Climate Change, Planetary Ageing: How Human Activity Must Adapt

A holistic view of man’s impact on the environment, along with long-sighted policies for management are required.  There are many drivers of climate change, some man made, others from elsewhere in nature.  A rigorous understanding of geology could show that nature is the dominant factor, for now.  

George Boughton

By George S. Boughton

Author of DeepStorm OutTack, CEO of GB Publishing.org,  www.gbpublishing.org, george@gbpublishing.org

Needless to say, few people now question that, at least from the industrial revolution onward, human activities have driven climate change. Certainly, we’ve polluted the atmosphere with our reliance on fossil fuels, compounded by our massively increasing livestock production, land commercialisation and deforestation.

The weight of the overall impact is what really matters. For this, we must look beyond projections of population growth (the best estimates add some two to three billion people to existing numbers) to population empowerment (which will generate more than a tenfold increase in megacities) over the next half century. That measure will tell us when, not if, the development and cultivation of land must cease; in effect, when populations must be capped to preserve nature’s atmosphere-sustaining power.

In my political, hard science novel the reader enters a time beyond those population caps, when international space programmes have, of necessity, turned to genetically enhanced recruits to inhabit vast, newly constructed Near Earth Territories. The UN must, now, turn its attention in this direction.

Going back: All of the above relates to the impact of fossil fuel burning, livestock production, land commercialisation and deforestation. As long as those activities persist, we are blessed in having the greatest resource on our side – nature’s capacity to purify air. Clearly, this must be reinforced with a worldwide programme of reforestation (not to mention marine conservation).

This analysis would suffice; the solution would be tidy, if that’s all there is to climate change. It is not. By far the greatest influence is the interaction of the sun’s rays and how Earth’s water inventory moves between being tied up in the oceans, rock formations, ice sheets, the atmosphere and now, it seems, even within the magma under the crust. None of these volumes are at rest – and much of the processes are happening inexorably as the planet ages, the moon recedes, the sun grows.

For instance, it’s easy to imagine that the Earth’s ice caps are melting as a result of global warming. But, could there be other causes? Though it would be a coincidence for some undetected hotspots (volcanic magma chambers) to be influencing both poles, that possibility is not out of the question in my research.

Also, as is well known, fossils capture the period when dinosaur herds migrated to those regions that were green and ice-free. Yet, there’s also paleogeographical evidence of extant species of corals in the tropical waters of that time, an indication that global warming was not heating those areas. This makes it highly unlikely that global warming played a major part in melting the ice caps.

The paleogeographical record also indicates that there was more than double the atmospheric water vapour compared with what have today. That pointed me in the direction of cloud cover, as more likely to have greened those high latitudes with ‘polar warming’ and also, in similar fashion, high altitudes. Warmed by strong volcanic activity and carried gently over very special ocean current conditions, the winds of that time would have formed clouds over lowlands and especially over cooler regions.

In 2006, NASA’s CloudSat programme (http://cloudsat.atmos.colostate.edu/overview) began to collect data on clouds, to build understanding of how they work and how weather systems can be modelled better. Strikingly, the data reveals that there has been extensive wintertime cloud cover over Greenland and Antarctica. Thus both places have had a warming blanket of cloud, whilst over the bulk of the ice there has been hardly any summertime cloud cover.

Temperatures have been relatively high, enough so to impede ice layers building, which correlates well with the greening of dinosaur migratory trails. Apparently, in both cases, there’s likely to have been a ‘polar warming’ effect.

This analysis only suggests a deferring of when human activity will become a dominant factor in climate change – to just a few decades from now. A lot more studies are called for to determine when.

Complacency is the enemy – inactivity now amounts to future self-defeat.

Biography:  A graduate of City University London, BSc Mech E (Hons), C Eng, MIMechE, Boughton is currently CEO of a start-up indy publisher GB Publishing.org (GBP). He was a senior consultant with Azeus Systems (Hong Kong) and latterly represented the company in South Africa in the four years preceding the World Cup there. Prior to that he was a senior consultant with the change management company The Nichols Group (UK) and before that with the oil services company Creole Production Services International (Houston Texas). He began his career as an oilfield engineer in exploration and production with Shell.

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