The Other Issues of Climate Change, No One Talks about.
I believe that the greatest mistake we as a people ever made, was to allow climate change to
be politicized. This is not a political problem, it is a human problem in that it effects us all. Once the political machine got ahold of this issue, facts became skewed by both sides in order to further their own agenda. I would say try it yourself but it is becoming ever more difficult to find any information on the web that is not shoved over to the left. In my research of actual books, and research project reports though, I can tell you that for every ten documents I find to support or deny the human impact on the environment, I can find just as many that refute the findings. It is virtually impossible to wade through all of the politicized data and actually quantify the true results of the studies being conducted. Unless you are able to get your hands on the original raw data, ( good luck with that ) you can not know what the true numbers are. Your just taking someone's word for it no matter what side you may stand on.
The other problem with politicizing climate change is of course the industry behind it, in other words, money. This is BIG business man. The most recent documentation I could find is from 2015 by http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/ where they estimate the green energy industry to be at $614.92 Billion. Granted, the fossil fuel industry dwarfs that, considering it is the most profitable industry in human history, but green energy is still a fledgling industry with a massive amount of room to grow. I myself am a capitalist, so I have no problem with people finding a new industry and exploiting it for profit. That is kind of what we humans do after all. The problem arises when the industry becomes more about money, and political ideology than the actual science.
Now I want to make my personal position on this issue clear before I continue. Climate change is happening. The Earths temperatures are rising, and we as a species are heading towards what could be another population bottle neck like what happened around 70,000 years ago. In what is modern day Sumatra a massive volcanic eruption that left behind the crater lake Toba, decimated the Homo Sapiens population. Research suggests that there may have been less than 2,000 individuals left on the Earth after that eruption. Look, the Earth goes through cycles, it is written all over our geologic record and is undeniable, it is fact. There have been 5 extinction level events estimated to have hit our Earth in the last 440 million years ( or so ). When you are on this kind of time scale you are plus or minus a few million years. All of these events have been tied to natural events, super volcano eruptions, and asteroid impacts as the two main causes. It is all quite fascinating really, 364 million years ago 75% of species on Earth were wiped out by plants. The theory is, the plants roots went so deep, and turned up so much soil, they pumped massive amounts of nutrients into the oceans causing an explosion in algae growth. This in turn stripped the oxygen from the water, and therefore, most of the life it held. There were other factors involved but if I keep letting myself talk about this I will go on forever. If you want to read more about this, here are a couple of websites. (1) (2)
Ok, I let myself get distracted, back to my point. I have no doubt that climate change is real, I also know for a fact that human beings did not CAUSE it. It is part of a natural cycle that shows up over and over again in our fossil and Ice core records. I do however believe that human beings are accelerating the process, or exacerbating it if you will. Now, here is where I have issues with the common belief that if we cut our CO2 ( carbon dioxide ) emissions, we are going to make everything ok again. MMMMMM, not going to happen my friend. Why? Because our CO2 emissions are only one small part of our impact on the environment. There is also another green house gas that is considered less damaging than CO2, but its impact can be much more significant. Methane. For the most part reports ignore this GHG ( as well as the other 13 GHG ) and focus on CO2. Why? Politics. CO2 is the big bad bogey man that politicians use to scare the hell out of everyone.
I should make a note here since we are moving into the realm of my nemesis, statistics. People love to quote statistics, but here is a fact about them people overlook. You give me any issue, I can create a list of statistics to support any version of that issue that I want, or both just to be contrary with myself. My point is, you have to be very careful putting too much trust in these numbers. The people who create them are doing so to support a certain position. Including me right now. The difference for me, is I am trying to use the statistics to make people aware of things other statistics do not take into account, or flat out ignore.
According to the EPA these are the primary GHG'S that are effecting climate change. However, their little pie chart does not even mention the most heat reflecting green house gas of all, water vapor. Since water vapor is determined by temperature, it is widely considered a non-entity as far as its effects on global warming. So in a nut shell, the release of the other GHG's are determinate in the amount of water vapor in our atmosphere. ( we will look closer at this later on ). In my opinion though there is another reason they do not include water vapor. The whole purpose of the EPA studies is to prove CO2 through our fossil fuel use is the worst offender. After all, the EPA despises fossil fuel use, and is politically motivated to prove their point.
If we were to add water vapor to this chart it would look more like this.
