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Earth’s Prognosis – "Critical Condition"
As an overly concerned citizen of our home, Planet Earth, I have to say that my research and findings related to the health and stability of our planet, are all pointing to a major crisis, occurring as we speak, for all species living on Earth.
Atomic scientists, including 16 Nobel Laureates, announced recently that the world’s metaphorical “Doomsday Clock” representing how close we are to planetary destruction, or “midnight,” will remain at its 2015 position of 3 minutes to midnight.
“We announce, with utter dismay, that the clock remains at three minutes to midnight, the closest it has been in last 30 years,” the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced in a recent live broadcast. The scientists attribute this “grim” timetable to Cold Warlike tension between the United States and Russia and recent nuclear threats, including one from North Korea, among other things.
This is the closest the clock has been to disaster since early above ground hydrogen bomb testing, according to the Bulletin’s press release. A team of scientists adjusts the Doomsday clock annually based on conditions of positive and negative variation in climate change, nuclear weapons, biotechnology and other technological advancements.
I will be covering the following subjects, as they are all interrelated, synergistic, and organize the same conclusion mentioned earlier. These are not in any specific order, yet play off each other, as they are all tied to one common core, the survival of all species on Planet Earth.
• 6TH MASS EXTINCTION
• WARMING OCEANS
• CLIMATE CHANGE
• ACIDIFICATION OCEANS / REEFS
• SEA LEVEL RISE
• GLOBAL TEMP RISE
• SHRINKING ICE SHEETS
• EXTREME EVENTS
• WATER FOR LIFE
• OVER POPULATION
So let’s take them one by one and start organizing information that will ultimately come to a consensus conclusion.
6TH MASS EXTINCTION
The loss and decline of animals around the world – caused by habitat loss and global climate disruption – mean we’re in the midst of a sixth “mass extinction” of life on Earth, according to several studies found in the journal Science.
“We were shocked to find similar losses in invertebrates as with larger animals, as we previously thought invertebrates to be more resilient.” said Ben Collen of the U.K.’s University College London, one of the study’s authors.
Although big, photogenic species, such as tigers, rhinos and pandas, get the bulk of the attention, researchers say it’s clear that even the disappearance of the tiniest beetle can significantly change the various ecosystems on which humans depend.
Five times in the history of the Earth, a huge percentage of the planet’s life has been wiped out in what are called mass extinctions, typically from collisions with giant meteors.
About 66 million years ago, one well-known extinction killed off the dinosaurs, along with three out of the four species on Earth. About 252 million years ago, the “Great Dying” snuffed out about 90% of the world’s species.
Overall, scientists estimate that due to all of the past extinctions, about nine out of 10 of all life-forms that have existed on our planet are extinct.
The study says that species are disappearing at a rate 100 times faster than would normally be expected – and that is a conservative estimate.
The human population growing in numbers, per capita consumption and economic inequity have altered or destroyed natural habitats, the researchers say.
In conclusion, the facts outweigh the many conversations associated with this area of study that defy logic and are carelessly used in defense of human activity.
Warmer oceans put coastal communities at risk, increase infrastructure costs, endanger polar creatures and threaten coral reefs and fisheries. Perhaps most alarmingly, rising ocean temperatures accelerate the overall warming trend.
Not only are ocean surface waters getting warmer, but so is water deep below the surface. These increases in temperature lie well outside the bounds of natural variation.
The oceans are the flywheel of the climate system. As atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases increase, the Earth system is warming, and over 90 percent of that increase in heat goes into the ocean.
Most estimates of ocean warming have been limited to the upper 700 meters of water, owing to the limited availability of ocean-temperature data below that depth.
However, the ocean is also warming near the bottom, in the coldest waters of the abyssal zones. Oceanographers measure the abyssal ocean to depths of 6,000 meters by lowering accurate recording thermometers and other instruments to the ocean floor on long cables from research vessels. During the 1980s and 1990s, an international program called the World Ocean Circulation Experiment collected thousands of such profiles around the globe.
Indeed, add together the net global heat content of the atmosphere, land, ice, surface ocean waters and deep ocean waters, and the total shows a continued, clear – and, in fact, rising – increase. As environmental scientist and climate blogger Dana Nuccitelli, co-author of the aforementioned 2012 paper on ocean warming, points out, this means that “the slowed warming at the surface is only temporary, and consistent with research. The global warming end result will be the same, but the pattern of surface warming over time may be different than we expect… while many people wrongly believe global warming has stalled over the past 10-15 years, in reality that period is “the most sustained warming trend” in the past half century. Global warming has not slowed down, it has accelerated.”
