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Re: [WorldCitizen] If runaway G, we could still save ourselves

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  • ro-esp
    -Van: James F. Newell ... I m not sure what you re trying to say here. Let s just do nothing untill we re all sure the greenhouse effect
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 1, 2009
      -Van: James F. Newell <jfnewell7@...>


      >If it should turn out that the melting of methane hydrates will tip us over
      > into a runaway greenhouse soon, we could still save ourselves.

      I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. "Let's just do nothing untill
      we're all sure the greenhouse effect is real" ? There's plenty other
      reasons to do something: oil and coal will run out, people are healthier
      when there's less pollution, etc

      > Remember what happened in the United States at the beginning of
      > World War 2. America rapidly retooled its industry to produce massive
      > amounts of military equipment.
      >
      >Similarly, if human survival were in the balance, the developed nations
      > of the world could quickly retool our industry to manufacture solar and
      > wind equipment per year.

      sure, but chances are that they'd only produce for their own national
      needs or for those who can afford the equipment - especially if some
      commodity necessary for it's production becomes scarce.

      Even more cynically: bombing a factory is cheaper than equipping it
      with solar energy


      > One other bit of data has bothered me. SETI has not found neither a
      > direct message from a civilization on another planet, nor a radio
      > spectrum noise distribution that we might expect from a large
      > civilization using all its radio wave frequencies at maximum.

      Why would that be bothering? Maybe the alien societies' trans mitters
      are too weak to reach us, maybe they don''t have radio at all, or they
      are so far away that their signals haven't reached us yet (and won't for
      several centuries). Or maybe their society isn't infected with
      megalomania yet


      > Perhaps, almost all civilizations are destroyed by runaway greenhouse
      > processes. The considerations are these. [...]

      lots of assumptions... what if their planet never formed coal or natural
      gas?


      >We should calculate the level of carbon dioxide which would tip earth
      >into a runaway greenhouse process. Then, we should carefully try to
      > project whether methane hydrate melting would take us to that critical
      > level.

      and then what? have a decade-long discussion about *when* to start
      doing something? While in many countries people can see for
      themselves that lots of species (and sometimes the diseases they carry!)
      start living in regions that used to be too cold for them...?

      As I said, it doesn't matter wether the greenhouse-effect is there, or how
      fast it goes, or if it's manmade. What matters is that it makes sense to
      use less energy regardless of those

      groetjes, Ronaldo
    • James F. Newell
      ... Old Jim:::If it should turn out that the melting of methane hydrates will tip us over into a runaway greenhouse soon, we could still save ourselves.
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 4, 2009
        --- In WorldCitizen@yahoogroups.com, "ro-esp" <ro-esp@...> wrote:
        Old Jim:::If it should turn out that the melting of methane hydrates will tip us over into a runaway greenhouse soon, we could still save ourselves.

        Ronaldo::: I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. "Let's just do nothing untill we're all sure the greenhouse effect is real" ?

        Jim::: No, I'm not saying that.I have made proposals on the message board which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions much more than any of he current plans of the world's governments. What I am doing is prepositioning for panic. If scientists were to determine that a runaway greenhouse is near, there would be major panic in the world, because a runaway greenhouse would destroy all life on earth by raising the temperature to somewhere between 200 degrees centigrade and the current temperature of Venus. In such a panic, people might give up. So I am saying that we still would be able to save humanity by dealing with greenhouse emissions as strongly as nations in the past have mobilized for war. In such an emergency, we could quickly begin manufacturing trillions of dollars of wind and solar equipment, move people within walking distance of their jobs, and so forth.

        An implication of what I said is that we don't know whether or not we will cause a runaway greenhouse effect from our burning of fossil fuels. SO WE REALLY NEED TO FIND OUT. It is stupid to just sit here not knowing the precise details of all the methane hydrate deposits in the world. Governments are just not undertaking the necessary surveys. In addition, we need to add the two feedback loops, methane hydrate melting and water evaporation - TOGETHER - into the computer models, with accurate data about all the methane hydrate deposits.

        I was also trying to soften the emotional impact, so that people wouldn't panic and repress the idea. We could tip over into a runaway greenhouse in the next couple of years, or it might be many decades before we tip over into a runaway greenhouse. If we tip over in a few years, we need to go to an emergency struggle to save life on earth now. If we have until decades from now, we could do it more slowly,but not too slowly of course.

        If the tip-over point is in the next few years, then in the next few months, we need to convert most of our factories throughout the world into production of trillions of dollars per year of wind and solar equipment, move everyone within walking distance of their work, seriously restricting the use of motor vehicles, etc. The world's people wouldn't want to go into emergency mode without such knowledge.

        Ronaldo::: sure, but chances are that they'd only produce for their own national needs or for those who can afford the equipment - especially if some commodity necessary for it's production becomes scarce.

