Posted 04 August 2010 - 09:27 PM
In my opinion, we should be concern about global warming. It is a threat and we should do everything we can to slow it down and prepare our civilization for changes that are to come.
The earth has experience higher temperatures and lower temperatures, The average global temperature at the moment is about 14C and at present we are exiting the last ice age. Global average temperature at the height of a warm period between ice ages is about 20C. So yes, the earth is warming up on its own and doing so at a rapid pace, in terms of geological time. On human terms the earth is warming slowly, but warming it is. About 8000 years ago, global warming finally turned the Sahara savannah into a desert, driving human populations east into the Nile (and believe by some to spark the Egyptian civilization) and south into Africa. It turned the upper reaches of the yellow river into an arid waste, destroying early chinese settlements and thus give birth to yellow silt now washed into the yellow river.
What humans are currently doing are doing is helping this natural trend by pumping in giga tons of carbon into the atmosphere, carbon which has been out of circulation for a very long time. In the case of coal, for about 350 million years, no since the carboniferous age, where CO2 concentration was about 1800ppm. Given this extra push, it is easy to assume that the maximum global average temperature of warm period will be higher than any other. We might even be able to break out of the cyclic ice ages.
And why should we be concern?
Not for the earth. It would be fine. Not for life, species go extinct all the time and the ones that survive will adapt and fill all the empty niches.. And from a geological scale, we already are in an extinction event, with humans doing their part to contribute. Not for the human species. I believe we are too adaptable a species.
The answer is our civilization, our modern global technological civilization. Efficient function of this civilization has resulted in specialization, to a degree we would find worrying if we thought about it.. How many of us grow enough food to feed ourselves? One? None! Or know how to build a computer from raw materials. The answer is nobody. All of us (aside from communities isolated in far away jungles) are dependent on a supply chain, which we use and in turn add to. A key component of this global supply chain are sea ports.
Take zippers found in every day clothes. Over 90% of all zippers are made in Japan and most by a single company YKK. If the trade through Japanese seaports was disrupted, either by rising sea level, or increase storms activity, the world would effectively be without zippers. Japan is also the only nation in the world (aside from russia) which can build the reaction vessel to hold the nuclear pile of nuclear power stations. No Japan, and it would be very difficult to build a nuclear power station. Similar single point weakness in the global supply chain can be found elsewhere. Take RAM, the actual memory blocks within the card are made almost exclusively in Taiwan. Take palm oil, global supply comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, which is used extensively in food products. Wool, uranium and aluminium from Australia. Titanium from India.
As for crop failure... in the warm spell 2 year ago, eastern Europe had a poor harvest. A single poor harvest and it sent flour prices in UK spiking, nearly doubling, until the government put price control on and use food reserves in warehouses to make up the deficit. Now if there were two poor harvest in close succession, what do you think would happen?
Civilization collapse. Yes, it has happened repeated in human history but never like this. To produce our civilization, we have consumed all easily available natural resources. Most concentrated ore deposits on the surface are now gone. Look at oil. Can you imagine a person with 1800 technology, trying to convince investors that he wants their money to drill for oil (a substance of limited use, as plastics have not been rediscovered) which can only be found in abundance in areas where the water depth is 1500m and then only by drilling a hole 9km underground. And with no crude oil, there are no plastics, almost no synthetic fabrics, and no high purity chemicals. IIf our current civilization collapse, I find it very hard to imagine another technological civilization rising from the ashes to take its place.
So yes we should be worried. And if the question of how important important are human contribution to global warming, trying putting yourself in this situation. Your house is on fire! Does it matter if the fire was caused by a spark from the fireplace or from playing with matches. Would your immediate actions be any different? If it were caused by sparks from the fireplace, would you stop trying and let the house burn down with you in it?
The whole point of green technology and green movement in my mind is to buy time, decades, hopefully centuries of time. We can rebuild our seaports if sea level rise over the centuries, change our crops if we are given many decades. Even move whole population centers smoothly if we had enough time. But we can not adapt without major damage to civilization if the changes are happening too quickly. And that fast pace is what human aided global warming is now setting.
May your PCR products be long, your protocols short and your boss on holiday