments to stem this kind of climate change are none existent Even if we implement existing (Climate Summit) agreed-upon standards, we would still not secure the planet’s sustainability. Sorry, I will correct that, I mean our (the human race’s) sustainability.

 

Which leads to the obvious…The major cause of global warming (energy use)cannot be stabilized unless, as I said before; just attaining the stabilization of greenhouse gas emissions at current rates would require approximately 300 gigawatts of new non-carbon-dioxide-emitting power production capacity annually, i.e. one new nuclear power plant (or equivalent) per day! Which is not going to happen. Some say that leaves us with just one fact: