Acclimation and Heat Stress of Plants, and Future Crop Failures

A field of sweet corn, Flat Rock, Indiana. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

One of the most popular ideas that springs into people’s minds when mulling over remedies for slowing the advance of climate change because of the ever increasing accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is to plant more trees, bushes and grasses. Let a greater quantity of plant photosynthesis filter our atmosphere of excess CO2.

This is not an entirely bad idea — especially in its more nuanced formulation as multi-crop regenerative agriculture coupled with wildland, wetland and forest conservation and reforestation, ending industrialized chemical pesticide monoculture farming and drastically reducing the entire meat industry, along with a popular shift to plant-based diets — though it is an entirely inadequate tactic for absorbing the ever increasing load of CO2 in the atmosphere being fed by gargantuan torrents of anthropogenic CO2 emissions exhausted as waste products from the fossil fueled engines powering today’s capitalism and militarism, which remain requirements by our capitalists and militarists for the continuation of our present civilizational paradigm.

So, planting trees is being done and will continue because it is something that many people can do to try to help, and because it poses no real threats to capitalism or militarism. But one of the cruelties of global warming is that high concentrations of CO2 combined with elevated global temperatures reduce the rate of photosynthesis and plant growth. These effects are called “acclimation” and “heat stress” of plants, respectively (https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z8c6gdm/revision/3).

Acclimation is either an enhancing or inhibiting effect on photosynthesis by high CO2 concentrations. Generally, photosynthesis is enhanced as CO2 concentration is increased from a low level. Then above an elevated threshold concentration, the rate of photosynthesis saturates and can even be reduced. The mechanism of the effect is involved and has been the subject of research for many years by agricultural scientists interested in maximizing crop yields (for example in greenhouses).

Elevated temperatures can cause heat stress in growing plants by dehydrating them: as in their fatally drying out in a drought. However, a growth inhibiting (and even growth killing) heat stress can also occur to well-watered plants by the high temperature “denaturing” of the enzymes that control the reaction rates (the chemical reactions) of the photosynthesis process within plant leaves.

Current research on plant growth under the combined effects of elevated temperature and high CO2 concentration shows that “in heat-stressed plants at normal or warmer growth temperatures, high CO2 may often decrease, or not benefit as expected, tolerance of photosynthesis to acute heat stress. Therefore, interactive effects of elevated CO2 and warmer growth temperatures on acute heat tolerance may contribute to future changes in plant productivity, distribution, and diversity.” (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19017125/)

There are now scientific projections of crop yield reductions for several agricultural regions, due to anticipated rises of CO2 concentrations and their related elevated regional temperatures. A report issued by Chatham House (https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/09/climate-change-risk-assessment-2021) on 14 September 2021 describes the following:

“The planet could be struck by a wave of ‘unprecedented’ crop failures in the next 20 years if global greenhouse gas emissions continue as usual… researchers detailed a litany of risks that climate change could pose to [food security]… global agriculture will need to produce nearly 50 percent more food by 2050 to feed a growing population. But as global demand increases, crop yields could drop by 30 percent as farmers contend with a hotter and more volatile planet… By 2050, an anticipated 40 percent of the planet’s cropland will be exposed to severe drought for at least three months per year, and the breadbaskets of the United States and southern Russia could be among the regions most affected. Europe, the report said, is likely to experience the largest increase in agricultural drought, ‘with the central estimate indicating that nearly half the cropland area will experience severe periods of drought by 2050’… By the 2040s, the United States, China, Brazil and Argentina, which grow 87 percent of the world’s maize, could suffer a steep drop in their maize production — all at the same time. ‘The probability of a synchronous crop failure of this order during the decade of the 2040s is just less than 50 percent.’… Farmers will also have to contend with a decline in the length of crop seasons and long stretches of water scarcity… East and South Asia will be particularly hard hit, with 230 million people subjected to prolonged drought by 2040. Outside of Asia, Africa will likely have the greatest number of people facing drought, exceeding 180 million by 2050. Many regions also will have to manage coastal and river flooding. By 2100… 75 million people in East, South, and Southeast Asia will face coastal flooding every year. ‘Across these three regions around 11 times more people will be impacted by coastal flooding than under a scenario in which climate change is averted.’” (https://thefern.org/ag_insider/crop-yields-seen-falling-without-climate-action-report/)

This all leads to a bleak vision of our planet’s future, where lives are shorter, food is more scarce, and 3.9 billion people “are likely to experience major heat waves.”

