The Naked Truth

Stopping the world’s spin.

Global Warming Timeline

Global warming is widely accepted as a reality by scientists and even by previously doubtful government and industrial leaders. And according to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is a 90% likelihood that humans are contributing to the change. Studies have overwhelmingly shown that climate change scenarios in which greenhouse gases emitted from human activities cause global warming best explain the observed changes in Earth’s climate. Climate change models that use only natural variation can’t account for the significant warming that has occurred in the last few decades.

The international panel of scientists predicts the global average temperature could increase by 2 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 and that sea levels could rise by up to 2 feet. Scientists have even speculated that a slight increase in Earth’s rotation rate could result, along with other changes. Glaciers, already receding, will disappear. Epic floods will hit some areas while intense drought will strike others. Humans will face widespread water shortages. Famine and disease will increase. Earth’s landscape will transform radically, with a quarter of plants and animals at risk of extinction.

While putting specific dates on these traumatic potential events is challenging, this timeline paints the big picture and details Earth’s future based on several recent studies and the longer scientific version of the IPCC report.

2008

Global oil production peaks sometime between 2008 and 2018, according to a model by one Swedish physicist. Others say this turning point, known as “Hubbert’s Peak,” won’t occur until after 2020.  Once Hubbert’s Peak is reached, global oil production will begin an irreversible decline, possibly triggering a global recession, food shortages and conflict between nations over dwindling oil supplies. (doctoral dissertation of Frederik Robelius, University of Uppsala, Sweden; report by Robert Hirsch of the Science Applications International Corporation)

2020

Flash floods will very likely increase across all parts of Europe. (IPCC)

Less rainfall could reduce agriculture yields by up to 50 percent in some parts of the world. (IPCC)

World population will reach 7.6 billion people. (U.S. Census Bureau)

2030

Diarrhea-related diseases will likely increase by up to 5 percent in low-income parts of the world. (IPCC)

Up to 18 percent of the world’s coral reefs will likely be lost as a result of climate change and other environmental stresses. In Asian coastal waters, the coral loss could reach 30 percent. (IPCC)

World population will reach 8.3 billion people. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Warming temperatures will cause temperate glaciers on equatorial mountains in Africa to disappear. (Richard Taylor, University College London, Geophysical Research Letters)

In developing countries, the urban population will more than double to about 4 billion people, packing more people onto a given city’s land area. The urban populations of developed countries may also increase by as much as 20 percent. (World Bank: The Dynamics of Global Urban Expansion)

2040

The Arctic Sea could be ice-free in the summer, and winter ice depth may shrink drastically. Other scientists say the region will still have summer ice up to 2060 and 2105. (Marika Holland, NCAR, Geophysical Research Letters)

2050

Small alpine glaciers will very likely disappear completely, and large glaciers will shrink by 30 to 70 percent. Austrian scientist Roland Psenner of the University of Innsbruck says this is a conservative estimate, and the small alpine glaciers could be gone as soon as 2037. (IPCC)

In Australia, there will likely be an additional 3,200 to 5,200 heat-related deaths per year. The hardest hit will be people over the age of 65. An extra 500 to 1,000 people will die of heat-related deaths in New York City per year. In the United Kingdom, the opposite will occur, and cold-related deaths will outpace heat-related ones. (IPCC)

World population reaches 9.4 billion people. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Crop yields could increase by up to 20 percent in East and Southeast Asia, while decreasing by up to 30 percent in Central and South Asia. Similar shifts in crop yields could occur on other continents. (IPCC)

As biodiversity hotspots are more threatened, a quarter of the world’s plant and vertebrate animal species could face extinction. (Jay Malcolm, University of Toronto, Conservation Biology)

2070

As glaciers disappear and areas affected by drought increase, electricity production for the world’s existing hydropower stations will decrease. Hardest hit will be Europe, where hydropower potential is expected to decline on average by 6 percent; around the Mediterranean, the decrease could be up to 50 percent. (IPCC)

Warmer, drier conditions will lead to more frequent and longer droughts, as well as longer fire-seasons, increased fire risks, and more frequent heat waves, especially in Mediterranean regions. (IPCC)

