Even before the Industrial Revolution, it is apparent from geological records that humans were having an influence on the planet’s atmosphere. Since that point in time, the global population has increased dramatically, with the abundance of cheap energy from fossil fuels supporting the expansion.
Now that oil can no longer be considered “abundant and cheap”, we are facing a major crisis. For those looking for information on oil depletion, you could try The Wolf at the Door, which is an excellent starting point. There are many other sites that deal with the same topic. For an opinion on what that will mean for mankind, try The Olduvai Theory – Sliding Towards a Post-Industrial Stone Age.
We have reached the point of overcrowding, which is apparent from the increase in violent crime in many of our developed nations, and that governments no longer govern “for the people” as would be expected in a true democracy. The issue of population management is discussed here Earth is too crowded for Utopia , but the suggested tolerable level of population still seems too high at 2 – 3 billion. If we refer to another document, Dependence on Phantom Carrying Capacity we see that if our present dependence on fossil fuels could not be met, we would need 10 planet Earths to meet the requirement. This logically infers that with only 1 planet Earth available, only 1/10th of the current population could be supported, ie. much less than 1 billion.
Even this figure, however, is too optimistic in view of the other changes that will take place.
As temperatures increase, and ice melts, sea levels will rise. We can define the extent of the rise from data relating to the quantity of stored water as ice around the world. It amounts to around 75 metres, ie. about 245 ft. This in itself does not give the final rise necessarily, as water temperature must also be taken into account. As ice is fresh water, and fresh water on top of saline water (the sea) forms a crude solar pond (a way of storing heat), the oceans themselves will be turned into simple solar storage devices until the fresh and saline water mix, which is not a speedy process. With increasing temperature, volume increases, further increasing the rise in sea level. One of our Carbon Sinks, Coral, is unlikely to survive this increase in temperature.
This increase in sea level will not be as great as the one that occurred at the beginning of the Holocene epoch, which was enough to split England from the European continent, and completely submerge human settlements on the Dogger Bank, see Lost world warning from North Sea, but will nevertheless have a devastating effect on the world as we know it now.
- Almost all of our major population centres will be submerged.
- Almost all of our transportation networks will be submerged
- All major airports will be submerged
- All seaports will be submerged
- All power generation and distribution will be submerged
- Most of our productive arable land will be submerged
- Most mineral extraction facilities will be submerged
- All known oil wells will be submerged
- All major communication centres will be submerged
in short, civilisation as we know it today will no longer exist.
Countries that are classified as low-lying now will disappear completely – Bangladesh, Denmark, the Netherlands, for example, and this will also include all of our rainforest areas, so our remaining Carbon Sinks will also be cut off. The animation of the UK below provides a sharply realistic insight into what will happen, yet does not show the full extent of the possible change.
Other countries will be severely fragmented, and reduced to a series of disconnected islands. A few, which have a central high plateau, will still have a reasonable land area, but this says nothing about its quality, and its ability to support life. In Australia, for example, a large area of desert will remain. In South America, the mountain ranges will still be above water. And to further complicate matters, land that now becomes the new interface to the sea will not necessarily be solid enough to avoid the erosion from waves – especially in view of the expected increase in frequency and ferocity of storms. Large areas therefore will have to be considered unsafe.
We are not finished yet. At present we are finding that water resources are becoming scarce. At the new level we will have extreme difficulty to find potable water, as all our catchment areas and distribution systems will have disappeared. At present, much of our agricultural produce requires irrigation. It is unlikely that this will still be possible, and furthermore, we will no longer have access to artificial fertilizers.
We are still not finished. The ice at the Earth’s poles defines the temperature gradients across the planet’s surface, and is effectively an anchor to the freezing point of water. If the ice at one or both of the poles is gone, or is reduced to such a small volume that it is no longer effective, global temperatures can be expected to float upward. The next anchor point is 100C, and this is far too high to be of any value to us. It is unlikely that much would survive on the planet should this occur.
The results then, in the best case, are that communities will become isolated, and will have to fend for themselves from the available resources around them. There will be no help from outside, no import/export, no transportation unless of their own making from whatever they can find, and none of the facilities that civilisation offers, such as hospitals, medicines, supermarkets and telephones.
Culturally, the developed countries are at a severe disadvantage to face such a transition. The people that are most likely to survive are hill-tribes that have had liitle or no contact with our civilisation at all – the very people that Condoleeza Rice refers to as “uncivilised”.
In the worst case, there will be no survivors of the human race, and Mankind will join the Dinosaurs in the Earth’s annals of extinct species.