My purpose in describing all this is not to feed into more self-indulgent wallowing in depression and flaccid fatalism over the anticipated ‘collapse of civilization’ and ‘human extinction,’ but to show how elevated CO2 concentrations along with elevated global-regional temperatures will physically reduce our food security — crop yields — and in that way very directly shorten human life globally. This is intended to prod the public mind to get on with the job of effectively responding to global warming climate change, by cutting through the many excuses for continuing to cling to the dysfunctional behaviors (fossil fueled capitalism and militarism) driving the planetary crisis, and to change those behaviors to ensure we all have sufficient good food and clean water in an enduring future.

[Thanks to Peter Carter for pointing me to the Chatham House report.]

<><><><><><><>

Notes on Carbon Dioxide in Global Warming, Acidified Oceans, and Weathered Rocks

Notes on Carbon Dioxide in Global Warming, Acidified Oceans, and Weathered Rocks

Like CO2 (carbon dioxide), H2O (water vapor) is a strongly heteropolar molecule — having one end with a positive electrical charge, and another end with a negative electrical charge — and absorbs outgoing Infrared Radiation (IR) from Earth’s surface, thus capturing heat in the atmosphere. Homopolar molecules like N2 (nitrogen) and O2 (oxygen) are transparent to IR. Inelastic molecular collisions redistribute that heat (as kinetic energy) to other atmospheric molecules (N2, O2, mainly) and atoms (Ar, He, trace components).

Most of Earth’s surface heat eventually diffuses into the oceans. Heat flows along the heat gradient in the negative direction from warmer air to colder water. The heat capacity (storage ability) of the oceans is IMMENSE (this is where ‘global warming’ ends up), and their heat content takes centuries to diffuse into a stable stratified distribution, rearranged by thermo-haline currents (a solar forcing effect) and by geometry (oceans as a spherical shell with warm equator and cold poles, so ocean heat diffuses poleward).

The fundamental problem of global warming is the ‘excess’ capture of outgoing IR (infrared radiation), reducing the rejection of Earth heat (originally delivered by incoming LIGHT radiation) into space: causing an imbalance between incoming energy (in the form of light to which atmospheric molecules are almost completely transparent) and outgoing energy (IR, to which heteropolar molecules, like CO2, H2O, CH4, NOx, are all quite opaque — absorbing).

Water vapor is by far the ‘greenhouse gas’ (IR absorber) with the highest concentration in the atmosphere at any time (immensely larger than that of CO2). It has been found by a combination of climate modeling calculations coordinated with field measurements in many global environments, that though the whiteness of clouds reflects sunlight back toward space (a global cooling effect), their IR absorptivity overwhelms that cooling, so that water vapor has a net global warming effect. As the average global temperature increases there is more water vapor in the atmosphere and this mode for global warming grows in magnitude — this is a self-amplifying or positive feedback effect.

CH4 (methane) and NOx are ‘short lived’ because they are eventually oxidized (by O, OH, formed by UV breaking up O2 and H20, and by other chemical reactions), whereas CO2 is very long lived because it is an endpoint product/species of chemical reaction chains that oxidize carbon compounds in oxygen-containing mixtures. CO2 has a low “chemical potential” and is known as a “chemical thermodynamic sink”. CH4 is eventually converted to CO2 and H2O. NOx is eventually converted to HNO3, nitric acid, which attaches itself to water droplets, so it has an aqueous form and rains out.

The long-term ‘chemical sink’ nature of CO2 is why science focuses on it as the leading culprit in the long-term trends of global warming. With greater warming of the ocean surface, more H2O vapor rises and releases its latent heat when it condenses into droplets (liquid) and ice crystals, and that ‘extra’ heat adds power to storms (winds, hurricanes: mass motion), and ultimately that ‘extra’ heat energy finds its way back into the oceans (for the portion of atmospheric heat that does not escape as IR into space).

When analyzing global warming, it all comes back to CO2. I highly recommend the book ‘Thermodynamics’ by Enrico Fermi (available in a budget-priced Dover edition): a slim volume that is a classic on the topic of chemical thermodynamics, and one of the best books on science of any kind that I have ever read.

My highly detailed outline of the chemical thermodynamics of atmospheric global warming is ‘Closing The Cycle: Energy and Climate Change’ at https://manuelgarciajr.com/2014/01/25/closing-the-cycle-energy-and-climate-change/.

The process of capturing atmospheric CO2 with rocks on the ground is one of rock weathering. CO2 in the air that brushes against the surface of carbonate and silicate rocks has a finite (and very low) probability of undergoing a chemical reaction with the rock surface, fixing the airborne CO2 onto a solid substrate. This is the longest term natural process of capturing CO2 from the atmosphere (10s to 100s of millennia).

A shorter term process is capture by the surface waters of the oceans, and that aqueous CO2 then combining with water molecules and already existing carbonate ions (CO3-2) in the water to form carbonic acid (H2CO3), which is weakly bound and both acidifies the oceans and scarfs up free floating carbonate ions to both starve mollusks, corals and foraminifera of the easiest chemical species from which to grow their shells (CO3-2), and even dissolving such shells of existing organisms (most being part of the masses of plankton, the base of the oceanic food chain).

The surface (not too deep) load of absorbed acidifying CO2 is then slowly cycled to the ocean floor by the ~1,000 year vertical currents, and at the bottom it dissolves the chalk deposited as the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) remnants of dead sea life, basically bone, shell and foraminifera casing ‘fossils’ — an ocean acidifying effect. So ocean capture of CO2 happens all the time, but the intake rate can saturate as the ocean becomes more acidified; eventually this intake process could shut off, coral reefs being a long lost memory by then.

Loss of “excess” ocean CO2 requires a low CO2 concentration atmosphere that can accept the gaseous release (is not saturated with CO2) of ocean CO2 that slowly diffuses out on mainly kilo-year timescales. A technically accurate description of ‘the carbonate system in seawater’ is given at https://sundoc.bibliothek.uni-halle.de/diss-online/04/04H141/t5.pdf. My more formal article than the discussion here, ‘Global Warming and Ocean Acidification Accelerate,’ is at https://manuelgarciajr.com/2020/07/18/global-warming-and-ocean-acidification-accelerate/.

The next quicker process of fixing atmospheric CO2 is photosynthesis, and this is done both by plants on land and in the oceans, like: seaweed, giant kelp, and many small plankton-sized organisms; ocean based photosynthesis is a huge component. This happens all the time and fixes CO2 at the rate of plant growth. At a high enough CO2 concentration this process saturates, too.

What is not commonly appreciated is that there is an unbelievably gargantuan amount of fungal and bacterial ‘biome’ in the soil worldwide (as well as inside each of us in our intestines and colon) that interconnects plant roots and actually makes possible the fixing of CO2, by breaking down organics and minerals in the soil enabling plant roots to absorb nutrients they need to complete their growth cycles, which result in carbon being fixed into plant cellulose, and into soil carbonates. The TV show ‘Fantastic Fungi’ gives a visually stunning explanation of this, and is available here, https://www.netflix.com/title/81183477, and here https://fantasticfungi.com/. This plant-based natural process of “carbon capture” is disrupted and destroyed by chemical pesticide dependent industrialized monoculture farming.

I know it is a bitter pill to swallow, but the only real way to slow global warming in any noticeable way is to stop anthropogenic CO2 emissions FOREVER. There are no post-facto technological ‘capture’ or ‘remediation’ techniques that exist now or “could be developed” that would actually work as “silver bullets” of salvation; they would only ‘work’ as money making scams with which to gull those despairing of the ‘loss of easy living.’

Our best response to climate change is to change ourselves in every way possible and without ever looking back, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis — and to have fun doing so together. This has to be a willed conscious process because we do not have the luxury of a long timescale in a slowly changing world to allow the transformation of humanity to happen naturally through the unconscious genetically paced process of evolution.

But, with the right shared attitude, that much shorter timescale consciously willed personal and societal transformation could be more magical and take us to more wondrous new worlds than any fantasy of intra-galactic space travel at Warp Speed on the Starship Enterprise.

<><><><><><><>

Why Does the Physical Universe Exist?

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Why Does the Physical Universe Exist?

Why do we even imagine we can ask such a question and find an answer?

The total energy of the universe exploded out of an infinitesimal pinpoint of reality erupting into the void of nonexistence, to cool and diffuse as the wake behind the expanding bow wave of the Event Horizon, precipitating into the swelling space-time of intergalactic, interstellar and interplanetary emptiness, and granulating into matter-energy that expresses gravitational potential by its mass distribution; that itself slowly contracts into accumulative material bodies, and ultimately into light-void centers of matter extinction that in their turn evaporate their confined energy by quantum flickering between existence and nonexistence, until those singularities of space-time pop back into nonexistence once voided of any reality.

Will that cycling between existence and nonexistence also be enacted by the Event Horizon? Will it just diffuse away into the void of nonexistence?, or will it rebound into a new universal contraction?, or will it oscillate in some as yet unknown Limit Cycle alternating existences and nonexistences? Could we guess that such a coiling and uncoiling was inherent in the Totality, as reflected in the eddies of reality shed behind the Event Horizon and which we see as the cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth?, down to the coiling and uncoiling of the very molecules that convey the persistent genetic patterns of which we each are momentary expressions and disposable links of Life’s transmission?

Why do we imagine there could be a Supreme Consciousness creating and controlling this dynamic? Why would such a Supreme Metaphysical Constant, beyond any limitations of space, time, materiality, personality, emotion, ego, boredom and need, bother with the triviality of creating a toy universe of existence to occupy and confine its unlimited awareness? Is this not simply a yearning on our part for magical extensions of our brief flashes of confused awareness of eternity: for a heaven, or even a hell? Isn’t our existential philosophizing just another vortex coiling and uncoiling in the human psyche tumbling us distractedly along our brief stretches of time?

For us the answers may all lie in our acceptance of tumbling along with grace and kindness, and without fearful clinging to the questioning. In doing that we may experience the constancy of the eternal during a few moments within our brief spans of conscious awareness. Of course we will never know, but miraculously we do have the choice to live as though that were true.

<><><><><><><>

Why Blast Off Into Space?

The fantasy of rising above the surface of the Earth and flying out among the stars is as old as the human imagination itself. After Marco Polo brought back Chinese gunpowder to the 13th century Europeans, they were able to militarize it into firearms, and the technology of chemically-propelled ballistics took off so that by the early 20th century rockets intended to fully penetrate Earth’s atmosphere and drift out into Outer Space were being visualized and tested.

William Leitch in 1861 and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1903 expressed the idea of using rockets to enable human spaceflight. From 1920 Robert Goddard proposed improvements to rocket design, and in 1926 built and launched the first modern rocket. That modernity was marked by the first use of a converging-diverging exhaust tube — known as a de Laval nozzle — which enabled the hot exhaust gases emitted by the combusting rocket fuel to convert their heat energy into outward unidirectional motion at supersonic speed: thrust!

But with the exception of tinkerers like Goddard, rockets were used as military weapons — artillery — most dramatically by Nazi Germany from 1943 with its V2 ballistic missile rocket-bombs. The American space program began in 1945 with the use of captured German V2 rockets to send cameras and scientific probes into the upper atmosphere. The USSR’s independent space program began in the 1950s, making a dramatic breakthrough — shocking Americans — with the lofting of Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite, which was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957. It orbited for three weeks before its batteries died and then orbited silently for two months before it fell back into the atmosphere on the 4th of January 1958.