2080

While some parts of the world dry out, others will be inundated. Scientists predict up to 20 percent of the world’s populations live in river basins likely to be affected by increased flood hazards. Up to 100 million people could experience coastal flooding each year. Most at risk are densely populated and low-lying areas that are less able to adapt to rising sea levels and areas which already face other challenges such as tropical storms. (IPCC)

Coastal population could balloon to 5 billion people, up from 1.2 billion in 1990. (IPCC)

Between 1.1 and 3.2 billion people will experience water shortages and up to 600 million will go hungry. (IPCC)

Sea levels could rise around New York City by more than three feet, potentially flooding the Rockaways, Coney Island, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, portions of Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, lower Manhattan and eastern Staten Island from Great Kills Harbor north to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. (NASA GISS)

2085

The risk of dengue fever from climate change is estimated to increase to 3.5 billion people. (IPCC)

2100

A combination of global warming and other factors will push many ecosystems to the limit, forcing them to exceed their natural ability to adapt to climate change. (IPCC)

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will be much higher than anytime during the past 650,000 years. (IPCC)

Ocean pH levels will very likely decrease by as much as 0.5 pH units, the lowest it’s been in the last 20 million years. The ability of marine organisms such as corals, crabs and oysters to form shells or exoskeletons could be impaired. (IPCC)

Thawing permafrost and other factors will make Earth’s land a net source of carbon emissions, meaning it will emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than it absorbs. (IPCC)

Roughly 20 to 30 percent of species assessed as of 2007 could be extinct by 2100 if global mean temperatures exceed 2 to 3 degrees of pre-industrial levels. (IPCC)

New climate zones appear on up to 39 percent of the world’s land surface, radically transforming the planet. (Jack Williams, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

A quarter of all species of plants and land animals—more than a million total—could be driven to extinction. The IPCC reports warn that current “conservation practices are generally ill-prepared for climate change and effective adaptation responses are likely to be costly to implement.” (IPCC)

Increased droughts could significantly reduce moisture levels in the American Southwest, northern Mexico and possibly parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, effectively recreating the “Dust Bowl” environments of the 1930s in the United States. (Richard Seager, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Science)

2200

An Earth day will be 0.12 milliseconds shorter, as rising temperatures cause oceans to expand away from the equator and toward the poles, one model predicts. One reason water will be shifted toward the poles is most of the expansion will take place in the North Atlantic Ocean, near the North Pole. The poles are closer to the Earth’s axis of rotation, so having more mass there should speed up the planet’s rotation. (Felix Landerer, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Geophysical Research Letters)

Opposing Views

The skeptics continue to raise the question of whether these observations and effects attributed to global warming may in fact be explained by natural variation or changes in solar radiation hitting the earth. There are still others that go further and assert that global warming is nothing more than Chicken Little Science, and a big LIE. The Earth is a living, breathing, dynamic planet, they say, and these are just Mother Earth’s normal cycles of change. They wonder how can scientists possibly base the statistics of climate change on about 150 – 200 years of recorded data, and claim the scientists who are jumping on the global warming bandwagon are doing so because if they don’t support this big LIE, they won’t get funding to do their research. Skeptics lament that it is a sad truth to know that scientific research can be bought and paid for by the rich and elite to help them increase their wealth.

Read both sides of the argument here.

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March 20, 2008 Posted by | global warming | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cost of Global Warming Regulation

Biofuels forcing world to ration food aid

The World Food Program is preparing to ration food aid for the world’s hungriest poor. Why? Primarily because we’re burning food in our automobiles. The rich-country mandates for biofuels have doubled and tripled world food prices in less than three years.

The World Food Program’s costs are rising by millions of dollars per week and the donations aren’t, warns WFP executive director Josette Sheeran. The WFP is trying to feed more than 70 million people in 78 countries with voluntary contributions—but now can’t afford to keep its agreed-upon commitments.

World corn prices are above $5 a bushel, up from $1.86 three years ago. Prices for wheat, soybeans, rice and even cotton are rising as they’re crowded out of field space by biofuel crops. Pakistan says it will reimpose food rationing for the first time since the 1980s. China’s food inflation rate is 18.2 percent, and the Chinese have blocked further expansion of their fledgling biofuel program.

