Are our families, businesses and nations prepared to adapt to increasing climate destabilization already manifesting in weather extremes, growing economic losses, international security issues and increasing food and resource shortages? Climate destabilization promises far more that just increased resource wars, political instability and hundreds of trillions of dollars in climate related financial losses.
If we ignore the current climate tipping point science, are we prepared for the increasingly severe consequences as we march toward catastrophic and finally irreversible or extinction level climate destabilization? (Extinction level here is defined as the projected potential extinction of approximately half or more of the species on earth and most [60-90%,] if not all, of humanity. Irreversible whenever used is defined as severe climate destabilization consequences that could take hundreds or even thousands of years to correct or re-balance or never correct or re-balance.)
One can hardly turn on the news and not hear about another catastrophic heat wave, drought, wildfire, extreme storm or flood breaking previous all previous records. Hurricane Sandy on the east coast was just one of those 100 billion dollar disasters.
According to a leading global climate scientist on global warming these are NOT just naturally caused or random weather anomalies! They are real signs that human-caused carbon pollution which is a driving force in the warming (from more heat energy in the atmosphere,) that is causing climate destabilization is already here! (A link to extreme weather global warming research is at the end of this copy.)
The current climate destabilization problem is rather simple at it's center and complex as you move out from there. Human-caused carbon pollution of the atmosphere is causing a greenhouse effect trapping more solar energy in the form of heat inside our atmospheric greenhouse. This additional trapped increase in atmospheric heat energy is then available for use in and by the planet's weather (monsoons, hurricanes, typhoons, (and their storm surges,) heat waves, droughts, dust storms, wildfires, floods, etc.) That extra available energy then amplifies existing weather patterns. This continually increasing trapped heat energy from the increasing greenhouse effect is what is and will continue to create increasing cycles of greater climate destabilization and more and greater weather extremes. And --- this climate destabilization will increase in both unpredictable and irregular cycles of weather extremes of increasing scale, frequency and severity eventually if left unchecked, leading to irreversible catastrophic climate destabilization.
These weather extremes mean many new and extreme challenges for the world. Our current infrastructure (dikes, dams, levies, water and sewage treatment plants and much of our other infrastructure,) has most often been designed to withstand the extreme climate events that occur about once every hundred years ( aka storms of the century.) The increasing extreme weather and storms caused by our ever-increasing human-caused atmospheric carbon pollution and it's additional trapped energy will eventually become known as millennial storms --- climate events of such an extreme and severity that there has been nothing like them seen on the planet for thousand of years.
That is the simplicity of climate destabilization, but there are other critical and complex contributing sub-factors such as the key climate tipping points.
The Global Climate and Its Tipping Points:
Climate systems are complex adaptive systems and complex adaptive systems have tipping points. Those tipping pointscan cause sudden, unpredictable and severe changes or collapses. Small changes in one sub-system can cause massive unpredictable changes in the master system or other related sub-systems. In complex adaptive systems tipping points in the master climate system or in its sub systems can unpredictably whipsaw into each other or back into the master climate system making it worse even faster.
(If you do not understand the basics of complex adaptive systems and their high levels of unpredictability we strongly recommend that you click this complex adaptive systems link because understanding the climate as a complex adaptive system and its tipping point paradoxes will be greatly aided and simplified...)
In the face of more good climate destabilization science even leading global warming critics are also changing their long time positions. Additionally, the terms global warming and climate change have recently evolved into the new terms of climate destabilization or catastrophic climate destabilization (CCD.) These new terms better reflect the existing and accurate reality of the human caused atmospheric pollution problem immediately before us.
Because overall research on climate destabilization is still so poorly funded, the world still does not know the actual tipping points of climate destabilization. When it comes to the climate destabilization tipping points we are still flying nearly blind --- even with the ultimate future of humanity's total evolutionary experiment at stake.