The major thrust of both American and Soviet rocket development throughout the 1950s and 1960s was to construct intercontinental ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads, and have such capability presented as a threat display to deter aggression by other technologically advanced and militarily powerful adversaries: the Cold War. Putting men as the payloads in such large rockets and blasting them into Earth orbit, and eventually out to the Moon, was primarily a flagrant display to all, signaling the possession of awesome military power. Science exploration was a minor byproduct of the space race, but ultimately some of that scientific curiosity yielded the most beneficial results from the entire rocketry endeavor.

Now, 52 years after Neil Armstrong first set a human foot on the Moon, propelled by American public funding, at least three of our attention-seeking Billionaire Boys are competing to burn up disposable bundles of their money to launch themselves into space joyrides, and to then exploit the technology they have paid to have built as the basis of “space tourism” businesses.

On Tuesday, 20 July 2021, Jeff Bezos and three others were blasted in his rocket up to an elevation of 106 km above the surface of the Earth, for a two-way trip totaling 10 minutes and 10 seconds. To some this is a laudable achievement of the free market system, while to others it is a pathetic expansion of conspicuous consumption to a new exorbitant level. Many ask: could the billions extracted from the labor of Bezos’s exploited and precarious workforce not have been better spent to alleviate hunger and homelessness?, and could the massive amount of chemical energy expended to pull off this stunt not have been better used with much greater efficiency to power broadly beneficial purposes on the surface of the Earth? But such questions mistake applying standards of human solidarity and social responsibility to seek understanding billionaire’s egotistical behavior. Here, I will provide one answer to the energy question.

The minimum energy needed to loft any mass up to 106 km above the surface of the Earth is 1,022,842.066 Joules per kilogram (J/kg). So, for the total energy expenditure in any specific case, multiply the mass of the fully loaded rocket (in kg) by 1,022,842.066 Joules/kg. One joule is the energy required to lift a medium-sized tomato up 1 meter (3 ft 3 in), assuming the tomato has a mass of 101.97 grams (3.597 oz). Lofting a mass up to 106 km above the surface of the Earth requires as much energy as lifting it only 1 meter above the Earth’s surface 104,265 times.

Outer Space is considered to begin at elevation 100 km, which is called the Von Karman Line (after a renowned aerodynamicist). Satellites in Low Earth Orbit have elevations between 180 km and 2,000 km; in Mid Earth Orbit, 2,000 km to 35,780 km elevation; in Geosynchronous Orbit at 35,780 km elevation; in High Earth Orbit beyond 35,780 km; and the Orbit of the Moon occurs at a distance of 378,032 km from the Earth’s surface.

It requires 9.81 Joules of energy to lift a 1 kg mass 1 meter above the surface of the Earth (or 9.81 of those 3.597 ounce tomatoes, all at once). In terms of “g’s” pulling a mass “down” toward the center of the Earth, the g-force at the surface of the Earth is 1g, the g-force at 106 km is 0.968g, the g-force at 180 km is 0.946g, the g-force at 2,000 km is 0.579g, the g-force at 35,780 km is 0.023g, and the g-force at 378,032 km (the distance to the Moon) is negligible at 0.0002747g.

Satellites in stable orbits around the Earth need an additional energy to accelerate them up to an orbital velocity, and it is this boost to lateral momentum, in combination with the “centrifugal” (radial) pull by Earth’s gravity, that results in the curved trajectory that describes the satellite’s stable orbit, which can be either circular or elliptical.

I do not know the weight of Bezos’s rocket (I have not seen it published), but IF I assume it weighed as much as a fully loaded Boeing 707 jet airplane, 150,000 kg, then the total (minimum) energy to lift it up to 106 km would have been 1.534×10^11 Joules = 153.4 gigajoules (GJ). Whatever the actual weight was, lofting it to an elevation of 106 km requires at least 1.023 megajoules/kilogram (MJ/kg).

I am guessing that small rockets, perhaps comparable to Bezos’s, could weigh half as much (or less) as a Boeing 707 airplane (~10s of thousands of kg), and I am certain that Bezos’s rocket was much smaller than the the Saturn V rockets that lofted the Apollo Moon missions, and which initially weighed about 2.8 million kg.

