Friday, January 18, 2008

Mankind May Become Extinct

Either our world leaders are going to recognize global warming as a real threat to humanity and address it properly, or the entire human population may become extinct.

The effects and consequences of global warming are both frightening and overwhelming. Currently, global warming is modestly increasing the average temperatures throughout the world. However, these temperature increases will continue to spiral upwards and cause massive climate changes throughout the world. For instance, these temperature changes will increase the average worldwide rainfall yet decrease rain in some areas, thus negatively affecting farming everywhere. Seasons to grow foods will shorten in some areas and lengthen in other areas, while few farmers will be to adapt to these changes quickly enough. And farmers will be unable to properly change the types of their crops, because the local climate changes will be continuously too unpredictable and changing too quickly.

Eventually, both polar ice caps will start melting at a very fast rate because of global warming. This will cause the world's oceans to rise rapidly. Not quickly enough to cause tsunami like conditions to drown thousands of people, but rather people will be forced to evacuate coastal cities, where most of the world's population now lives, to higher ground that is more inland. No one knows for certain how high the world's oceans will increase; but whatever the height, global warming will decrease the amount of land available for human use. This will decrease the amount of farm land available, thus further decreasing the amount of food mankind can grow. Since a large percentage of the world's population already do not grow enough food, this will cause mass starvations. The sudden increase in population densities in smaller cities not prepared for a surge in population growth will cause huge sanitation issues and diseases will spread much more rapidly, especially with food becoming more scarce.

Furthermore with the ice caps melting, the amount of sunlight reflected back into space will decrease thus increasing the temperature of the Earth even faster. Underneath these receding ice caps and glaciers is dead organic matter that when thawed with release even more heat trapping greenhouse gases (carbon emissions) into the environment. While all this time, humankind will continue to produce an ever increasing amount of carbon emissions via pollution into the environment.

Eventually, global warming will melt enough of the polar ice to modify the world's oceans in two ways. First, the oceans will start to desalinate, in other words the salt in the sea water will be more diluted by the fresh water from the ice. Second, the oceans' water temperature will drop because of the cold melting ice, and this will cause the oceans' currents to change. Since the world's ecosystem is regulated by the ocean's currents, this will cause another ice age. That's right, global warming will start another ice age. Human civilization is not equipped to survive an ice age that will last a few years let alone a few thousand years. No one knows when this ice age will start, but the world's agriculture can not sustain the world's population during an ice age. This may even cause the extinction of mankind.

No one knows when this ice age will happen, but it is coming. We know that the cycle of temperature increases are followed by ice ages, but this time the changes are not natural. These changes are caused by man-made greenhouse gases released in the environment. Therefore scientists believe that the next ice age will start much sooner than the scientific evidence has proven to have happened in the past.

Let's review for a moment.

Global warming is the effects of greenhouse causing gases released into the environment that increases the average temperature of the world, thus adding more energy into the atmosphere. This increase in temperature and energy will cause an increase in rain and hurricanes, and wreck havoc to the agriculture of the world's food supply. Eventually, enough of the world's icecaps will melt to increase the world's sea levels, thus further destroying the world's agriculture land.

Furthermore, the melting ice water will disrupt the world's oceans that regulate the world's temperatures and cause an ice age. And finally, human civilization currently can not survive an ice age.

As a result, our world leaders have to recognize global warming as a real threat to humanity. They need to both try to slow down global warming and prepare for its eventuality. If they do not, the collapse of the human civilization is almost certain, and the entire human race is at risk of becoming extinct.

The Day After Tomorrow- the movie, a subplot involves the refusal of the Vice President of the United States to accept the threat of global warming—despite increasingly extreme weather conditions occurring throughout the world—insisting that measures to prevent it will do too much damage to the economy.

Published on Sunday, February 6, 2005

"We will leave behind a very warm world for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren".

This gloom outlook comes from a meteorological and environmental expert Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah during a discussion on this year's World Environment Day celebration themed "Climate Change".

The Universiti Malaya's Geography Department head voiced his concern and fear over global warming and the indifference shown by Malaysians on the matter. On the scale of 10, the awareness of Malaysians on global warming is only about three to four.

Hence, it is a clear indication that environmental issues are not really the cup of tea for an average Malaysian.


Globally, the earth's temperature has risen by about two degrees varying from region to region. The Arctic for one has warmed up at a much greater rate than the rest of the globe.

Studies point to the fact that the changes are anthropegenic or in layman's term human induced changes on the natural environment.

