Let us all for the purposes of argument accept the view that climate change is human induced. For many that seems to be a big thing to accept. I find it odd that many people refuse to accept the advice of the majority of specialists in this field, which is that climate change is induced by human behaviour and activity. However, if you are one of those who refuse to believe the advice of experts in this matter, then please try to suspend your disbelief for the purposes of this essay.
If you have suspended your disbelief then let us see where, following the expert’s advice, takes us.
Climate change is a threat. The extent of the threat and the damage that it will produce depends upon two things. The first thing is just how much the climate will change. A warming across the world of three or four degrees Celsius will provide conditions which will seriously damage the ability of much of the world’s population to live in many places on this planet.
The second threat is the time factor; how long that human induced climate change will last is a great potential problem. If we could reverse climate change after a few decades then climate change would fall into one of those categories of things that Malthus thought were events which acted as a way of reducing human population growth. Like war, famine, drought and pestilence, climate change would wipe out a few billion people, leaving those who survived the ability to live within the resources that the earth provides, after the climate had settled into the status quo ante. Mr Scrooge was unkind when talking of removing the surplus population, but that is what nature seems to do, from time to time.
Let us imagine (your disbelief still suspended) that we all reached the conclusion that not only is the world a spherical object but that climate change is human induced by large emissions of carbon dioxide, and we actually stopped emitting carbon dioxide in a few decades time. By then the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide would be more than 450 parts per million. It may be as high as 600 parts per million depending on how quickly nations like China and India are able to grow economically. If ninety per cent of the population of those countries live in the same way as ninety per cent of the population of the developed world live, then atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide will be very high.
So we then would have very high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and would have stopped emitting more carbon dioxide, having seen the effects of the emissions that we have already created. The carbon dioxide gradually reduces in the atmosphere but the climate does not return to how it was because another factor comes into play. There would be a slower loss of heat to the ocean, which has become warmer, which would keep atmospheric temperatures high for at least another one thousand years, according to studies of the processes which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That is simply the way the chemistry works.
The are other factors which delay the reversing of climate change, the most significant is probably the rainfall changes which will come with climate change. It is easy to spoil something but hard to repair the damage. You may now stop suspending your disbelief and I how that you will ask yourself “I believe that climate change is not human induced…but what if I am wrong?”
Filed under: carbon emissions, climate change, global warming | Tagged: atmospheric concentration, China, climate, environment, human induced climate change, human population growth, India, Malthus, Mr Scrooge, nature, reversing climate change, science, surplus population | 2 Comments »