The real issue is that blasting stuff up into space — away from Earth and against its gravity — is immensely energy intensive. Given that one has that energy in the first place, why use/waste inordinate amounts of it to loft small payloads into space? For a few items like weather and GPS satellites, space telescopes, and tiny robotic planetary probes, I think it is worthwhile for the expansion of scientific knowledge and the physical improvement of social conditions. But for almost all else, and most especially manned space flight, it is the total waste of space junk littering militarism and propaganda.

And now, symptomatic of our dysfunctional economics, manned space flight has also become just another item of supremely exclusive and very showy personal conspicuous consumption. As Eeyore would gloomily intone in the Winnie-the-Pooh books: “Pathetic.”

A short report in PDF form is freely available to anyone interested in the details of my calculations, at

<><><><><><><>

Deadly Collapse Of Illusions In Miami

Here is video of the Miami beachside condominium that collapsed at ~1 AM on 24 June 2021 (https://youtu.be/KR29pLccutY). There are many news stories about this now.

An engineering professor at Florida International University has used satellite data on ground elevation (a measurement technique used since at least the late 1970s) to write about the steady sinking of land in Miami, including the site of the condo, since 1990. There is a lot of beachside construction in Florida on landfill. This condo was actually built on sturdier ground (I’m guessing an ancient barrier island), but landfill is right next to it on the west side, where other similar buildings are located (and thus a bit further from the shoreline).

In 2018, a building inspector engineer issued a warning that there was serious damage to the building stemming from an inadequacy of foundation integrity. Nothing was done. In another report, I read that the development-friendly local and state authorities had freed the Miami real estate industry from “excessive” regulations by only requiring building inspections every 40 years! (I find this hard to believe, but it was a news report posted on the internet).

By now it is clear that the cause of the collapse was the softening of the ground under the building by the infiltration of seawater over the years since the building’s construction. Because such a large building is very heavy, especially in comparison to a simple beachside bungalow, the weight of the structure put tremendously higher downward pressure on the ground below its foundation, diminishing the integrity of the increasingly soaked soil, and thus speeding its ultimate loss of cohesion.

Now, some words about structural stability in a gravitational field. Earth’s gravity arises from its huge mass (compared to anything else humans are used to) and it points toward the Earth’s center, which means “down.”

Buildings, bridges and many other structures erected by humans on the surface of the Earth are designed to remain stable by having rigid vertical structural members (i.e., columns) to transmit the weight of the structure into the ideally “solid” ground below, which in turn distributes the pressure of the building’s weight (as mechanical stress) into the body of Planet Earth. The contact zone between the building and the Earth is usually a cross-braced foundation structure.

Those weight-bearing vertical supports are cross-braced by horizontal rigid structural members (i.e., beams, and in stronger designs by triangular frames: trusses). This way the entire building has the structural integrity of a “block”: the Earth holds it up, and its cross-bracing holds it together.

Essential to the building’s stability is the integrity of the earth below it: its solidity. When that solidity is lost, such as by water infiltration softening, and becomes nonuniform, then the building can begin to sink in a lopsided manner. Such tilting means that now gravitation forces no longer align perfectly with “vertical” columns (since they are tilted) but also has “lateral” components of force directed along the cross-bracing (which is also tilted).

Such new lateral forces transmitted by the cross members against the sides of the columns add a sideways momentum now pushing to tilt the building over, and are also forces working to tear the building apart from top to bottom.

At some point of building tilt, such unevenness of the distribution of gravitation stress throughout the structure, now no longer strictly vertical, puts more tensile or compressive stress (depending on the orientation of the member) than one or more of the structural members can sustain without buckling; or some of the bolted, riveted or welded joints between members can sustain to keep from ripping open.

Such structural failures remove pathways for the building’s gravitational stress to find its way to ground. So the structural members of the building’s frame that are still connected see an increase in the stress they must contain and transmit to Earth to hold up the building.

This takes those still intact members and joints more quickly toward their failure points, and the weakest among them give way. In this way an accelerating cascade of structural failures occurs, and the entire building can seem to suddenly “deflate” and collapse.

Such a collapse will be seen to propagate through the building as a wave of “deflation” from the regions of first failures to last failures, which, depending on the configuration of the undermining forces, can be left-to-right or vice-versa, and bottom-to-top or vice-versa.