Earth’s temperature depends on the balance between energy entering and leaving the planet’s system. When the incoming energy from the sun is absorbed by the Earth system, Earth warms. When the sun’s energy is reflected back into space, Earth avoids warming up. When absorbed energy is released back into space, Earth cools. Many factors, both natural and human, can cause changes in the Earth’s energy balance.
Scientists have pieced together a record of Earth’s climate, dating back hundreds of thousands of years (and, in some cases, millions or hundreds of millions of years), by analyzing a number of indirect measures of climate such as ice cores, tree rings, glacier lengths, pollen remains, and ocean sediments, and by studying changes in Earth’s orbit around the sun.
This record shows that the climate system varies naturally over a wide range of time scales. In general, climate changes prior to the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s can be explained by natural causes, such as changes in solar energy, volcanic eruptions, and natural changes in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations.
Recent climate changes, however, cannot be explained by natural causes alone. Research indicates that natural causes do not explain the most observed warming, especially warming since the mid-20th century. Rather, it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming.
The sun’s energy received at the top of Earth’s atmosphere has been measured by satellites since 1978. It has followed its natural 11-year cycle of small ups and downs, but with no net increase. Over the same period, global temperature has risen markedly.
Climate is influenced by natural changes that affect how much solar energy reaches Earth. These changes include changes within the sun and changes in Earth’s orbit.
Causes of Climate Change
• Both natural and human factors change the Earth’s climate.
• Before humans, changes in climate resulted entirely from natural causes such as changes in Earth’s orbit, changes in solar activity, or volcanic eruptions.
• Since the Industrial Era began, humans have had an increasing effect on climate, particularly by adding billions of tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
• Most of the observed warming since the mid-20th century is due to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
These factors have caused the Earth’s climate to change many times.
Recent climate changes, however, cannot be explained by natural causes alone. Research indicates that natural causes do not explain the most observed warming, especially warming since the mid-20th century. Rather, it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming.
The poles have already seen the greatest warming, and will continue to warm more rapidly than other areas. Already we’re seeing record losses of ice in the Arctic. That melting ice contributes to rising sea levels, affecting the entire planet. In addition, warm water expands, so sea levels will rise as the atmosphere warms. The ocean has risen 4-8 inches globally over the last hundred years. As sea level continues to rise, flooding and storm surges will threaten freshwater sources, as well as coastal homes and buildings. Coastal facilities and barrier islands in many parts of the world are gradually submerging, and some low-lying islands have already had to be evacuated.
ACIDIFICATION OCEANS / REEFS
Over 180M Tons of Toxic Waste are dumped Into World’s Oceans, Rivers, and Lakes each Year. The 313 million people who live in the United States send about 120 million tons of trash to landfills every year.
Earthworks and Mining Watch Canada spent the past year investigating this egregious, and outdated, practice. Findings reported in a new study,Troubled Waters: How Mine Waste Dumping is Poisoning Our Oceans, Rivers, and Lakes. The report identifies the world’s waters that are suffering the greatest harm or are at greatest risk from dumping of mine waste. These include rivers in Papua New Guinea on which fishing communities depend, Norwegian fjords where tourists once flocked, once-pristine lakes in Alaska and British Columbia, and coastal waters off the islands in the Indonesian archipelago.
Today’s industrial gold and copper mines produce an unimaginable amount of waste. Mining enough gold for just a single wedding band generates, on average, of 20 tons of Mine Waste.
Ten companies are currently dumping their waste into these waterways, and 27 more are proposing to do so. This list includes some of the largest, most profitable mining corporations in the world – Canada’s Barrick Gold, US-based Newmont Mining Co., and Freeport McMoRan, and Brazilian-owned Vale.
The Surfrider Foundation, along with many county and state health departments has always advised the public never to swim or surf within 72 hours after a rain. During these periods, the coastal waters are polluted with urban runoff and may also contain sewage from leaking sewer pipes or overflowing sewer manholes. In most places, and especially in heavily urbanized areas like Southern California, ocean water quality after a rain typically has high concentrations of bacteria and may also have high concentrations of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, heavy metals, and petroleum products.
Viruses are believed to be a major cause of swimming-associated diseases, and are responsible for many cases of gastroenteritis, hepatitis, respiratory illness, and ear, nose, and throat problems. Other microbial diseases that can be contracted by swimmers include salmonellosis, shigellosis, and infection caused by E. coli, a type of enteric pathogen.