"Scientists are now certain that 98 percent of the global warming that we are experiencing now is due to carbon dioxide emission from the burning of fossil fuel since the 18th century.

"So now you have two problems. When the level of carbon dioxide rises, you will have a stronger greenhouse effect and this will cause the temperature to rise. Then the earth will start to respond to the rising temperature and ultimately leads to climate change," explained Prof Azizan.

His comments were based on the Fourth Assessment Report (Climate Change 2007) of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC).


"The climatic changes are occurring at a very alarming rate. The shortest earth cycle for variation of climate is about 10,000 years but now we are talking about 100 years, about two generations away only.

"The question now is whether we still want stay addicted to fossil fuel. Since the 18th century, when we made a transition to fossil fuel, the world has become addicted to it. So like any other addiction, we have to wean ourselves out of this addiction," said Prof Azizan.

The people are not really concerned with the effects of the innocuous carbon dioxide.

According to Prof Azizan, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from about 280 parts per million (ppm) recorded in the 18th century (pre-industrial revolution era) to 379 ppm in 2005.

"We may end up with 700 ppm by 2099 if we go about our business as usual.

"We are not in that region yet but if we carry on doing what we are doing now instead of stabilising the carbon dioxide emissions by reducing the burning of fossil fuel, we will be leaving behind a very warm world to our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren," said a concerned Prof Azizan.

He said the IPCC has recommended that the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere be stabilised at a "manageable level of 450 ppm".


According to Prof Azizan, the earth has been experiencing rising temperatures since the 90s. He cited examples of the extreme warm climate in France, warmer temperatures in the Siberian region and the melting of permafrost (a layer of soil that is permanently frozen in very cold regions) especially in the Arctic region.

"But what is more serious I think, (is that) what is going to happen in the 21st century. Scientists are predicting the whole sea of ice in the Arctic will melt by the summer of 2099.

"The ice cap of Greenland may also start to go. The other one that they thought might give way but at the moment is still holding on is the West Antarctic ice cap. By that time, if that one goes, you may have the sea level rising by about 7 metres," said Prof Azizan.

But can we arrest global warming by reducing fossil fuel consumption?

"Even if we reduce our fossil fuel consumption, there is nothing much we can do now to change the climatic direction. It will take about 200 to 300 years to clear carbon dioxide from the earth's system," he said adding that big developing economies such as China and India may resist cutting down fossil fuel consumption.

Besides fossil fuel, the change in land use contributes to about 30 percent of carbon dioxide emission.


On the home front, even though Malaysia is not a major contributor of the greenhouse gas, its citizens must start thinking about what is going to happen to them. They should never forget the old adage 'No Man Is An Island'.

Prof Azizan said: " We can't be living under the coconut shell forever. Global warming is a global threat!"

With sea levels projected to rise by seven-metres, low-lying areas such as Kuala Muda (Kedah) and Kelantan will be gravely impacted.

"A big chunk of those areas will go. Even our monsoons will not be spared. We will experience more rain during the north-east monsoon which means more flooding," he explained.

He admitted that the biggest problem would be how to bring the message home.

Nevertheless, the Malaysian society needs to be educated that they will not be spared from any threat to the environment anywhere in this world.

"To educate and not to alarm," he said.


Prof Azizan also touched on the state of our ecosystem. He lamented that the resources of the ecosystem are being stretched to the limits and provided examples like over fishing and logging.

"The earth's six billion population is depleting the earth's natural resources at an alarming rate. On top of that, you bring global warming. So how much stress can the whole system take?" he asked.

According to Prof Azizan, an interesting point being widely discussed is the possibility of mankind becoming extinct!

"People are saying that the earth, if you push it to a certain temperature will be able to adapt but can mankind adapt to the changing ecosystem? Will mankind become extinct? It can happen. Look what happened to the dinosaurs!" he said providing an analogy.

Besides the negative impact of global warming, Prof Azizan said that there are some positive gains including more opportunities in seeking alternative energy.

He pointed at nuclear and solar energy as viable alternatives.

"Malaysia should explore nuclear energy. This we have to learn ourselves. Korea has done it. Solar power is another option. We got so much sun, about 300 to 400 watts per metre. We can make it as our building policy.

"Whatever it is, we need a strong political will. The public must demand for it. Of course they can demand when they know the issue and how it will impact them," stressed Prof Azizan.

Remember, the above article was more than 3 years more.

The Future - Prediction or Reality?

