16 February 2014, 04:07

Global warming: what the oil companies don't want you to know

Global warming: what the oil companies don't want you to know

It is a subject that is largely debated while at the same time being quietly pushed onto page 23 but global warming and rising sea levels are topics that affect all of us and are issues we must all pay more attention to. It is however understandable that the issue is not given the importance that it should be because the key cause of global warming is the combustion of fossil fuels and our civilization is driven and dependent on fossil fuels.

The carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that we have released into the atmosphere through our industries and by driving our cars and heating our homes have warmed the overall atmosphere of the Earth by more than 1 full degree Fahrenheit in the last one hundred years and cause sea levels to rise by approximately 8 inches. Experts say that even if we completely stopped burning all fossil fuels the gasses that have already accumulated will continue to warm the Earth for hundreds of years to come. Understandably this is something the huge multinational oil corporations and the car makers would not want to happen, hence the information on global warming, even the scientific studies are all obfuscated, conflicting and inaccurate.

Green House Gasses

The damage has already been done and the results are visible more and more every day. I would argue that the constant reports of anomalous weather conditions that are taking place all over the world and that we are seeing with alarming frequency are a direct result of global warming and rising sea levels and the effects are worse than even the most doomsday predictions.

Last spring scientists conducted studies of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and determined that it had reached 400 parts per million, this is the highest that it has been in the past three million years according to researchers. This will be almost impossible to get rid of until perhaps some new methods are invented to clean up the atmosphere and will continue to cause global warming in what some say will be an accelerated rate even if we somehow manage to limit future greenhouse gas emissions.

Rising Sea Levels, Facts and Figures

Global temperature increases melt ice and affects sea level in two ways, both from thermal expansion, when water grows in volume as it becomes warmer, meaning water at 15 degrees Celsius has more volume than water at 3 degrees Celsius. The rest of the rising sea levels are cause by melting ice. The big concern is that giant ice flows and permafrost in Greenland and Antarctica will begin to melt at an accelerated rate.

In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report predicting that sea levels would rise by a maximum of 58 centimeters by the end of this century. However that report intentionally omitted taking into account the possibility that the ice sheets might begin to melt into the seas more rapidly as the physics of the process were not yet fully understood.

The September 2013 IPCC report put the above figure of maximum seal level rise by 2100 at 98 centimeters and actually published figures on ice flow from the poles. The result was an estimate of sea level rise of 28 to 98 centimeters (a maximum of almost one meter) by 2100. However they are still unclear as to the rate that ice will melt from the ice sheets of Greenland or the Antarctic. These are the two most important areas to be concerned with as those two ice sheets, should they melt, hold enough water to cause a 65 meter rise in global sea levels.

In order for sea levels to not be affected and to maintain their levels there must be equilibrium between the water that is falling on the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, which over time because glacial ice, and that which returns to the sea in the form of icebergs and melting at the edges, this is called the mass balance. Due to increased global atmospheric temperatures a non-zero balance has occurred which is causing global sea levels to rise.

Highly precise satellite gravimetry (the measurement of the strength of the gravitational field) and altimetry (the measurement of elevation or altitude) have allowed scientists to make exact measurements determining that Greenland alone is losing more than 200 billion tons of ice per year. Between 2003 and 2010, a period for which studies have been conducted the total loss to the ice mass from Antarctica, Greenland and the Earth's glaciers and ice caps was about 4.3 trillion tons (1,000 cubic miles). This amount of melted ice added 12mm (0.5 inches) to global sea levels.

Another Method, Worse Results

While most research attempts to measurer sea level changes by attempting to understand and model the physics behind every process involved some have decided that a better and more accurate way to predict the results of global warming and the corresponding sea level rise is to simply calculate sea level changes in correlation with temperature levels over hundreds of years.

The resulting studies are called “semi-empirical” models and tend to be ignored or discounted or not used at all because they show levels as much as twice that of the “process-based” models and show a sea level rise of 2 meters possible by 2100.

One such study was conducted by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research and another by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and they both predict the sea levels rising by up to 2 meters by 2100.

Historical Sea Levels

During the last 2,000 years sea level changes were insignificant with geological observations giving scientists indications that the average rate of sea level rise was only 0.0–0.2 millimeters per year. Sea levels rose by 6 centimeters during the 19th century alone and a stunning 19 centimeters in the 20th century. Between 1870 and 2004 the average yearly rate was 1.95 millimeters. According to satellite data from 1993 to 2009 there was a 3.3 millimeter rise yearly average. This shows that the levels have begun to rise in correlation with human advancements in industry and the amount of fossil fuels we burn.

Threatened Cities Worldwide

By the year 2070 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that over 150 million people who live in the largest port cities of the world will be affected by rising sea levels. If the 2 meters by 2100 scenario is accurate at least 187 million people will be affected. However that conservative estimate fails to account for those in smaller countries and small cities along coasts, where the numbers could be in the billions.

The United States will see the most cities going under water. These cities are already locked into a doomsday forecast and there is nothing that they can do because as I wrote above, even if we stop burning all fossil fuels tomorrow and stopped producing green house gasses, the effects being caused from what is already there will continue to be felt for at least a thousand years. Unless someone invents something to “clean” the atmosphere of course.