Current climate destabilization research cited in Six Degrees: Our Future On a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas has projected that CCD related damage and losses will soon cost nations 5% of their total Gross Domestic Product (GDP,) and will likely continue rising far beyond there with each new level of CCD's unfolding. This comes as devastatingly bad economic news for the markets because this additional 5% drain on the GDP can hardly be afforded by many of the nations of a planet that is still struggling to get out of the current global recession and near depression.
Many countries are already experiencing resource shortage based spikes in food costs. The normally insulated US will likely follow soon because of the year-to-year averaging of the resilience-reducing effects of escalating CCD.
In spite of all the new science on climate destabilization and its projected effects, few individuals, corporations or nations have worked out even basic preparation and adaptation plans to cope with the increasing scale, severity and frequency of the effects of catastrophic climate destabilization.
The Key Climate Destabilization Tipping Points Are:
(If you have not done so already, we strongly recommend that you view a very well done 10 minute video animation that graphically explains many of the different climate tipping points as well as the overall climate tipping point crisis. To view this video illustration of climate tipping point issues, click here. This video will help make the following tipping point descriptions easier and more useful...)
a.) is the global average temperature going to go up an additional maximum of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 degrees Celsius? That is 4-16 degrees Fahrenheit. And, no one can even close to accurately tell us yet exactly, which of those temperatures will we be at in the next 5, 10, 15, 25, 50 or 100 years?
b.) Is sea level going to go up less than one meter, 1-3 meters, 8 meters (if all Greenland ice melts,) or up to 25 meters (if all the other polar and glacial ice melts too?) Again, no one can tell us exactly yet, which of those sea level ranges will we be at in 5, 10, 15, 25, 50 or 100 years? (The current conservative estimate for sea level rise in the next 100 years is 1-2 meters of sea level rise but that is if no tipping points are crossed.)
This estimate of 1-2 meters does not factor in any major climate tipping points being crosses during the projected period reached, which would throw the climate into a sudden and steep decline toward greater destabilization. This sea level rise also does not include and of the additional temporary rises in sea level at this new level caused by storm surges. Even if you do not including these two factors, just the 1-2 meter rise in sea level would cost the global human society hundreds of trillions of dollars in losses in coastal real estate and coastal infrastructure (highways, water treatment and waster water systems, etc would have to be rebuilt and relocated.)
To put this in perspective, in 2008 the Wall St market crash cost will markets an estimated 28 trillion dollars and brought the world to the edge of global depression. At 8 meters of sea level rise (the melting of the the Greenland ice sheet,) an estimated 1/2 of the world's population would have to migrate resulting in hundreds of trillions of dollars in real estate and infrastructure losses.)
c.) At what level of carbon pollution in the atmosphere (measured in parts per million [ppm],) will produce which level of temperature increase and sea level rise --- and once again most importantly, when will we reach the various levels of projected human-caused atmospheric carbon pollution measured in parts per million; i.e. carbon 450, carbon 550, carbon 650, carbon 850, etc?
(We are currently at about 400 carbon ppm. (Carbon 430 if you include methane in the atmosphere.) Some our best scientists warn that anything over carbon 350 is courting climate catastrophe and that carbon 450 is near certain and potentially irreversible
climate destabilization . (We are currently adding approximately 2 ppm of carbon to the atmosphere per year, but that current annual 2 carbon ppm amount now appears to be rising in a non-linear, now exponential growth curve as well.)
d.) Will the many game-changing or wildcard climate feedback loop variables effecting or amplifing the speed of temperature rise and sea level rise occur faster and more unpredictably than anyone could have imagined or, have we already crossed these tipping points? Will these game-changing or wildcard feedback loop variables whipsaw back on each other and between each other in ways unpredictable, but common to complex systems like the climate?
These feedback loops and climate wild cards would be things like:
1.) massive loss of the atmospheric carbon-eating forests because of heat, drought and wildfires,
2.) massive releases of methane from the warming and decaying of the permafrost near the polar areas, (methane produces 20 times the greenhouse heat-holding effect that carbon does for three years in the atmosphere before it decays back into simple carbon again,)
3.) massive die offs of the carbon-eating sea plankton because of the growing carbonization and acidification of the oceans,
4.) massive loss of white polar and glacial ice that reflects much earth-heating solar heat back into space in what is called the Albedo effect and, the greatest threat of all ---
5.) at what level of rising ocean temperature will we thaw and release the gigatons of frozen methane hydrate crystals trapped along the continental shelves of our oceans and in the permafrost of the frozen tundra around the world.
A sudden mega release of carbon into the atmosphere from methane hydrate crystals has been predicted to be to what could become the last great planetary extinction event that will leave either no one left or as few as 200 million of us left living close to the poles. (Scientists have theorized this massive methane release occurred once before millions of years ago and was the most probable cause of one of the 5 previous great mass extinction events of our planetary history. It was called the PETM extinction event. Also see Six Degrees: Our Future On a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas for more information on this. The 200 million survivor scenario is from The Vanishing Face of Gaia by James Lovelock.)
Inside the methane release wildcard, whether it's from the frozen tundra or from the ocean's coastal shelves is a another even more dangerous wildcard. When ice or frozen tundra that is hundreds of thousands of years old melts the melting releases bacteria and viruses that are still alive that have never been seen by the human body or species. This means that unknowingly we could be unleashing the ultimate pandemic upon humanity. With the rapid melting of global ice, glaciers and tundra we could be releasing so many different new kinds and types of bacteria and viruses that even our best scientists could not keep up with creating the new vaccines in sufficient global quantities in time to contain the new disease outbreaks...
The whip saw multiplier effect is when the tipping point's effects of one system crash into another related or inter-connected system. Of everything mentioned so far this may be the most dangerous and unfortunately the least currently predictable of all tipping points and wild cards. This is due to the woeful inadequacy of current tipping point research funding.
Tipping points even in seemingly unrelated systems can mean a lot to getting the climate re-stabilized. For example, the seemingly unrelated tipping points of peak oil being fully known could make a tremendous difference and boost in the political will to quickly resolve climate destabilization and move to low carbon pollution green energy generation. If we are already out of or nearly all out of enough easy to reach, cost effective and environmentally safe to extract "cleaner" fossil fuels, knowing that fact will be a tremendous additional incentive to move rapidly to green energy generation. (Yes, there still are very some very hard to reach, cost ineffective (unless we go to $150 per barrel or more prices,) environmentally unsafe to extract, dirty to burn fossil fuels such as oil from tar sands. Extracting those remaining fossil fuels should be seen as the beginning of the end of hope in the climate battle.)
Because fossil fuels provide so many other product like fertilizers, drugs and other critical plastics, knowing the peak oil tipping points as they related to the destabilizing climate and new forms of green energy generation is a must! What if we discover there is only enough easy to reach, cost effective and environmentally safe to extract "cleaner" fossil fuels for just our fertilizers and critical plastics and some reduced transportation for the next 25-35 years? Exactly the years that are critically needed for the transition to green energy generation and to power our transportation needs without putting the climate into an irreversible destabilization status or extinction level event.
e.) What is the momentum and/or inertia tipping points of heat capture in the oceans caused by the increasing temperature in the atmosphere? Oceans take up and release atmospheric heat slowly and, there is a lag time because of this inertia/momentum issue. This means that any changes we make now to reduce atmospheric carbon pollution may not have any significant effect for 50 years or more because of inertia/momentum of previously captured heat by the oceans.
This additional set of ocean temperature inertia/momentum tipping points must also be factored into all the climate model calculations with all of the other still unknown climate tipping points. The population of earth needs to prepared that if we immediately stopped all human caused carbon pollution today the temperature of then planet still may continue going up to critical levels for another 50-100 years or more just due to ocean heating inertia/momentum and tipping points.
Another part of the ocean related tipping points besides carbonization, plankton and heat absorption is the potential effect of carbon pollution and warming on major ocean currents that help to stabilize our weather and seasons. Research is being done now on this and how it might effect thing like the critical North Atlantic current. If currents like the North Atlantic current were slowed or diverted it would create significant changes in weather patterns, which would effect growing seasons, rain and snowfall and temperature all of which have strong effects on crop yields.
f.) There are other key tipping points in the complex global climate system such as the total amount of water vapor in the atmosphere that increases with more heat, which then creates more water vapor and then more heat in an endless heat increasing cycle and, the quantity and quality of trees in the planetary environment that can remove or add carbon to the atmosphere. Tipping points for these items and the many other climate tipping points must be discovered so we create the right plan for the challenge.
g.) There are also new potential critical climate tipping points being discovered such as the total weight of the melting ice tipping point. New research predicts that as the ice melts off Greenland and other areas where the ice is sitting on land masses that because the weight of the total melted ice is so great when it all melts that the unweighting of these land masses can cause shifts in the tectonic plates of the planet causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions at a scale that we have not seen on the planet for ages.
h.) There are even human system tipping points. Political and social inertia that also has to be factored into realistic solution calculations. It takes about 25-35 years to evolve a whole industry from one product, manufacturing and distribution system to another. It has been estimated that if every nation on the planet immediately enforced heavy penalties on all forms of carbon pollution and also stopped the construction of all new coal energy generation plants in 25-35 years we would have only about a 50-80 drop in current human caused carbon pollution levels. That has not happened yet and based on current attitudes and politics has almost no change of happening.
Estimating political, economic and social take-action typing points will also be critical to all cataclysmic climate destabilization super computer models if we are ever going to enact a solution to this global threat. Who knows when the human system tipping point will be reached so that there is global environmental law on carbon pollution and it is enforceable.
Now consider this, too many the above climate wild cards and still inaccurately predicted tipping points are NOT currently built into and used by climate prediction models because the research on when these tipping points and will cards will occur is just not there yet. Even the IPPC's 2007 leading predictions on what level of carbon in the atmosphere will produce what degree of temperature increase and what level of sea level rise do not include all the fully researched and determined relevant climate tipping point information (as mentioned above,) nor do they tell us with specificity when these temperatures and rising sea level predictions will be met under current conditions.
Also keep in mind that In that report the IPPC predicted that Arctic summer sea ice would remain to some degree until about 2050. New research shows the tipping point for Arctic summer ice being gone will occur in 2017-2025. They were 38 - 25 years off on a prediction just 43 years into the future in 2007. That is a prediction that is approximately 60-80 percent wrong.
If the IPPC was that far off with just one tipping point item, how far off and overly enthusiastic or conservative are they with their other prediction calculations? The unspoken fear and 800-pound gorilla in the room when climate scientists gather is fear that catastrophic climate destabilization is proceeding much faster than any of our predictions because of all the missing tipping point data and missing wild card factors in our current climate models.
If that was not bad enough, there are also many ways these tipping points and wild cards can whipsaw against each other and the overall climate and become reinforcing feedback looks that would make sea levels rise and the temperature rise far faster and sooner that anyone has predicted. For example, what if the rise in temperature causes the melting permafrost to cross its tipping point where instead of releasing methane in a linear progression, it tips over into an exponential progression releasing far more methane into the atmosphere. (Methane has 20 times the heat-holding greenhouse effect of simple carbon.) This surge in atmospheric greenhouse heat energy retention from methane then causes the global temperature to surge exponentially. Then triggers the ice melting tipping points where the already vulnerable West Antarctica ice shelf breaks off destabilizing much of the the surrounding ice causing it too to break off the ice shelf and begin melting in the sea. The temperature surge causes massive melting in Greenland and other areas causing another tipping point to be reached --- the massive loss of heat and sun reflecting ice (the Albedo effect,) causes another surge in global temperature.
The previous crossed tipping points have added so much additional heat energy to the atmosphere that droughts and wild fires cause a massive kill off of atmospheric carbon eating trees, which then crosses another tipping point because far less carbon is being naturally being eaten by trees. This then causes another spike and surge in global temperature which makes many of the other tipping points factors deteriorate even faster and this then causes a massive die off of sea plankton (that also eat carbon,) due to the acidification of the oceans now absorbing more and more of the carbon pollution that was in the past converted by trees and plankton to oxygen or other harmless substances.
The whipsawing and self reinforcing feedback loops of all the tipping points and wild cards collectively cause a tipping point to be crossed in ocean heating and the ocean begins to warm exponentially as well. (The oceans are the main place that atmospheric heat is eventually captured. When heat is captured in the oceans the heat causes the seas to expand also contributing to sea level rise.) The oceans keep heating up until the major catastrophic tipping point is crossed where frozen methane hydrate crystals begin to thaw in mass and suddenly release gigatons of additional methane into the atmosphere spiking both temperature and sea levels once again to extinction level events.
Still missing from the above climate tipping point issue is that no one can currently say with any accuracy at what point do we finally across the last tipping point of irreversible catastrophic climate destabilization. No one currently can tell us what action will do it or, if we have already crossed that final irreversible tipping point. This is again because the science is so incomplete and underfunded. This ultimately makes our growing human-caused carbon pollution of the atmosphere the single most dangerous and potentially destructive blind experiment in all of human history.
Some researchers have implied that the increasing human-caused carbon pollution in the atmosphere has the potential to cause more human suffering and death as well as political, social and economic destabilization than the total sum of all wars in all of human history. In spite of this shocking and real climate caused possibility, as of yet, no national intelligence agency in any country (even with all their super computers and unlimited budgets,) has either discovered or published the accurate tipping point answers to any of the tipping point questions and wildcard issues mentioned above. This in and of itself should by viewed by every citizen as the greatest single national security failure by the world's intelligence agencies to protect their own populations and respective national security interests from a real, growing and potentially game-ending threat to civilization and human life as we know it.
Some experts fear that when more science is in on these climate tipping points we may too late discover ourselves to be either already beyond or soon beyond the critical tipping points. If we have passed any major climate tipping point unknowingly, we may be experiencing significantly worst climate extremes in as little as 5-15 years. Others researchers suggest we have 20-30 years until it gets really bad while other researchers say it will take 50-100 years.
Good climate destabilization tipping point research is simply just not solid enough yet. If it was, it would allow us to decide which researchers with differing time estimates for when the worse
climate destabilization consequences will hit us right or wrong. Without this critical climate tipping point research being completed, it is also impossible to propose and implement an optimally effective and rational plan and know it will work in time to prevent the worst of the consequences of catastrophic climate destabilization.
When you look at all of the climate tipping points and wild cards collectively as well as the consequences of having them occur and them having such a lasting and severe effect on humanity as a whole, you then see the climate risk that simply cannot ever be taken. No nation, no leader, no corporation currently has the right to lay down the "don't worry the climate will be ok" bet and that these wild cards and tipping points will not occur as the climate continues destabilizing. Or, that if the tipping points and wild cards do occur, "don't worry" some new technology will be adequate to save us from extinction as a species. This is a climate bet that should never be placed anywhere, at any time by any person or group. Unknown climate tipping points and wild cards is why we have to reverse climate destabilization now with a full commitment from every level of government, business and individual citizenry...
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Humans evolved as a social primate species with an ascending hierarchy of needs from self-survival of the individual (basic biological needs), to the extension of the individual through the family (the selfish gene), to a sense of bonding with the extended family (driven by kin selection of helping those most related to us), to the reciprocal altruism of the community (direct and obvious payback for good behaviors), to species altruism and bioaltruism as awareness of our membership among the species and biosphere continues to develop.