Obviously, this pie chart would make it much more difficult to convince people that CO2 is the big bad bogey man. This is what I was saying about statistics, emit one little thing, and you can make them say whatever you want them to. Now I must reiterate that the amount of water vapor in our atmosphere is determined by temperature, so the release of the other GHG's is a determining factor. I am trying hard not to turn this into a climatology lecture, so I am going to link to a lot of information or this article would never end. For more on water cycles and the atmosphere, you can visit these websites. (1) (2)
So lets take a look at CO2. This is by far the most common GHG other than water vapor lurking in our atmosphere. So, where does it come from? The shorter list would be where it does not come from. Every biological on this planet releases CO2. Humans and animals exhale it, it rises from the oceans, it rises from every inch of soil on the planet, volcanoes create the greatest release of CO2 other than the non-natural release by human activity. Even plants that primarily pull CO2 out of the atmosphere, release small amounts back into the atmosphere. I know, your saying: "that's not right, plants take in CO2 and release Oxygen, not the other way around." That is very true... during the daytime, when they have sunlight which is necessary for photosynthesis. Plants still need to maintain their metabolism and respiration at night when they
do not have sunlight, they do this by taking in Oxygen, and sugars, and releasing CO2 and water vapor. The good news is they release many, many times the amount of Oxygen during the day than CO2 at night, so it is negligible, and all but harmless, so don't go throwing out all of your house plants just yet.
In scientific circles the estimate of human causation to global warming ranges from around 41%- 100% responsibility. 100%, Ummmm, did we somehow lose ALL of the natural sources for global warming effects? Any how, according to most information I have found, somewhere in the area of 97% of scientists state that global warming is real, and CAUSED by human activity. I do not believe this because I have a very useful tool in my box called common sense. If you just put your faith in the most prevalent studies, statistics, and percentages handed out through the media, you are not getting enough information to see the whole picture. Therefore, you are unable to apply common sense to your thought process. I like to call this "intentional ignorance". Simply put, you cannot process and use information you do not have, and when the information you do have is incomplete, ( quite often intentionally ) it is impossible to make a well informed decision.
Co2 is the most essential green house gas there is for life. Nothing on this Earth would be alive without it. Why? Because there would be no plants to produce the Oxygen everything needs to live. No CO2, no photosynthesis, no plants, no life. My thinking on this led me down a path I had really not thought much about before then, but once I dug into it I gained a whole new perspective on this issue. Since the industrial revolution beginning in the 18th century, humans have indeed created many industries that pump CO2 and other GHG's into the atmosphere at alarming rates. The negative impact of this is quantifiable, so I do not dispute this. However, there are many other human activity's that contribute to global warming. One of these, that no one really talks about accounts for 25-30 percent of GHG's released into the atmosphere annually, compared to around 14% ( this number is including natural CO2 contributions) by human transportation and industry. This activity also makes it harder to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Deforestation of tropical rainforests.
"Clear cutting" or "clear felling" is the most inexpensive and efficient way to harvest timber, so by default, it is the most common process used. As you can see in the image to the right, it is quite devastating to these ecosystems. Here is a way to kind of put this in perspective. In one decade alone, 1990-2000 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported 8.9 million hectares of forest was mowed down (per year). 2000-2005 another 7.3 million hectares per year disappeared by human hands. So, 8.9 million times ten= 89 million hectares, plus 37 million hectares is a whopping 126 million hectares of deforestation in only 15 years. That converts over to about 600,000 sq. miles of forest land. For perspective, the state of Alaska, our largest state, is 663,268 sq. miles. Really think about that for a minute and let it sink in. That was only in a fifteen year time period. Here again in order to make it to where this article actually ends at some point, I am going to link to some reference material that I also used for sources above. (1) (2) The second website linked here gives a running total on this issue, pretty alarming.
Aside from the millions of tons of CO2 released by cutting these trees down in the first place, what is left is an ugly raw scar of soil that no longer has the shade protection of the trees branches. The sun will beat down on this open soil relentlessly causing decomposers in the soil to kick into high gear releasing even more CO2 into the air over a longer period of time. Then of course we have the fact that there are now billions of trees that will no longer pull CO2 back out of the atmosphere. I will give you one more thing to put some perspective on this issue. It takes a tremendous amount of heavy equipment to remove these trees by clear cutting, and they are all pumping burnt diesel and gasoline into the air, CO2. The amount of CO2 all of these machines expel is almost non-existent compared to the CO2 released by the trees themselves being cut down. The more you know!