Floods, storms and droughts. Melting Arctic ice, shrinking glaciers, oceans turning to acid. The world's top scientists warned that dangerous climate change is taking place today, not the day after tomorrow. You don't believe it?


What could happen? Wars break out over diminishing water resources as populations grow and rains fail.

How would this come about? Over 25 per cent more people than at present are expected to live in countries where water is scarce in the future, and global warming will make it worse.

How likely is it? Former UN chief Boutros Boutros-Ghali has long said that the next Middle East war will be fought for water, not oil.


What could happen? Low-lying island such as the Maldives and Tuvalu - with highest points only a few feet above sea-level - will disappear off the face of the Earth.

How would this come about? As the world heats up, sea levels are rising, partly because glaciers are melting, and partly because the water in the oceans expands as it gets warmer.

How likely is it? Inevitable. Even if global warming stopped today, the seas would continue to rise for centuries. Some small islands have already sunk for ever. A year ago, Tuvalu was briefly submerged.


What could happen? London, New York, Tokyo, Bombay, many other cities and vast areas of countries from Britain to Bangladesh disappear under tens of feet of water, as the seas rise dramatically.

How would this come about? Ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica melt. The Greenland ice sheet would raise sea levels by more than 20ft, the West Antarctic ice sheet by another 15ft.

How likely is it? Scientists used to think it unlikely, but this year reported that the melting of both ice caps had begun. It will take hundreds of years, however, for the seas to rise that much.


What could happen? Global warming escalates to the point where the world's whole climate abruptly switches, turning it permanently into a much hotter and less hospitable planet.

How would this come about? A process involving "positive feedback" causes the warming to fuel itself, until it reaches a point that finally tips the climate pattern over.

How likely is it? Abrupt flips have happened in the prehistoric past. Scientists believe this is unlikely, at least in the foreseeable future, but increasingly they are refusing to rule it out.


What could happen? Famously wet tropical forests, such as those in the Amazon, go up in flames, destroying the world's richest wildlife habitats and releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide to speed global warming.

How would this come about? Much of the Amazon will dry out and die within 50 years, making it ready for sparks - from humans or lightning - to set it ablaze.

How likely is it? Very, if the predictions turn out to be right. Already there have been massive forest fires in Borneo and Amazonia, casting palls of highly polluting smoke over vast areas.


What could happen? Britain and northern Europe get much colder because the Gulf Stream, which provides as much heat as the sun in winter, fails.

How would this come about? Melting polar ice sends fresh water into the North Atlantic. The less salty water fails to generate the underwater current which the Gulf Stream needs.

How likely is it? About evens for a Gulf Steam failure this century, said scientists last week.


What could happen? Food production collapses in Africa, for example, as rainfall dries up and droughts increase. As farmland turns to desert, people flee in their millions in search of food.

How would this come about? Rainfall is expected to decrease by up to 60 per cent in winter and 30 per cent in summer in southern Africa this century. By some estimates, Zambia could lose almost all its farms.

How likely is it? Pretty likely unless the world tackles both global warming and Africa's decline. Scientists agree that droughts will increase in a warmer world.


What could happen? The seas will gradually turn more and more acid. Coral reefs, shellfish and plankton, on which all life depends, will die off. Much of the life of the oceans will become extinct.

How would this come about? The oceans have absorbed half the carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming, so far emitted by humanity. This forms dilute carbonic acid, which attacks corals and shells.

How likely is it? It is already starting. Scientists warn that the chemistry of the oceans is changing in ways unprecedented for 20 million years. Some predict that the world's coral reefs will die within 35 years.


What could happen? Malaria - which kills two million people worldwide every year - reaches Britain and Europe with foreign travelers, gets picked up by mosquitos and becomes endemic in the warmer climate.

How would this come about? Four of our 40 mosquito species can carry the disease, and hundreds of travelers return with it annually. The insects breed faster, and feed more, in warmer temperatures.

How likely is it? It may happen by 2050: others mentioned 2020. Some experts say it is miraculous that it has not happened already.


What could happen? Hurricanes, typhoons and violent storms proliferate, grow even fiercer, and hit new areas. Last September's repeated battering of Florida and the Caribbean may be just a foretaste of what is to come, say scientists.

How would this come about? The storms gather their energy from warm seas, and so, as oceans heat up, fiercer ones occur and threaten areas where at present the seas are too cool for such weather.

How likely is it? Scientists are divided over whether storms will get more frequent and whether the process has already begun.