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In the whole history of human thought, no transformation in human attitudes toward nature has been more profound than the change in perspective brought about by the discovery of the past.
— Stephen Toulmin
Are our families, businesses and nations prepared to adapt to increasing climate destabilization already manifesting in weather extremes, growing economic losses and increasing food and resource shortages? If we ignore the current science, are we prepared for the increasing severe consequences as we march toward catastrophic and finally irreversible climate destabilization?
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!
The current climate destabilization problem is rather simple at it 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.) 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 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 Century storms.) The increasing extreme weather and storms caused by our ever-increasing human-caused atmospheric carbon pollution 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 important and complex contributing sub-factors such as the key climate tipping points.
Climate and Its Key Tipping Points
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 accurate reality of the human caused atmospheric pollution problem immediately before us.
Because overall research on CCD is still so poorly funded, the world still does not know the tipping points of critical catastrophic 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 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 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
(Before continuing reading, 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 sections considerably easier and more useful...)
How can we resolve any problem without accurate information about that problem? The most scary thing about CCD is that CCD research is far too sparse right now on the accurate tipping points catastrophic of climate destabilization. It is so sparse that no one can yet conclusively tell us:
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 tell us yet, 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 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.
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 thousands 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 CCD. (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 feedback loop variables effecting 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 massive loss of the atmospheric carbon-eating forests because of heat, drought and wildfires, 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,) massive die offs of the carbon-eating sea plankton because of the growing carbonization and acidification of the oceans, 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 --- 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.
This last and sudden mega release of carbon into the atmosphere from methane hydrate crystals is 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.)
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.
f.) Here is some more bad news about political and social inertia that also has to be factored into realistic solution calculations. It takes about 25 years to evolve a whole industry from one product, and 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 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 computer models if we are ever going to enact a solution to this global threat.
g.) 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.
h.) 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 will 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.
Also 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 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 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 CCD 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 CCD 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.
Catastrophic climate destabilization is complex. It takes real effort and dialectical systems thinking skill sets to understand the current science and uncover the gaping lack of reliable information concerning the correct time frames, evolving locations and consequences for the climate destabilization tipping points.
Once I personally really understood coming consequences of increasing CCD and our current state of collective lack of understanding it, I realized how unlikely it is that our governments will address CCD in time to avoid real global climate catastrophe. Because of this realization I became deeply saddened for months.
It then became crystal clear that we do not have a science grounded plan to reverse CCD that has wide agreement because we do not have scientific clarity on the climate destabilization and the catastrophic climate tipping points and specifically what nasty consequences WILL occur when and where. Climate science in these areas is still far too nebulous and fuzzy on concrete consequences that will occur at specific locations and when. If this data was settled and incontrovertible to the rational among us we would at least be able to create a science-based plan that would engender collective agreement and action and--- would save our collective and individual bacon!
There are still many CCD deniers, ignorers and uninformed. If we do not immediately change our increasing carbon polluting ways both individually or collectively we will all have to begin preparation and adaption strategies for this emerging ecological, economic and societal nightmare.
To help inform about these problems our organization UniverseSpirit.org has created a special web page and a few short blog posts that help you understand the scale of the CCD problem in more detail, particularly the tipping points as well as strategies to resolve, prepare for or adapt to CCD. Knowing when, where and to what level the key climate destabilization tipping points and wild cards will occur as well as more about their most probable chain of consequences is currently the world's most valuable information! Those nations, corporations, markets and individuals who possess it first not only have a vast survival edge, they can also prepare for or capitalize on that information to potentially become the most powerful and wealthy entities that have ever existed.
The web links below contain short videos to make the how's and why's of catastrophic climate destabilization more simple as well as some of the most current research found in books like, Six Degrees: Our Future On a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas or, Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, by James Hansen. (Please help spread this information by forwarding this CCD blog post to other individuals and organizations.)
To see a 10 minute award winning video animation seen by millions that shows many of the tipping points of CCD and to get the basic overview of the catastrophic climate change Job One for Humanity challenge, go here about 1/2 way down the page.
To see the most important things that you can start doing right now to help prevent catastrophic climate destabilization, go here.
To go to our Universe Blog and see more blog postings about CCD tipping points and strategies for preparing for catastrophic climate destabilization, go here.
To learn more about why we need to drop the terms global warming and climate change and move to the far more accurate and useful terms climate destabilization, catastrophic climate destabilization and irreversible catastrophic climate destabilization go here.
Click here to read more about crowd sourcing the problem of researching the critical unknown climate destabilization tipping points.