There is also what can be referred to as a “toxic cocktail” of pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals and other pollutants that are not monitored regularly and the health effects of which are poorly understood. It is important to understand that the typical ocean water monitoring program used by most municipalities in California consists only of tests for total coliform, fecal coliform, and Enterococcus bacteria. No tests for viruses, hydrocarbons, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, metals, or other pollutants are routinely performed.
SEA LEVEL RISE
Sea levels on Earth are rising several times faster than they had in the past 2,800 years and are accelerating because of man-made global warming, according to new studies. An international team of scientists dug into two dozen locations across the globe to see what the sea level was for the past 2,800 years. They charted gently rising and falling seas over centuries and millennia. Until the 1880s and industrialization of society, on average the fastest seas rose was about 1 to 1.5 inches a century, plus or minus a bit. During that time global sea level really didn’t get much higher or lower than three inches above or below the 2,000-year average.
But in the 20th century the world’s seas rose 5.5 inches. Since 1993 the rate has soared to a foot per century, and two different studies published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said by 2100, that the world’s oceans will rise between 11 to 52 inches, depending on how much heat-trapping gas Earth’s industries and vehicles expel.
The link to temperature is basic science, the study’s authors said. Warm water expands. Cold water contracts. The scientists pointed to specific past eras when temperatures and sea rose and fell together.
GLOBAL TEMPERATURE RISE
The world is getting warmer. Whether the cause is human activity or natural variability-and the preponderance of evidence says it’s humans. Thermometer readings all around the world have risen steadily since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming have occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.
From these records, the ten warmest years in the instrumental record of global temperature, since around 1880, all occur within the 12 year period 1997-2008. Although 2008 data below show it was the coolest since 2000 due to the moderate to strong La Niña that developed in the latter half of 2007. However, the total global temperature increase from the 1850s through to 2005 is 1.36°F and the rate of warming averaged over the last 50 years is nearly twice that for the last 100 years.
Based on science, and with observed increases in global temperature, there have been:
– Decreases in the length of river and lake ice seasons.
– Worldwide reduction in glacial mass and extent in the 20th century.
– Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet has recently become apparent.
– Snow cover has decreased in many Northern Hemisphere regions.
– Sea ice thickness and extent have decreased in the Arctic in all seasons.
– The oceans are warming
– Sea levels are rising, due to thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of land ice.
The rapid rise in global temperature is unmatched in the last million years. Normally, and when the Earth has warmed after an ice age, it is a gradual process taking about 5,000 years.
SHRINKING ICE SHEETS
The polar ice sheets are indeed shrinking-and fast, according to a comprehensive new study on climate change.
And the effects, according to an international team, are equally clear-sea levels are rising faster than predicted, which could bring about disastrous effects, for people and wildlife.
Rising seas would increase the risk of catastrophic flooding like that caused by Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey. Environmental damage may include widespread erosion, contamination of aquifers and crops, and harm to marine life. And in the long term, rising seas may force hundreds of millions of people who live along the coast to abandon their homes.
By reconciling nearly two decades of often conflicting satellite data into one format-in other words, comparing apples to apples-the new study, published in the journal Science, made a more confident estimate of what’s called ice sheet mass balance.
That refers to how much snow is deposited on an ice sheet versus how much is lost, either due to surface melting or ice breaking off glaciers.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the Greenland ice sheets, along with the Antarctic ice sheets, hold 99 percent of freshwater ice on Earth. The Greenland ice sheet extends about 1.7 million square kilometers, which is about three times the size of Texas.
Scientists have predicted before that if the Greenland ice sheet melts, the sea level would rise by about 20 feet. Ice sheets are also important because it influences climate and weather. However, the Greenland ice sheet has begun to decline.
When discussing ice melt, and its relation to a changing climate, individual or single-year examples of a loss or growth may not be enough to adequately act as evidence, for either side of the issue. No conclusions can be made based on a single year or a single event, it needs to be taken as a whole and looked at as a long-term pattern.
EXTREME EVENTS CAUSED BY CLIMATE CHANGE
Typically, climate change is described in terms of average changes in temperature or precipitation, but most of the social and economic costs associated with climate change will result from shifts in the frequency and severity of extreme events.
This fact is illustrated by a large number of costly weather disasters in 2010, which tied 2005 as the warmest year globally since 1880. Incidentally, both years were noted for exceptionally damaging weather events, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the deadly Russian heat wave in 2010. Other remarkable events of 2010 include Pakistan’s biggest flood, Canada’s warmest year, and Southwest Australia’s driest year. 2011 continued in similar form, with “biblical” flooding in Australia, the second hottest summer in U.S. history, devastating drought and wildfires in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona as well as historic flooding in North Dakota, the Lower Mississippi and in the Northeast.
