What can be done?
First we must accept that rising sea levels are now inevitable. The composition of the atmosphere has already been changed so much, that even if emissions could be instantaneously stopped now, global warming would continue for the next 50 years at least.
We know that to continue with emissions at their current levels will accelerate the rate of global warming. Scientists are desperately trying to determine a maximum “safe” level of Carbon Dioxide content in order to prevent a feared natural acceleration being triggered. They have perhaps overlooked the fact that three accelerating factors are already programmed in – the Solar Pond Effect, loss of Rain Forest, and loss of Coral.
Solar ponds, which are intended to store heat energy, are constructed by using layers of salt water, the salinity of the layers increasing with depth. By melting ice, we are creating in fact a global solar pond, albeit simple, with only two layers, but with such an area that the effect cannot be just disregarded. If the oceans are storing additional heat, the water will expand, increasing sea levels faster.
As we know, the Rain Forest is being cleared at a phenomenal rate, both in Brazil and Indonesia, in spite of regulations and international agreements to limit logging. Once sea levels have risen far enough to cover the Rain Forests, they are removed from the equation, and can have no further positive influence.
Corals secrete calcium carbonate-limestone-on a scale massive enough to influence ocean chemistry and affect carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and, thus, the health of the planet as a whole. Corals are already under severe pressure from pollution, destructive fishing techniques, high water temperatures, and disease.
Shallow-water corals are particularly at risk, their symbiotic partner requiring light for photosynthesis. Increasing sea levels will reduce light incidence, and hence conversion activity. Thus, the planet’s second major method of cleaning Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere will be switched off.
If other mechanisms, as yet unspecified, are also triggered, their individual effects will be additive.
Our best option at this point is to reduce emissions as far as possible, preferably to a level low enough to achieve less than 270 ppm, the Pre-Industrial Revolution level that was still high enough to cause global warming. This will be exceedingly difficult to achieve, however, for our global population is at least four times the size than it was then, and still increasing fast.
There are basically three ways to reduce emissions; a) clean up our processes, b) use less energy, or c) switch to a clean source. Although choice a) may seem useful in the short term, it would make much better sense economically to concentrate on choices b) and c).
A further possibility, creating “bio-fuels” from renewable resources, only has practical value for materials that would otherwise be waste. Under these circumstances, the contribution to Carbon reduction would be so minimal, that investment in this technology must be seriously questioned.
The current practice of clearing large areas of rain forest to produce bio-fuel is self-defeating – not only is the natural Carbon sink depleted, but the land so used will sooner or later be desperately needed for food production, if not already covered by the sea.
In order to achieve this level of emission reduction, a Personal Energy Budget is suggested. This energy budget would include everything needed for personal survival, ie. food, drink, clothing, housing, heating, etc., and should be globally enforced by rationing. It is to be expected that variations will be apparent, for colder areas will require more energy for housing and heating than warm ones.
Note that transportation has been deliberately omitted from this budget. Transportation must now be classified as a luxury if it consumes energy resources. If it is self-powered, it need not appear in the budget at all.
As sea levels rise, and our natural carbon sinks are reduced, it may well be necessary to revise the Personal Energy Budget downwards.
We should also consider the advisability of bringing children into the world in its present state. Some “baby bust” years to offset the post-war “baby boom” of the last century would certainly not go amiss. A globally coordinated and effective population management program would certainly be a step in the right direction.
It is of paramount importance to change our source of energy. It must be obvious to all but the blind by now that the unhindered use of the Earth’s stored energy resources, coupled with explosive growth in world population, is the primary cause of our current problems. We should switch to Nuclear Fusion for all our needs as fast as possible.
Fortunately for us, there is an eminently suitable Nuclear Fusion reactor already in operation. It has an excellent record of performance, is in exactly the correct position, is maintenance-free, and is projected to continue its output unabated for the next 10 billion years.
It is called the Sun!