Miami Florida, built almost at sea level will be the one of the first US cities to be submerged. Fort Lauderdale Florida and Hoboken New Jersey are also on lists as being the first to go under by 2023 and by 2050 Palm Beach Florida will also join them under water. According to a 2013 report by the World Bank the other major US cities “most at risk”, meaning those that will definitely be under water (as the changes to sea levels are already locked in) are: New York, New Orleans, Tampa and Boston.

The list of cities listed by the World Bank Worldwide include: Guangzhou, China; Mumbai, India; Nagoya, Japan; Shenzen, China and Osaka, Japan, which all top the list. Other cities of note include: Guayaquil, Ecuador; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Zhanjing, China; Khulna, Bangladesh; Palembang, Indonesia; Alexandria, Egypt; Barranquilla, Colombia; Naples, Italy; Sapporo, Japan; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

A study by Nature Climate Change list other cities that will be seriously affected by rising seal-levels and be partially flooded or necessitate the building of complex barriers and waterways, these include: Alexandria, Egypt; Barranquilla, Columbia; Sapporo, Japan; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Beirut, Lebanon; Houston, Texas; Istanbul, Turkey; Jakarta, Indonesia; Izmir, Turkey; Marseille, France; Athens, Greece; Shanghai, China; Benghazi, Libya; Tel Aviv, Israel; Fuzhou, China; Ningbo, China; Havana, Cuba; Port Au Prince, Haiti and Algiers, Algeria.

That is not all, one study by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States says that 1,700 US cities will be affected with cities as far inland as Sacramento, California seeing flooding by 2100. Cambridge Massachusetts will be partially under water by the early 2060s and that is not all.

Disappearing Islands and Nations

For people who live in cities that will eventually disappear it is bad enough but for the inhabitants small islands and island nations, who entire countries may be under water, the option of moving inland will not be there. This is what happened to the people of Tegua, part of the Torres Strait Islands in the South Pacific. In 2005 the United Nations declared 100 residents who had to be evacuated because the island was going under water, as the world’s first climate change refugees.

Bermeja Island was a small island near the Gulf of Mexico and has already disappeared into the ocean.

The Carteret Islands are in the south-west Pacific Ocean, are home to over 2,500 people and will be uninhabitable by 2015.

Kiribati Island is officially called the Republic of Kiribati and is located in the central Pacific Ocean. It is already experiencing rising water levels.

The Lohachara and Suparibhanga Islands were Indian islands and have already disappeared under the sea. More than 10,000 people lived there.

The Maldives are an island nation in the Indian Ocean. The high point of the islands is only about 2.5 meters with the average being 1.3 meters. This nation will soon disappear.

The Marshall Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean will also soon be gone.

Palau consists of more than 250 islands and is about 500 miles southeast of the Philippines. More than 20,000 people live there. It is under serious threat.

Tonga Island is located in the South Pacific and if ocean levels rise any further it will be affected.

The Tuvalu Islands are located between Australia and Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 11,000 people live there and they have already started evacuating. New Zealand has agreed to grant refuge to 75 Tuvaluans every year. The nation will disappear by 2060.

Vanuatu Island or the Republic of Vanuatu is in the South Pacific and may soon be submerged.

Anomalous Weather and Global Warming

Have you noticed the crazy weather we are having? Just this past year we have seen: record breaking cold in South America last winter; balmy weather and no snow in January in Moscow (becoming the norm), snow in Jerusalem in September, flooding and hurricane force winds throughout the UK, heat waves in Australia and the US, massive flooding throughout Asia and Oceania, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, snow in the Middle East, current massive snow and ice storms in the US, record rains and then heat in Tasmania, sever snowstorms in southern Italy and Sicily, record cold in China, droughts in Brazil, and the list goes on and on.

According to the New York Times Omar Baddour, of the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva said: “Each year we have extreme weather, but it’s unusual to have so many extreme events around the world at once. The heat wave in Australia; the flooding in the U.K., and most recently the flooding and extensive snowstorm in the Middle East it’s already a big year in terms of extreme weather calamity. Such events are increasing in intensity as well as frequency, a sign that climate change is not just about rising temperatures, but also about intense, unpleasant, anomalous weather of all kinds.”

Climate Change Denial: a New Phenomena

Of course there are climate change skeptics and these are almost totally people who are backed by oil companies or fossil energy concerns. Just like proponents of fracking and the Keystone Pipeline they cite their own oil company funded studies and the like to deny what is visible all around us.

Unfortunately global warming has become an issue of widespread political debate, particularly in the US where it is usually split along party lines, with Republicans of course being the biggest deniers. For economic or political reason many attempt to downplay or discredit the issue even proven scientific data, something which academics and scientists have named “Climate Change Denial”, prevalent in the US.

Sadly climate scientists, especially in the US, have complained of attempts by government officials and oil-industry representatives to censor or suppress their work and to hide scientific data. Some have even been ordered not to publically discuss global warming.

One such denier, Mr. Myron Ebell the Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute was quoted in multiple media outlets as saying: "We don't know how much sea levels will rise or fall, models can't reliably predict the climate, because its changes are "non-linear" or irregular, so flood walls and other measures might waste money.”

Tell that to the people of Tegua.

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