Friday, December 28, 2018

The End Of The World Is Nigh

                As Woody Allen once said: “More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”
                New York Times columnist Carl Zimmer recently wrote a piece averring that mankind is sowing the seeds of its own (and nearly every other species’) mass extinction via global warming. He compares where we are now to the time leading up to the worst mass extinction in the planet’s history, a mere 252 million years ago, when, he asserts, the “Earth almost died.” Zimmer notes that 96% of all ocean species became extinct due to this event at the end of the Permian Period. Not “roughly 95%” or 97%, but precisely 96%. Given that we don’t know how many species are alive today, nor how many may have ceased to be over the Millenia, I believe there is at least a 96% chance that figure is incorrect.
                Scientists believe the Permian-Triassic die-off was due to a series of volcanoes-- in what is now Siberia-- erupting on a massive scale. They claim the staggering amounts of magma and lava they emitted injected similarly massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, trapping heat and leading to rapid, cataclysmic warming of land and sea.
                I thought volcano eruptions led to cooling of the Earth due to blocking of the sun’s rays. At least that’s what experts were worried about when Mount St. Helens blew her top back in 1980. And when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, which cooled the Earth by 0.5 degrees Celsius. It’s odd, the sun doesn’t get credit for warming anymore. It’s all due to cow farts, lawn mowers, and coal plants.
                Anyway, the warmer the water, the less oxygen it holds. Voila, everything’s dead. Researchers estimate, according to Zimmer, “that the surface of the ocean warmed by about 18 degrees Fahrenheit.” Meteorologists can’t accurately estimate what the temperature will be in my yard at 6 p.m. next Thursday.  Nevertheless, we are “repeating the process, the scientists warn.”
                Curtis Deutsch, an earth scientist at the University of Washington, and Justin Penn, a graduate student, are co-authors of a new study, published in the journal Science, purporting to show that we may be paralleling that climate change today. Due, of course, to man’s profligate use of fossil fuels to make and deliver pointless goods and services such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.
                Fortunately, to test their hypothesis, Dr. Deutsch and Penn “recreated the world at the end of the Permian Period with a large-scale computer simulation, complete with a heat-trapping atmosphere and a circulating ocean. “Recreated the world?” Did they do it in six days or less, beating our original Creator? I’m sure they didn’t overlook a single factor contributing to the planetary environment of 252 million years ago, nor how each and every possible variable interacted with all the others.  Amazing!
                As previously mentioned, the experts claim that the warmer the water, the less oxygen it can hold. That may well be true, but they go on to say that, on the ocean’s surface, photosynthetic algae produced oxygen, whereas the ocean depths were deprived of oxygen. So, the algae didn’t die where it was warmest? Moreover, they say, as the ocean warmed, the circulatory currents also slowed, letting oxygen-poor water settle to the bottom.
                Cold water is significantly denser than warm water. Warm water stays on the surface, buoyed and supported by the denser cold water underneath, until the warm surface water is dramatically cooled, gets heavier, and then sinks to the bottom. This is what is responsible for lakes “turning over” in the fall. Water doesn’t automatically sink because currents slow or its oxygen content is reduced.
                Deutsch and Penn teamed up with paleontologists at Stanford University, digging into “a huge online database of fossils to chart the risks of extinction at different latitudes during the catastrophe.” They compared this analysis to their computer model’s prediction. They matched, leading Dr. Deutsch to exclaim, “This was the most exciting moment of my life.” I hope Dr. Deutsch doesn’t have a wife. Or kids.
                The penultimate sentence in Zimmer’s piece solemnly states: “Just how much warmer the planet will get is up to us. It will take a tremendous international effort to keep the increase below about 4 degrees Fahrenheit.” No, it is not simply “up to us,” as we know for certain, since arguably the fastest and most massive global warming in Earth’s history took place roughly 252 million years before mankind had any effect whatsoever on greenhouse gases… according to the study’s own authors. Homo Sapiens was not one of the species killed off in the “Great Elimination”…because we weren’t yet around.
                Zimmer’s primer concludes by sniffing: “If we proceed to use up all the fossil fuels on Earth, it could warm by as much as 17 degrees Fahrenheit by 2300.”

Just 1 degree less than it did on its own…… 252 million years ago.

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