The World Trade Center Towers building collapses of 11 September 2001 occurred from the top down: the dynamic force of collapsing mass above any given floor (the conversion of gravitational potential energy into mass acceleration) being beyond the yield strength of the vertical columns and cross-bracing joints at each floor-level, which were only designed — with a significant safety factor — to withstand the static stress imposed by gravity. The collapse of the smaller World Trade Center Building 7 proceeded from the left to the right because of a buckling of a column weakened by fire softening.

The Miami condominium collapse of 24 June 2021 progressed from bottom to top, first on the “left” side, and then on the now laterally unsupported “right” side (as seen in the video captured by a surveillance camera).

I would guess that what is happening now in Miami — and elsewhere — is a scramble to point fingers assigning blame and to evade responsibility; people seeking to sue somebody for losses of relatives, property and illusions; to get insurance payments, or to avoid paying them; to protect their money, investments, property and advantages of location; and to run away from their fears and hide from facing up to the realities of implacable Climate Change (in the form of sea level rise for Miami) plowing steadily into the American “good life.”

Climate Change is like an enormous steamroller that is inching slowly but implacably along the open road of our projected expectations, to roll over and flatten our comfortable situations.

Since we are all “cemented in place” in those personal comfort situations, that steamroller is bit by bit squashing us: first ‘here’ then ‘there’; some by sea level rise; some by hurricanes razing all; some by wildfire; some by deepening and eternal heat and drought; some by waves of disease pathogens sprung from out of formerly deep recesses in the wild; some by the increasing withdrawal of food availability; and some by the infighting all this sparks among us and that causes casualties from our war with ourselves.

First we lose our illusions, then we lose our money, and finally we lose our lives.

Those who refuse to face reality and relinquish their illusions will cause the most damage to their fellow human beings, by being rabidly competitive, as they slide down the cascade of suffering longer and ever obsessed to the death with their unrelieved anxieties of avoiding losses and pain. Those who jettison their illusions and face reality will a least gain the comfort of finding the company of similar people.

Even as the steamroller inches forward toward us, for everyone “the future is uncertain, and the end is always near.” One can pin oneself to an obsession with “the end,” and its avoidance; or one can open oneself to an appreciation for the processes of life, and to the sharing of such appreciation.

Climate Change is now our great teacher, and its lessons range from stark terror to transcendence. We have no choice but to live out those lessons, but we do have some choice in which of those coming experiences we can aim our personal selves to.

<><><><><><><>

Photos from the news story (series) linked in two comments, below:

<><><><><><><>

The beachfront looks like an ancient barrier island to me (my guess). The “flats” behind it look like landfill (“reclaimed land”). I suspect all this land is “wet” below a shallow depth from the surface. I also suspect that depth has been decreasing with the sea level rise over previous decades, and which continues.

<><><><><><><>

27 June 2021, using Picture #1 for reference:

The surveillance camera that took the video of the collapse is located at the left-most, furthest ‘up’ seaward-side corner of the blue pool seen to the left in this photo, just below the large area of greenery. The camera was pointed diagonally across that pool, straight at the central portion of the building that collapsed. That central portion collapsed first, from the side closer to the surveillance camera and then dragging its backside (the side furthest from the surveillance camera) down. To me it seems that “the bottom dropped out” and not that the roof collapsed and pancaked down pulverizing the building. After that central section was all down, the squarish tower portion closest to the beach tottered, twisted ‘slightly’ clockwise as viewed in this picture, and then also collapsed by “the bottom dropping out.” You can see the higher pile of rubble left by that tower section collapse. I would guess that the section of ground (subsurface) between that outer tower section and the part of the building still standing, and aligned parallel to the shoreline, is the area of greatest weakness and loss of integrity. It is also possible (as others are commenting) that there had been a weakening of the reinforcing steel inside the concrete columns of the building because of the corrosive action of salty sea air and underground flooding since 1981 when the building was constructed. The conclusions of the forensic engineering reports, which will doubtless take many months to finally arrive at, will be interesting — if they are not distorted by CYA.

