Any linear process, pushed too far, will become non-linear. This is true in psychology, as it is in imploding stars. (It is even true in Quantum Physics, where it used to be called “collapse” and now is called “decoherence”, because “collapse” did not sound too good, probably… Actually the switch from linear to nonlinear, is the greatest mystery of the Quantum; we will massage it below, with an ominous message, naturally…) And it is obviously true for the climate. Climate change can be slowly and steady (it took 35 million years to cool the dinosaurs into extinction, although the end of the process was nonlinear…) Climate change can also be extremely brutal, on the orders of years, not millions of years (contemplate the Younger Dryas, dramatic, extremely brutal glaciations which lasted no more than a millennium, the most spectacular being 18,000 years ago).
This is a complicated world. We are its gods, and we are warming up the party. Global sea ice is the sum of sea ice, worldwide, mostly found in the Arctic and Antarctica. It is suddenly collapsing. Yes, global ice fluctuates with the seasons. Yet, consider this graph:
Just invert that graph, transforming the ice collapse into sea rise: this is what is going to happen. And not in 5000 years, as corrupt scientists have hopefully suggested. No: it could start to happen in 2017. And it will certainly start very soon, in the lifetime of existing politicians.
How did these scientists get corrupt? By hope and inertia: good jobs are given to those with good news, however fake those “news” may be. Especially if said good “news” reinforce the existing establishment. There was actually nothing new in claiming that Greenland and Antractica would stay covered with ice. It was actually old news.
There was no reason, whatsoever, to think that the giant ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica would stay stable under enormous warming. (Whereas global air warming is only 1.2 Centigrade above the baseline, warming in polar regions is several times this. This fact is explainable by logic alluded to below.)
However, there were excellent reasons, excellent because they were very simple, to believe they were not going to stay stable. I have found them, and exposed them on this site. Two reasons are most prominent.
One I could call that the permafrost argument: as temperatures shift up, by a few degrees Centigrade (= Celsius), the permafrost line has to travel hundreds of kilometers north, or south. As it does, ice sheets melt.
However, and this is the second major reason, ice sheets, which are up to four kilometers thick, exert a pressure of 4,000 tons per square meter (that means roughly 40,000 tons over the footprint of a car). The ice sheets thus press the continents down by thousands of meters, so warm water will slip below the ice, falling all the way underneath, and the disintegration will be brutal. (Such brutality has been caught on film.)
I am struggling with an essay which demonstrates why Obama wanted Trump elected (and how he accomplished this). Not easy to explain to those who cling to a simpler world (so the work is still in progress). Yet there is a first lesson therein:that our world has become so complicated, so poorly organized, and so dangerously managed, and our powers so great, that a single individual’s brain structure impacts significantly the biosphere.
A case in point is Kim of North Korea: a certified maniac who rules the world by instilling respect for his own insanity (he claims to be developing a nuclear “deterrent” by being able to throw nuclear bombs at any country, anywhere.)
So what’s up with the ice? Sea ice depends upon a cold sea. Ice on top of the sea, or land, throws back sunlight like a shield, back to space, before photons can dig in the ground, or the ocean, and deliver in the depths their momentum-energy, raising the agitation, thus temperature there. Once the ice cover is gone, photons can heat up the depths. Normal temperature measurements which make headlines are just about air temperature, a meter off the ground. They are not about the rise of temperatures of the depths.
If, at some point the rise of temperature of the depths becomes to great to allow ice or snow cover in winter, ground, or ocean temperature is exposed to photons, thus heat, even in the cool season, and a vicious circle, a different regime, starts.
The transition does not have to be smooth. In Quantum Physics, a system can “tunnel” between a local minima, and another, even lower (this is “classically” not allowed). So will object that climatology is a “classical” system. And they are obviously wrong: this is the famous paradox of the hurricane started by a butterfly’s wings. Ultimately, Quantum systems decide of everything: if zillions of Quantum systems switch to a lower energy state together, we have a “classical” transition.
Thus, the climate of the entire planet will LURCH to a different state. The collapse of global sea ice is an early indicator of the incoming catastrophe (reminiscent of when some temperature indicators went up inside the left wing of the Space Shuttle Columbia; by then, Columbia was doomed; in our case, we are not doomed terminally: we will be more or less doomed, depending upon how we react now).
This happened countless times in the past: the AMOC (or Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation), is the planet’s most significant current: it enables the Gulf Stream to go warm-up Europe gently. However, sometimes, it gets cold before making it to Iceland, and drops to the sea bottom, 6,000 meters down, short of the entire north-east corner of the Atlantic.
As it does in the fictional and exaggerated movie “The Day After Tomorrow”, when the AMOC brutally changes (this we know, for a fact explained mysterious flash freezes in the past, more than 10,000 years ago).
Actually my own position is more subtle: I do not expect a brutal glaciation in Europe, as when the AMOC lurched last, because there is plainly not enough easily liquefiable cold in the Arctic. However, I expect something way worse: brutal sea level rise, in the tens of meters. My reasoning is terrible in its brutal simplicity: warm oceanic water will slip underneath, and then fall thousands of meters below the ice sheets. Yes, below. For more details, please read:
Warm winds on top will not help, and have already disintegrated major ice shelves in days (like four days: by happenstance, measuring instruments caught the disintegration of a major ice shelf, ten years ago: it was immediately preceded by a four-day, 16 Celsius (62 F) wind storm (with hurricane winds). Said winds are of course augmenting. Because of thermodynamic effects, extremely warm winds can occur even in July, in the heart of Antarctica’s winter, bringing temperatures up by 40 Celsius (from minus 30 C to plus 10 C), vaporizing the snow cover (winds are augmenting all over the planet, as more energy is pumped into the biosphere).
The Obama administration did precious little about the developing climate catastrophe (his own administrator just testified in Congress that Obama administration policies had an impact of .01%; even the much derided governor Perry from Texas did much more, by transforming the One Star State into a large wind farm!)
Trump could do much more, by killing two birds with one stone. He could do what Obama and the establishment which used him as a puppet, did not dare do. Mostly because they are very serious, respectable people getting their power from even more serious, more respectable people.
Set-up a worldwide carbon tax. Europe will cooperate: several European countries already have carbon taxes, all tax gasoline and diesel at enormous rates. It happens that, under Obama, the US government was selling the best coal in the world, five times below cost (a Science Magazine lead article detailed this in December 2016; I planned to write an essay on it, but did not find the time-energy…). That dragged all coal prices down, worldwide, and was an anti-carbon tax.
By lifting that best-coal price in Federal lands, thanks to a carbon tax, Trump would bring coal prices up (thus momentarily helping the coal miners who voted for him).
Such is the way. There is no alternative (slogan of the stupid Thatcher!). Of course, there is so much inertia in the system, a rise of three degrees Centigrade is guaranteed, and coastal cities will have either to be evacuated, or sit behind ten stories tall levees…
Anyway, let climate skeptics munch on the graph on top. Brutal floods are a historical fact. Sumerian civilization was drowned in a sudden flood. And yes, it was man-made, we understand this now. 43 centuries ago, the most advanced civilization, or, more exactly, one of the roots of what would become the most advanced civilization (ours) was wiped out in a matter of days, by a man-made cataclysm.
Meditation is the noblest pursuit of humanity. Or, at least, the one activity which characterizes humanity best.