So, we have established that deforestation is a greater contributor to CO2 release than burning fossil fuels. It is still human caused, but getting control of this would be a far less expensive method of controlling CO2 emissions, and would have a far more positive effect on the environment. We have to look at the whole picture. Sure, we lose the trees, which is bad, but we are also devastating the local wildlife. According to a report by Dr. Robert Ewers, Imperial College of London, Dept. of Life Sciences, deforestation in Brazils amazon will most likely cause the extinction of 15 mammal, 30 bird, and 10 amphibian species by the year 2050. Those numbers are only in Brazil, almost every country in the world practices clear cutting. (1) (2)
Another major contributor to global warming is overfishing, This does not add CO2 to the air, but complicates the oceans ability to remove it. Our oceans annual uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere is somewhere around 2.5 billion tons per year, according to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography report for the decade 2002-2011, or 26% of the estimated 9.2 billion tons released during that time period. Keep in mind that this report only considers human activity in it's numbers, they do not include sources of natural CO2 release.
In order to better understand this we have to look at the process itself. In the simplest terms CO2 enters through the oceans surface where a type of algae called phytoplankton eat it during photosynthesis. The phytoplankton eventually die and sink to the bottom of the ocean where they decompose, storing CO2 for future exchanges with the atmosphere. The amount of C02 consumed by these tiny organisms that make up 95% of the ocean biomass, is comparable to the amount taken in each year by our forests and other plants through their photosynthesis. They are also the backbone of our entire food chain, they feed everything from microscopic organisms to the largest species of whale, all the way up to humans. Phytoplankton are also directly and indirectly responsible for around half of the oxygen we breath. Are you getting the picture? If these marine algae did not exist, neither would anything else that needs oxygen to stay alive. I would say they are pretty damn important.
Keep in mind that our oceans are nearly closed ecosystems, every living thing they hold lives, dies, and is recycled through decomposition. The only thing that can interrupt this cycle, is human intervention, which brings us to overfishing. Pollution is another very bad thing that can affect ocean PH levels causing acidification of the water, which in turn affects everything that lives in them. This however is already included with the human impact numbers of burning fossil fuels, just wanted you to know I had not forgot about it. Besides, remember what I keep saying about an eventual end to this article? It would never happen if I go through every little factor. Here is some reference material though. (1) (2) (3) I am also including a link to a full feature documentary (3) called Plastic Paradise The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Dir. Angela Sun. Perf. Angela Sun. National Geographic Channel, n.d. That was to me a real eye opener. Watch it on YouTube here.
There is absolutely no disputing that we are killing our oceans through overfishing. I recently watched a Smithsonian Channel documentary on the subject, which is why I decided to include overfishing in this article. It is called An Ocean Mystery: The Missing Catch. Perf. Kahled Bin Sultan. Smithsonian Channel, n.d. You can find some highlights and a preview of the program here. I really recommend watching it, because it was a big source for my information. You can double check the information yourself (and I always recommend doing so) but I have already done so myself. I could find nothing to dispute this documentary's facts.
If you click on the image to the right, it will enlarge. This is a graphic that explains the relationship of all organisms to each other within the biomass. This is called the "Food Web". I limited it to oceanic, but it continues all the way up to us. Overfishing of human consumable fish, and shellfish changes the natural cycle. Remove too many of one level predator, their prey numbers grow while the level beneath them declines even more due to more predators than available prey. The greatest contributor to this is "by catch" in which many more other species of sea life die and are discarded through the process of acquiring the species we want. The chain is broken. Symbiosis becomes parasitism and the middle of the pyramid dies. The effect spreads in all directions, affecting every living thing on this planet. Another issue to mention concerning all waterways on our planet, is Bio magnification. I will let you read about that so I can move on, but this mostly human caused issue also has a devastating effect on phytoplankton world wide.
Make no mistake, overfishing is a global problem, and its impact is felt in many spectrums. Social, economical, and environmental impacts of this practice are extremely serious, since millions of people across the globe depend on fishing for sustenance and income every day. Therefore the impact is greatly magnified by the growing population of humans every year. An even greater contributor to overfishing than our ever growing need to support even more people, is technology. Fishing vessels have grown to massive size, including ships that can process, and package sea life for sale while they are out on open water. They do not even have to dock in order to offload the packaged goods, this is accomplished by a fleet of transfer ships. For an example of this, lets take a look at the fish processing ship Lafayette, ( this ship has been renamed Damanzaihao) operated by the Pacific Andes shipping conglomerate.
This ship is the biggest processing ship in the world. It allows fishing vessels to offload their catch without having to return to shore, which means they can more efficiently reach their quotas. This 700 ft. long ship can process on average 1,500 tons, or around three million pounds of fish per day. When looking at these numbers remember, this ship almost never docks, so it is cranking 24-7, 365. If this ship stays out all year, that's 547,500 tons of fish processed per year.