The fact that 2010 was one of the warmest years on record as well as one of the most disastrous, begs the question: Is global warming causing more extreme weather? The short and simple answer is yes, at least for heat waves and heavy precipitation.
Climate change is defined by changes in mean climate conditions-that is, the average of hundreds or thousands of events over the span of decades. Over the past 30 years, for example, any single weather event could be omitted or added to the record without altering the long-term trend in weather extremes and the statistical relationship between that trend and the rise in global temperatures.
Strikingly, no new national record low-temperatures occurred in 2010. Several historic heat waves occurred across the globe, as well. Unprecedented summer heat in western Russia caused wildfires and destroyed one-third of Russia’s wheat crop; the combination of extreme heat, smog, and smoke killed 56,000 people. In China, extreme heat and the worst drought in 100 years struck Yunan province, causing crop failures and setting the stage for further devastation by locust swarms. In the United States, the summer of 2010 featured record breaking heat on the east coast with temperatures reaching 106 degrees as far north as Maryland. Records were also set for energy demand and the size of the area affected by extreme warmth. Even in California, where the average temperatures were below normal, Los Angeles set its all-time high temperature record of 113 degrees on September 27.
There is supporting evidence in all three areas (theory, modeling, and observation) pointing to a global-warming induced increase in risk for four important categories of weather-related extreme events: extreme heat, heavy downpours, drought and drought-associated wildfires.
WATER FOR LIFE
Water tables all over the world are falling, as “world water demand has tripled over the last” 50 years. When these aquifers are depleted, food production worldwide will fall.
These aquifers are inexorably being depleted in ways that are largely invisible, historically recent, and growing fast, and the near-simultaneous depletion of aquifers means that cutbacks in grain harvests will in many countries remain more or less the same time. The aquifers of China, India and the US, which together produce one half of the world’s grain, are rapidly being depleted. The water tables of China, India, Pakistan, Mexico and Yemen are dropping by 1 to 3 meters per year, as are those of the US, especially in the southern Great Plains where thousands of farms have gone dry.
Providing potable water to communities, especially among developing nations is a major problem. Provision of drinking water is expensive and difficult. Unsafe water sources have accounted for preventable diseases in rural communities. In many countries water is shared with cattle, which has serious implications on human health.
Since the earth is 70% covered by water, and the water cycle replenishes water on a continuous basis, the idea of ‘peak water’ may seem strange to most people.
Glaciers are melting and oceans are rising, which means water will be more plentiful. But it is the location of the water that matters. Shortages in the wrong places could lead to food shortages, famine, and starvation in those regions, and affect the economic future of nations.
Challenges of fresh water supply:
• Uneven distribution on the planet
• Economic and physical constraints of tapping glacial water
• Contamination of supplies
• High distribution costs
In the U.S., suburban sprawl, with its lawns and ponds, has put intense pressure on local water supplies. In drought years Maryland, Virginia and the District fight over the Potomac water – lawns sucking up 85% of the river’s flow. 67 million more people are expected to inhabit the United States by 2030, making water shortages even more severe.
In the last 10 years there has been a steady erosion in the amount of grain grown per capita. With developing countries growing rapidly, the need for imports of grain could drive up the cost of food everywhere.
Food shortages and skyrocketing commodity prices are inevitable, with peak water playing a significant role.
• Droughts in key farming belt areas
• Less snow pack in the mountains
• Contamination of fresh water sources by industrial waste
• Soil erosion
• Depletion of underground aquifers
• Higher oil prices, fertilizer costs, food transportation
• Biofuels as an energy source.
• Worldwide population growth
Over 30 states are fighting with neighboring states over water.
In Florida lakes are drying up due to groundwater depletion from over pumping. Low river flows in the Catawba River in South Carolina prevented a paper company from discharging its wastewater, resulting workers being furloughed.
Surging population growth, climate change, reckless irrigation and chronic waste are placing the world’s water supplies at threat. A grim assessment of the state of the planet’s fresh water, described the outlook for coming generations as deeply worrying.
Lack of access to water helps drive poverty and breeds the potential for unrest and conflict. Water is linked to climate change, energy, food supplies and prices and troubled financial markets.
There were six billion humans in 2000, now risen to 6.5 billion and could scale nine billion by 2050.
The largest single threat to the ecology and biodiversity of the planet in the decades to come will be global climate disruption due to the buildup of human-generated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. People around the world are beginning to address the problem by reducing their carbon footprint through less consumption and better technology.
