"It's the only planet we've got!"
- John Snowman
The World is in Danger - We can Save It, if we all Work Together
Catastrophic Climate Change
This site is intended to provide information about the gravest threat ever faced by the human race: catastrophic climate change brought about by global warming. I believe the threat is real and this is my attempt to help in a small way. I'm old enough that I'll probably be gone before the worst effects happen, but I hope that humanity can survive and prosper.
Weather Vs. Climate
If you think global warming is not a big deal, think again. You may feel that a little warming would be a good thing, and anyway it still gets cold sometimes. If so, you are confusing weather and climate. Weather means, in your town, is it raining today and what is the temperature. It is local and immediate. Climate means, in your country, how many days a year does it rain and how many total inches; or how many days is it over 90 or under zero degrees. It is global and long term. Global warming has little to do with the day to day weather and everything to do with the future liveability of the planet.
"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global
average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level."
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007
Why it's Happening
The problem is that the energy which drives the climate comes from the sun. Humans have adapted themselves to a world in which the sun heats the earth during the day and then much of the heat is radiated into space at night. But we have greatly increased the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They have the effect of holding some of the heat that would be radiated away. The increase in global temperature provides more energy to the atmosphere and can alter climate patterns that have endured for millenia.
"The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action.
It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now,
to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions."
- Joint Statement of Science Academies: Global Response to Climate Change, 2005
Breaking the Camel's Back
To understand why it's potentially catastrophic when it's happening so slowly, only a few degrees per century, think of the straw that broke the camel's back. You keep adding to his load, and he's strong enough to take it - up to a point. But his back can only take so much, there's a threshold, beyond which he'll break. If you are exactly at that point, just one more straw will put you over the edge with catastrophic results for the poor camel. It's the same with the world's climate. It can absorb gradual heating with no problem, but once a threshold is reached, there can be a sudden shift in global climate patterns. That can mean real trouble, and scientists are afraid we may be at the brink of that threshold.
"The more the climate is forced to change, the more likely it is to hit some
unforeseen threshold that can trigger quite fast, surprising and perhaps unpleasant changes."
- Richard Alley, Penn State University, January 2002
Explosive Population Growth
The root of the problem is there are too many people. If the world population were six million, and could be kept around that number, we would not be able to do much harm to the earth. But it's actually more than six billion and increasing. Around 1800 there were about one billion, and it had taken tens of thousands of years to reach that figure. It's taken only two centuries to add over 5 billion more people. Each additional person uses resources and creates waste. Obviously this cannot continue much longer. More about Population Growth
"Climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism."
- David King, UK government chief scientific adviser, January 2004
How You can Help to Save the World
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