        Jim:::Not if we were about to enter a runaway greenhouse process which would destroy all life on earth. The first stage of a runaway greenhouse process will probably not be obvious. At some point, enough methane would be coming out of permafrost in Siberia, Canada, Alaska, etc. and shallow sea bed, to begin heating the earth enough extra in addition to fossil fuel burning that the increase in the methane hydrate that causes cannot be stopped. Since we aren't carefully measure all the methane which is this year emerging from permafrost and shallow sea floor methane hydrate deposits, there could be so much methane emerging that we have already passed the tipping point. In that case, even halting all fossil fuel burning wouldn't help, because the methane hydrate melting itself would be producing enough warming produce runaway greenhouse heating all by itself. I have a feeling we haven't passed the tipping point yet, but I can't be certain, because I don't know how much methane is currently being released by melting methane hydrate.

        As one example of how our predictions are inadequate at this time, some weeks ago, there was a massive flood on the Yukon River in Alaska, which was more than any previous flood and it was a complete surprise that there could be such a flood on the Yukon. The flood was caused by record high temperatures causing much more melting of ice than any previous peak.


        Ronaldo::: Why would that be bothering? Maybe the alien societies' trans mitters are too weak to reach us, maybe they don''t have radio at all, or they are so far away that their signals haven't reached us yet (and won't for several centuries). Or maybe their society isn't infected with megalomania yet

        Jim::: The sun is a relatively new star. The first civilizations in the universe should have arisen about 5 or so billion years ago, and should have continued to arise since. Scientists are assuming that an advanced civilization would have enough power in their transmissions to detect, so if that much power is possible, a vast number of civilizations on a vast number of planets, if they have survived, should be putting adequate power into the electromagnetic radio spectrum. However, you could be right.

        Old Jim::: Perhaps, almost all civilizations are destroyed by runaway greenhouse processes. The considerations are these. [...]

        Ronaldo::: lots of assumptions... what if their planet never formed coal or natural gas?

        Jim:::Yes, there are a lot of assumptions, so it is just a hypothesis I am playing with, not a proof. However, if it is true, then humanity probably is close to a genuine life or death emergency. Just a moderate probability that it might be true should be enough to include it in planning decisions. Coal and natural gas (including methane hydrate deposits) are formed by very basic biological and geological processes. I can't imagine a planet with carbon based life where those natural processes would not occur. However, go ahead and try to imaging how such a planet could exist with the present basic laws of nature we have discovered.

        Old Jim:::We should calculate the level of carbon dioxide which would tip earth into a runaway greenhouse process. Then, we should carefully try to project whether methane hydrate melting would take us to that critical level.

        Ronaldo:::and then what? have a decade-long discussion about *when* to start doing something? While in many countries people can see for
        themselves that lots of species (and sometimes the diseases they carry!) start living in regions that used to be too cold for them...?

        Jim::: If we are a couple of years from starting a process which will have become so powerful on its own that there will be nothing we can do to prevent the earth heating up to 200 degrees centigrade or more, I don't think we will sit around discussing what to do. We are talking about serious life or death for every human, every animal, and every plant on earth.

        Ronaldo::: As I said, it doesn't matter wether the greenhouse-effect is there, or how fast it goes, or if it's manmade. What matters is that it makes sense to use less energy regardless of those

        Jim::: You still don't understand what a runaway greenhouse process would be. A runaway greenhouse process is different from the ordinary greenhouse warming that knowledgeable people are concerned about. The ordinary greenhouse warming will cause damage, but not destroy all life on earth, like a runaway greenhouse would do.

        You are right that we should be working hard to get the ordinary greenhouse warming under control. And your arguments above are good additional ones for encouraging governments and people to conserve energy, etc.

        However, a runaway greenhouse is something else entirely. I'm not saying a runaway greenhouse is a certain danger. It is possible that we could burn every bit of coal and oil in the world, and still not set off a runaway greenhouse process. I don't know the relative percentage probability of a runaway greenhouse occurring versus there being no possibility of a runaway greenhouse, no matter how much coal and oil we burn. However,

        THE DANGER OF KILLING ALL LIFE ON EARTH IS SO SERIOUS THAT WE NEED TO VERY QUICKLY DO THE RESEARCH NEEDED TO SEE WHETHER OR NOT A RUNAWAY GREENHOUSE PROCESS FROM METHANE HYDRATE MELTING IS A POSSIBILITY, AND IF IT IS A POSSIBILITY, HOW SOON IT WILL OCCUR IF WE CONTINUE OUR CURRENT SLOW RATE OF DEALING WITH GREENHOUSE WARMING.

        We can't afford not to do the research, and we need to do it quickly. We should have a complete survey of all methane hydrate deposits in the world, with a good estimate of how fast they will melt with each increase in the average temperature of the world. We also need the necessary computer models. To be on the safe side, we should complete all this research within a couple of years. By 2012, we need to know whether or not a runaway greenhouse is possible, and when the tip over point will occur if it is possible.

        Jim
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