Whether man is able to survive before nature eventually reverses rising temperatures remains unknown. But as long as our species tries to dominate nature there will always be unintended consequences and one of them is the extinction of that species. In the end nature always comes out the winner. Is this scenario possible? It is scientifically possible. Is it likely to happen? That depends on what we do or don’t do and how soon we do or don’t do it. By doing nothing this scenario becomes more likely though there are many variations on the theme. Actions to avoid this scenario can have economic consequences. However far more economic devastation from Global Warming is possible if nothing is done even if this scenario only partially plays out. So the question remains is it worth the risk to take no action?
So what are our options?
So what should we do? According to Dr. Joseph Romm the time for carefully planning ahead is long past. There is much urgency in taking action now to avoid the likelihood of a doomsday scenario. We must make Global Warming a top national and global priority. We must first quickly and dramatically cut our production of greenhouse gases and energy consumption. Then we must use current non-carbon producing technologies to create the sustainable energy we need to replace carbon generating energy. This includes solar, wind, water, and nuclear alternatives. Then we need to develop more carbon neutral technologies. In truth there is no higher priority because the survival of our species is likely at stake.
We will not feel the immediate effects of climate change reversal even if humans totally cease CO2 emissions as the Primary Source of greenhouse gases. It takes time for the Secondary Source emissions of CO2 from natural sources such as ice and water to reverse, like trying to stop a huge ship in motion. Global warming will continue but start to gradually slow down over the following 10 years or so before it stops. It will then imperceptibly at first then slowly thereafter reverse to some lower equilibrium level over the next 20-50 years. So even after we take extreme measures to cut the Primary Source of greenhouse gases it will take some time to recover. So recovery will in part depend upon how much carbon man continues to generate in the background. It is hard to say if climate will continue into another ice age or stay relatively flat for some time. Nature will dictate the terms as long as humans keep greenhouse gasses at or below early-20th Century levels. Due to our higher population this will be a major challenge. Realistically we must discuss population growth as part of the solution.
A Missed Opportunity?
CO2 contains the two elements most essential to life on earth: Carbon and Oxygen. Due to carbon’s covalent bond structure it is able to form the most complex molecules on earth and perhaps the universe at earth like temperatures resulting in all the intricacies and complexities of chemistry necessary to produce amino acids leading to the formation of life. Oxygen provides the oxidation needed to produce the energy organisms need to sustain life.
Yet our production of this gas as a byproduct of producing energy is a major problem that puts in jeopardy the possible survival of our species as illustrated in Part 2 of this series. Why are we, in all of our cleverness and knowledge of chemistry and science, not harnessing this byproduct to our benefit? Carbon’s chemical properties make it the most flexible molecule to form new chemicals and materials that could instead be of great benefit to us. Why are we not spending millions and billions of dollars on research to capture this byproduct from our power plants, factories, cars, and houses and converting it into something of benefit that does not create more greenhouse gasses than it uses? At the very least why aren’t we able to convert it into a nontoxic and stable solid to safely dispose? Are we missing an opportunity to harness CO2 gas to our benefit or at least stop it from getting into our atmosphere where it can do us harm? CO2 itself is a nontoxic gas, is safe to handle, and is easily liquefied and turned into a solid (dry ice) for possible temporary storage. So it is easy to accumulate and safely transport. Why don’t we hear about research to harness and use CO2 to our benefit to prevent it from polluting our air?