There are also massive trawlers like the former Atlantic Dawn (renamed Annelies Ilena ) Kevin McHugh, owner, passed away in 2006. This is a 144 meter, ( or around 472 feet) 14000 ton pelagic trawler hailing from Ireland. Unlike the Damanzaihao above, the Annelies Ilena also has the capacity to actually fish, as well as process and package the catch. You can see this ship in action here. This one trawler can fish, process and store up to 7,000 tons of fish in its freezers. To put that in perspective, there are entire country's in this world that do not catch that many fish in a year. It becomes very alarming when you consider that these are just the two largest ships in their designation, there are thousands more like them roaming our entire ocean system. So what does that translate into as far as impact to our ecosystem?
63% of fish stocks world wide are considered overfished. A result of this can be seen in the numbers of 40,000 jobs lost just from the collapse of one species of cod due to overfishing.
Top predators in the ocean are also showing the impact of this practice through declining numbers.
We have decimated European eels with a loss of 99%
95% of Southern and Pacific Bluefin tuna are gone.
Salmon populations in rivers world wide have been falling dramatically, even disappearing all together in many places. They are now being found on many regional threatened species lists.
Many species of shark and ray are now on the IUCN "Red List"
According to a report from Tremblay-Boyer, L. (n.d.). Marine Ecology Progress Searies (1) 80% of apex level predators have disappeared from coastal waters of both the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans
Removal of these predators create a population explosion in their given prey. Who in turn due to higher numbers deplete their prey faster, leaving them no option but to start eating other species as prey. This cascade effect runs all of the way back down to our little algae phytoplankton who now have many more species relying on them to support the food web. This has in part resulted in a 40% decline in phytoplankton numbers since 1950, as of 2010. Are you starting to notice a pattern here? No one in the press has really been talking about any of this since around 2012-2014, which means the Politicians are not talking about it. Their sole focus is on the impact of fossil fuel burning, and making it seem like the big fix.
Personally I have never been one who takes things at face value, or a linear thinker. Think
about it like this. Most people light a candle and just enjoy the mood. When I light a candle I am asking myself how many BTU's does it take to light that wick, is it cotton or synthetic, is it bees wax or paraffin, just how long would the candle burn left uninterrupted? This is the same approach I used when looking into global warming. Once I got away from the politics and the main stream media who filter information, I started looking at university research projects on oceanography, agriculture, coastal erosion, and climatology. The best of the best young minds whos only focus is on the science, yep, those are the people I want to listen to. Everything I have written here is my personal belief based on that research.
Everything is interconnected and reliant on each other for survival on this rock we call home. The only difference between us and everything else, is that not only are all of our problems self inflicted, every other species is affected by what we do. Did we cause global warming by burning fossil fuels? I do not buy that from what I found in papers such as this: Ball, T. (2008). Measurment of Pre-industrial CO2 levels. that show no real evidence of this being the case when combined with other research projects findings. Look, in the end it truly is all up to what we each choose to believe. This is the reality I choose to believe based on the facts I could verify, or quantify. The more we are focused on one element of an issue for nothing more than political agendas, and money, issues like the two above that in my opinion are of far greater concern, go unchecked. From what I have put together myself using common sense, controlling clear cutting, and overfishing would be a less expensive, and more efficient way to adjust CO2 levels than shutting down internal combustion engines, killing industry, and creating unheard of unemployment rates. The effects would also happen much faster because it is a two for one deal. Not only do we reduce the real primary contributor to CO2 emission, clear cutting, we also reduce the threat to the primary consumer of CO2, or oceans and forests.
So it seems to me that since our worlds governments are supposed to be working towards sustainability, this would be the best place to start. Why don't they? There's no profit in it. Green energy has the potential to be a billionaire maker during its rise to replace fossil fuels. Which it will eventually and I am all for that. Just not the way it is happening. This is not capitalism, its exploitation for profit, while the citizens of this world pay the bill, many times with their homes, livelihood, and even their lives. Think about overfishing, the amount of fish taken from the ocean by these commercial fleets feed everyone in the world... except the local fisherman along the shores
of every continent they work. who no longer catch enough fish to feed their families, let alone make a profit. This is the death of an ecosystem in real time, an ecosystem we can literally not afford to lose.
Support moving toward a cleaner energy source, that is nothing but a good thing in my opinion... eventually. Take what I have told you here and learn more. You have to get out of the main stream information highway, its all about money and politics, not science. The scientists that have been shouted down as lunatics and conspiracy theorists by the mainstream agenda are a wealth of information and facts. Remember, it really was not that long ago that the greatest scientific minds in our history were condemned as being the same thing. It is impossible to make a well informed decision based on half of the information, so why do we do it? Who the hell really knows why we do half of the stuff we do!
"Knowledge is the foundation of power, those who control it rule, those who receive it are the controlled'. Ghost