The globalization of the world economy, moreover, can mask the true carbon footprint of individual nations. China, for example, recently surpassed the United States to become the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter. But a large portion of those gases is emitted in the production of consumer goods destined for the United States and Europe. Thus a large share of China’s greenhouse gas footprint is actually the displaced footprint of high-consumption western nations.
The United States has the largest population in the developed world, and is the only developed nation experiencing significant population growth: Its population may double before the end of the century. Its 300 million inhabitants produce greenhouse gases at a per-capita rate that is more than double that of Europe, five times the global average, and more than 10 times the average of developing nations. The U.S. greenhouse gas contribution is driven by a disastrous combination of high population, significant growth, and massive and rising consumption levels.
More than half of the U.S. population now lives in car-dependent suburbs. Cumulatively, we drive 3 trillion miles each year. The average miles traveled per capita is increasing rapidly, and the transportation sector now accounts for one-third of all U.S. carbon emissions.
Another one-fifth of U.S. carbon emissions comes from the residential sector. Average home sizes have increased dramatically in recent decades, as has the accompanying footprint of each home. Suburban sprawl contributes significantly to deforestation, reducing the capacity of the planet to absorb the increased CO2 we emit. Due to a dramatic decrease in household size, from 3.1 persons per home in 1970 to 2.6 in 2000, home building is out pacing the population growth that is driving it. More Americans are driving farther to reach bigger homes with higher heating and cooling demands and fewer people per household than ever before.
Global population is as of now projected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11 billion by the end of the century. These staggering levels of growth in humans lead to the question of whether the resources of our ecosystems are enough.
No doubt human population growth is a major contributor to global warming, given that humans use fossil fuels to power their increasingly mechanized lifestyles. More people means more demand for oil, gas, coal and other fuels mined or drilled from below the Earth’s surface that, when burned, spew enough carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere to trap warm air inside like a greenhouse.
Developed countries consume the lion’s share of fossil fuels. The United States, for example, contains just five percent of world population, yet contributes a quarter of total CO2 output. But while population growth is stagnant or dropping in most developed countries (except for the U.S., due to immigration), it is rising rapidly in quickly industrializing developing nations. According to the United Nations Population Fund, fast-growing developing countries like China and India, will contribute more than half of global CO2 emissions by 2050, leading some to wonder if all of the efforts being made to curb U.S. emissions will be erased by other countries’ adoption of our long held over-consumptive ways.
By 2050, world population is expected to increase from its current level of about 7 billion to somewhere between 8 and 11 billion. According to a 2010 analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, keeping that growth to the lower number instead of even the mid-range 9.6 billion could play a significant role in keeping emissions low enough to avoid dangerous levels of climate change by 2050.
If the point has not been made, that we have a global, and obvious, long term problem for the planet, I don’t know what to say. The evidence is irrefutable and backed by the majority of scientists around the globe. I know there will always be the naysayers that go against the tide, but this article is designed to be read and acknowledged by the average person that does believe and understands the scientific data supporting the various issues confronted in the article.
In my lifetime of 72 years, I have seen major changes that affect not only me, but everyone around me. From my viewpoint, population is a critical issue. You saw the numbers; by the end of this century, we will see 11 billion trying to live on the planet, yet will face major obstacles with food and water, which of course is critical to life. Potable water is not only a necessity, but more importantly, more vital to life than food. We can live a lot longer with no, or little food, but water is a critical necessity.
We have seen the destruction and pollution of the oceans, to the point, where the major reefs around the world are bleaching and not sustaining the major Eco systems that used to thrive on them.
I leave you with one final point. If this article did not raise your awareness of the end game, then I did not do a proper job in conveying the bottom line message, the Planet Earth is in major trouble.
From my perspective, we have reached the tipping point and it is only a question of time before things spiral out of control. While I may not see it before I leave the planet, I can see and feel the dramatic impact that this short list of variables, affecting the longevity of survival, are having and I wish that all of us had taken the warnings and yellow flags seriously, as they popped up over the last twenty years.
It will take a global effort with all countries getting involved to stop the downfall and unfortunate, with one of the political parties in place in this country and their disbelief in this article’s premise, we do not have enough support to make things happen. The sheer obstructionist methods of this unnamed party continue to thwart efforts to galvanize the population behind what is really happening and it saddens my heart, but it is what it is.
Please do your part in aligning yourself with the proper frame of mind and like minded people. It is the only hope we have in trying to stop this major life changing set of circumstances that confronts the entire human population.
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