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From Equalibrium To A Roller Coaster Without Brakes

Knowing Nothing.

Writing about the earth's climate compels me to think about how the earth came into existence which takes me back to the beginning of time. My point is simply that I begin my thoughts about the earth's climate from an attitude of reverence and astonishment and wherever you are, the climate is a sizeable part of what the place is. Its temperature, humidity, winds (or not), the tendency to a certain kind of weather, what is in the air besides the air is part of its idendity. And photogrphic views I have of wilderness and cities (especially at night) all contribute.

None of these impinges directly on climate change except it places me and everyone else in what to me is a place of honor for that singularity was the origin of everything. The earliest member of the genus homo is homo habilis which evolved around 2.8 million years ago. Homo habilis is the first species for which we have positive evidence of the use of stone tools.

Archiology dates humans, homo sapiens, from about 200,000 to 100,000 years ago. Their effect on the climate was small for a very long time. In fact there really was none until the development of the steam engine in the mid-1800s.

Then the imact grew as the fossel fuels provided power generation and heat. The impact was small at first but grew rapidly. Even in 1968 when "earthrise" (above) was made it was a different planet from the earth today. Technology found thousands of ways to use energy in the form of fire, burning oil, natural gas or wood. Oil in particular is transformed into plastics, rubber and liquid fuel. Beyond energy there are few materials, devices, machines that do not require burning or modfying fossel fuels. Every "plastic," every container, every metal requires fossel fuesls either as raw material and/or energy for processing, transportation or supplementary materials (fertilizer for eample).

The impact on the climate is illustrated in the graph showing the beginning in the rise of temperature of the earth starting about 1860, a result of the greenhouse effect.


Curve fitting single exponentional approximation to NASA data.

The implication is that around 2020 there is the possibility of the climate experiencing a rapid increase in temperature. So far the coorporation of high-emission nations has been poor raising the possibility of catastrophic temperature increases.

The "actual temperature" comes from NASA. I made the blue curve by the simple method of guessing a basic curve shape (in this case a power function) and then "curve-fitting" by adjusting constants in the equation until I got the best fit. This is partly by eye but mostly by calculating the RMS error. (Note that having Excel do the fitting gives a polynomoninal expansion of the same shape, but-depending on the number of terms it is either higher or lower than my curve. All would be reasonable guesses for the track the temperature would follow depending on a host of other variables.

Since 1°C has caused considerable havoc there is serious concern what the Paris Accord of 1.5°C might do and considerable concern that it can be achieved at all. Most countries, especially the larger ones, are making little progress in reducing emissions. Consequently 2°C is now being conidered a more achievable target. This would seriously increase problems with more intense storms and precipetation, winds, droughts, etc.

In either case there are many jokers in the deck. A climate that is out of equilibrum is particularly dangerous and there is no way of predicting what might happen. A respite is very unlikely simply because more carbon is constantly being added to the atmosphere.

Reverence and joy have turned to regret for not having been aware of what was happening. Dissapointment in humanity should be deep and full of sorrow.

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