Food for Car

Oxfam points out that the poor in the Third World must often spend 60-80 percent of their incomes for food, so the price increases are a drastic threat to their well-being.

In Yemen, the prices of mostly-imported bread and other staples have nearly doubled in recent months, with at least a dozen people killed in food riots.

The underweight proportion of the world’s children under five had dropped by 20 percent since 1990—but that vital progress may now be reversed by the biofuel subsidies. Meanwhile, while U.S. and European officials stubbornly insist that burning millions of tons of corn, sugar and palm oil in our gas tanks has nothing to do with the soaring prices of farm commodities.

“The fundamental cause is high income growth, ” claims Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute. He blames increased meat consumption in such high-growth nations as China and India. But both those big countries have largely supplied their own grain and meat increases over the past 15 years.

The commodity-savvy Financial Times is more realistic. “Biofuels will not feed the hungry,” it warned in a recent editorial. “. . . the biggest structural change [in food pricing] is biofuels. In the space of a few years, the U.S. has diverted about 40 million tonnes of maize to produce bioethanol—about 4 percent of global production of coarse grains. That rapid growth is largely the result of subsidies—which must halt. The environmental benefits of maize biofuel are ambiguous at best and it should not be favored over growing maize for food.”

The same should be said, of course, about the EU’s new commitment to provide 10 percent of its transport fuel from land-hungry biofuels, grown both in the EU countries and imported from such species-rich environments as Indonesia and Thailand. One of the great apes, the orangutan, is directly threatened by palm oil plantations because the apes love to eat the palm seedlings. Thousands of orangutans have been captured and killed because the palm oil plantations are an “attractive biofuel nuisance.”

U.S. corn farmers raised a record amount of grain last summer—but one-third of it is going into ethanol plants to “cure our addiction to foreign oil.” That corn will produce perhaps 10 billion gallons of ethanol—but nets out to just 50 gallons worth of gasoline per acre. That’s after subtracting the nitrogen fertilizer, the diesel fuel, the process heat for the ethanol plants—and ethanol’s 35 percent fewer Btu’s of energy per gallon.

Match 50 gallons worth of gasoline per acre against America’s annual demand for 135 billion gallons of gasoline! If we doubled corn yields, we’d still not achieve much “energy independence.” Nor would we feed the hungry.

source: Dennis T. Avery, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. and Director of Center for Global Food Issues (www.cgfi.org), and Alex A. Avery, Director of Research at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues. (via Enterstageright.com)

Update 

Upon further digging, I found a Swiss study which concluded that biofuels may not be the panacea for the world’s fossil-fuel woes. Such fuels may actually be more harmful for the environment than their fossil counterparts.

The research team tested the following alternative fuels: bioethanol, biomethanol, biodiesel and biomethane. It then considered the entire production cycle.

According to the authors, while it was true that biofuels might emit less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels when consumed, producing them was generally more stressful on the environment.

The report confirmed that biofuels emit up to a third less carbon dioxide than petrol and diesel. However, this in itself was not enough to give them the eco-friendly stamp of approval.

“The energetic efficiency and the resulting reduced emissions of greenhouse gases cannot be the sole criteria for assessing the environmental friendliness of biofuels,” said Rainer Zah, one of the authors. “The prefix ‘bio’ doesn’t necessarily mean environment friendly,” Zah added.

Growing and processing crops for energy purposes or feedstocks can have the heaviest environmental impact, as soil quality can be affected adversely, such as through fertiliser overuse.

In tropical countries slash and burning – used to clear land for crop production – resulted in copious amounts of carbon dioxide being released into the air. The production of bioethanol from rye was the least environmentally friendly owing to low yields. The environmental impacts of fuel processing and transportation were much lower, the report noted.

But unlike fossil fuels, the environmental impact of biofuels can be greatly reduced by specific measures and new production methods should lead to much better ecological results. Among the different biofuels, biogenic wastes, ranging from grass to wood, presented the most environmentally friendly option for replacing fossil fuels.

The study, Sustainable Energy: A Framework for Decision Makers concluded that the environmental and social damage could… outweigh the benefits of biofuels.

March 19, 2008 Posted by | global warming | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment