(12d) UN global warming summit.

26/11/2012, another climate summit starts, this time in Doha, Qatar. I thought that a good reason to write this article in the hope it will waken up those politicians and business people who still deny the existence of climate change in the name of making more profits. Although recently, even very large financial institutions called for measures to tackle climate change, not to save human lives but in the name of making more profits as natural disasters start to become too expensive and thus reduce profits.

Here I will discuss as a non-specialist what I understand of climate change and what I think may happen. I base this on what I read in journals throughout the past decades and my own reasoning. I urge those in Doha to think serious about reducing the speed of pollution and moderate our way of living.

I wonder whether we only have to fear atmospheric climate change due to our burning of fuels, gasses, coal and trees that release CO2 and other gases in the atmosphere, causing a rise in the average temperature worldwide and as a result heavy storms with rain while other places may have droughts, causing fires. In both scenarios, as scientists warn us for decades, people will die or immigrate or make wars for the food and drink that is left. And it seems that we are heading to the worse case scenarios.

But maybe we should also fear changes in the earth itself. Indeed, what remains when we remove all the oil and gas and coals from the earth? Except often pollution I think of large empty holes (I'm not sure whether they are filled) or unstable areas under the ground. I think scientists should start looking into what may happen one day with these holes. In the province of Limburg, eastern Belgium, sometimes holes appear on the surface because underground corridors of old marlstone mines collapse. However, since a few years the earth is rising there (up to 30 cm) because water collects in these corridors, pushing the earth upwards. Maybe, parts of the oil and gas fields may one day collapse while others may get filled with water, both may have consequences for us. And the consequences may influence every corner of the earth. Indeed, a collapse may increase tensions in the earth elsewhere, tensions that needs to reduce.

Also, large cities often remove groundwater under them and as a result many large city sinks. These cities are very heavy and some of them are built on sand above large oil reserves that are emptied. Consequences?

Climate change above the earth's surface will result in lower areas disappearing under water and many plants and animals may not survive because they can't adapt (although storms may spread animals and seeds over the planet and thus the earth will adjust unless we remove the "invaders"). This is because ice on the poles (and mountains) melt. Oil and gas companies are already celebrating this because they think it will become easier to reach the large reserves under the poles (instead of investing in clean energy what may be cheaper and longer lasting). But maybe the melting of the ice has terrible consequences.

Firstly, the ice captured large amounts of CO2 and methane while it also froze vegetation from previous warmer periods that can now degrade, both releasing large amounts of CO2 and thus contributing to climate change. Warmer water also releases more of these gases, further speeding climate change.

Secondly, ice is heavy and presses the earth's surface downwards. When this ice melts and spreads over the planet as water, the weight of the water captured as ice decreases at the poles while at other places the weight increases as there is more water in the oceans (compare with a piece of wood that you press down on water; if you remove your hand the wood jumps up and the water around moves some distance). Maybe this causes instabilities in the earth and maybe this can trigger earthquakes and volcanic activity or worsen them.

Underwater volcanic activities may release enough heat to warm oceanic water sufficiently to fuel El Niño's effect on the earth. El Niño, kind of a river of water in the oceans, transport this warm water and releases warmth into the atmosphere, influencing the climate worldwide and adding to the melting of the ice. The warm water can also release more gases. It also moves enormous amounts of water in certain directions and thus increases the weight of water on the ocean's floor in those regions, maybe adding to the release of magma or triggering earthquakes. Thus, the cycle can continue until a new balance is reached. Afterwards, it may even be a better time as temperatures went up and probably also humidity (I hate that combination), resulting in increased growth of plants while tensions in the earth may be released and thus less earthquakes.

Taken together: above the earth's surface we know climate change will happen while we are only recently starting to understand what the consequences can be for the earth itself. And one event may trigger many more. The process of increased tension in the earth is a natural process over a long period but our contribution may speed these events because the release of gasses that result in warming and thus energy into the air maybe even contribute to the movement of the continents. (If you are interested, read more here)


But I don't want this to happen in a much faster way than should happen as too quick means too much energy at ones. Therefore, please politicians (and voters), take climate change serious. We know to some extend what the consequences can be, either from the warnings given by scientists or from the warnings given by Gods as religious people understand. Therefore, I find it unbelievable that many religious people are to blame for climate change because they hope they will gain from it. Many people who believe in sciences try to prevent those things will happen by changing their way of life but they have not enough power while many (religious) people claim not to know because they hope it will happen as they hope to gain from it. The majority believe those who promise the best and thus continue as nothing may happen while the poorest have no voice as they struggle to survive and thus have no time thinking about the future. These people are also the people who pollutes the least and thus can't reduce their contribution to climate change.

But are humans responsible for climate change as some people still argue? Of course not, humans are never responsible for anything: it is either the fault of gods or animals. Indeed, some claim there are too many animals farting and that causes climate change; they advocate to reduce the number of animals to stop climate change so the economy can continue.

Do we learn? I doubt it: the Guardian (24/11/2012) described decisions made about future energy use in the UK. The newspaper questions why the UK plans for an increase in electricity demand while Germany is planning for a 25% cut. It seems the focus will be on gas because some predict it will continue to be cheap while renewable energy, one of the few sectors that creates new jobs, receives less stimulus. The Lib Dems, the smaller part of the UK coalition government with the Tories, blame the conservative way of thinking of the Tories. The Lib Dems could make a difference and threaten to leave the government if they really believe more should be done. But instead they say it would be even worse without them. That may be true, but they could use their power much better to force the Tories into taking action against climate change, certainly when at this moment parts of the country are flooded. Their country borders an ocean and thus may suffer very badly during storms whereby already some land is disappearing.
Taking responsibility is sometimes dropping support for a government to prevent they have to agree with something they don't want. Then the voters can decide what policies they want. Now they sign something while they say they will argue very strong in favour of the fight against climate change during the next elections. Who will believe them? I was once a strong supporter of the Lib Dems and believed they could change things as happened on the European continent with the green parties. But once in power, they dropped everything they believed in to remain in power. Together with their change of mind regarding their plea not to increase tuition fees (it increased three fold ones they were in power), the Lib Dems can probably forget to be trusted ever again. Indeed, as far as I understand, not one person elected during the elections for a position of Police and Crime Commissioner was Lib Dem.

On the right: many things of the past to become rich, on the left: people and a deep cliff in the middle. Most people go for the money and don't see the cliff while many of those who try to stop the others are pushed in the cliff.
I do very well understand the climate talks are difficult because so much is at stake. E.g. President Obama tried to reach a deal at the previous climate change summit but failed. At home people wanted change, then voted for his opponents and afterwards complained he didn't change enough. I fear we will only change our behaviour when nature kills enough people. And that is what I don't understand: do those politicians and powerful business people not have children who may die during bad weather so the parents are only left with money they will loose after their own death?

What is the problem? Foremost the economic crisis. Indeed, President Obama seems to have said that climate change is only second on his list, after the recovery of the economy. And because of the crisis many countries want to slowdown the measures needed to reduce CO2 emission because people find that less important during a financial crisis (although the same crisis is responsible for a reduction of CO2 emission). Rich countries also demand poorer countries to slowdown their development to reduce CO2 emission. And thus the "West" is two-faced: they buy CO2 emission from poorer countries so they can continue to pollute while they ask developing countries to slowdown their progress. I think the developing countries can continue developing at a slower pace and learn from mistakes made in the past in the "West". They should invest in clean renewable energy (the sun is cheap) and make equipment that uses less power.

The car industry can be told to produce less polluting cars or sales is forbidden (and thus they have the choice). If this happens in one continent, the car industry will make better cars for all continents. Or maybe cars on sun energy could be sold in sunny countries, even when these drive slower.

Tablets are a good example: less trees are needed for paper while knowledge or leisure can be reached via the internet wherever we are; tablets are also small and thus need less material. I think tablets should also allow us to write notes between lines in text (zoom in so there is enough space to write and not type to see easier what is the original text and what is ours).

We should recycle more so less resources are needed (large companies will disagree). I think we should produce energy more locally so less is lost during transport (e.g. small wind turbines on buildings or solar energy). We should also redistribute much more our wealth and work. When e.g. ten million cars are needed each year and new techniques allows a larger production in a shorter period, then companies should not produce too many cars or fire people but they could reduce the number of hours people work for the same earnings and thus people will have work to continue buying while they will have a more relaxed life and thus one would expect a better life quality (although our society is now fixated so much on faster and more and thus I doubt it whether people will be happier). Of course, this can only happen when companies accept profits should not always rise (at this moment, profits of large companies are mainly used to increase certain bonuses, not to save people's jobs).

In the end, I think little will change. People are now trying to find ways to reduce the effects of our behaviour on the climate so we can continue to pollute, instead of trying to prevent thing go wrong; preventive measures may result in other things go wrong. Humans are also responsible large numbers of animals and plants decline and still we continue doing so even when we know we are doing it and what the consequences may be: no more food and thus the collapse of our societies (although we think we are now clever enough to find a solution).

Our main problem is that many people not only want a better life but think a better life means having more than others, even more than friends instead of helping others. Of course, people should have a good life but that doesn't mean they should become greedy. We were warn in the past people will not stop worshipping the idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood, which cannot see, hear, or walk. I recognise this as worship of money and materials; as a consequence other humans and animals suffer. In the end, climate change and its consequences (such as wars and revolutions) may reduce the number of humans sufficiently enough for nature to recover for a short time until humans have forgotten what happened and start all over again being greedy.

Comments

Pascal said…
Gas explotation in the north of the Netherlands are causing more frequently eartquakes, and some predict earthquakes may become even heavier. Therefore a study is ordered, due by December about the effect of gas exploitation on possible future earthquakes and possible solutions while gas can continue to be taken out the earth as it is considered too expensive to stop. Maybe until a heavy earthquake destroys many houses and kills people, maybe even land disappearing under water as the region is lower than sea level when water defense systems are broken or the earth collapses, maybe then one may stop. Should one not first decide what the risks are before continuing, if ever?
Then Belgium behaved differently after it noticed small cracks in some of its nuclear plants. Indeed, even risking energy shortages, the government ordered the companies to stop the reactors until the risk of these cracks are known, and thus avoid a possible nuclear disaster. Indeed, one does not wait until disaster happens, one tries to prevent it. Because a nuclear disaster will result in large uninhabited areas, and thus loss of much more money than stopping the companies temporarily (permanently?) producing nuclear energy. In the meanwhile they can continue their efforts developing better green energy products and thus make profits selling those. But they complain they can't restart, thus probably are not really thinking about new energy forms.

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