<><><><><><><>

Planet Earth Is Heating Up Faster

Planet Earth Is Heating Up Faster

A new scientific paper just accepted for publication by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) shows that, on the basis of both computations and experimental measurements, the net rate at which Planet Earth is absorbing solar energy has increased between years 2005 and 2019. Planet Earth is heating up — global warming — at a faster rate, and that rate is increasing.

In my article here, I will first quote the abstract of this paper (“Satellite and Ocean Data Reveal Marked Increase in Earth’s Heating Rate,” by Norman G. Loeb, Gregory C. Johnson, Tyler J. Thorsen, John M. Lyman, Fred G. Rose, Seiji Kato, 15 June 2021; https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2021GL093047), and then give my interpretation of the overall scientific conclusion, in plain English.

Abstract from the AGU paper:

Earth’s Energy Imbalance (EEI) is a relatively small (presently ∼0.3%) difference between global mean solar radiation absorbed and thermal infrared radiation emitted to space. EEI is set by natural and anthropogenic climate forcings and the climate system’s response to those forcings. It is also influenced by internal variations within the climate system. Most of EEI warms the ocean; the remainder heats the land, melts ice, and warms the atmosphere. We show that independent satellite and in situ observations each yield statistically indistinguishable decadal increases in EEI from mid-2005 to mid-2019 of 0.50±0.47 W m-2 decade-1 (5%-95% confidence interval). This trend is primarily due to an increase in absorbed solar radiation associated with decreased reflection by clouds and sea-ice and a decrease in outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) due to increases in trace gases and water vapor. These changes combined exceed a positive trend in OLR due to increasing global mean temperatures.

MG.Jr. Interpretation:

Earth’s increased temperature has melted ice and snow and reduced cloud cover, which means that less solar radiation (light) is reflected back into space — a warming effect. Note that clouds, snow and ice fields are white and highly reflective of light; bare ground and the ocean surface have much lower reflectivity. Planet Earth’s net reflectivity is called the albedo; and it has decreased.

Even though the increased average global temperature has warmed — stored heat in — the oceans (a 91% effect, as only 9% warms the lands and air) and thus caused greater evaporation of water (and snow melt and ice melt) into the atmosphere, fewer clouds are forming because the higher air temperature keeps the water vapor from condensing as quickly as in previously cooler times. Note that clouds are cold, they are made up of water droplets and ice crystals: condensate from cooled vapor.

However, the ever increasing atmospheric load of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that humans cause to be emitted, along with the increased water vapor in the atmosphere, just noted, make for a denser gaseous “filter” or capture medium for the outgoing Infrared Radiation (Outgoing Long-wavelength Radiation = OLR = HEAT) that cools the Earth.

For Planet Earth to be in thermal equilibrium — at a steady average global temperature — the rate of heat-energy radiated out into space (cooling) must equal the rate of light-energy absorbed from the Sun (heating).

The quantity of thermal-energy emission per unit time (OLR) from any isolated body (like Planet Earth suspended in space) increases as its temperature increases. This phenomenon is known as the “blackbody radiation” effect in physics, and quantified by the Stephan-Boltzmann Law. So, one might have hoped that with Planet Earth’s now higher average temperature that it would reject heat (and cool) at a higher rate; and in that way seek to maintain a steady planetary temperature.

BUT the AGU paper shows that the decrease of Earth’s light reflectivity (albedo), combined with the increase of its OLR (heat) absorptivity by the atmosphere, overwhelm the also increased rate of heat (IR or OLR) emission from the planetary surface back towards space.

The net effect is an increase in the rate at which originally-solar energy is absorbed by Planet Earth, and hence an increase in the rate at which Planet Earth’s average temperature is increasing. This is a self-reinforcing effect, a.k.a.: a vicious cycle.

Immediately ceasing “all” (the vast majority of) emissions of carbon-dioxide and greenhouse gases is the first essential step to SLOWING the rate of global warming and attendant “climate change”, and the absolute beginning of a very long process of global temperature equilibration:

1, from a slowing of the rising trend of temperature;

2, until temperature reaches a plateau; because it takes decades to centuries for the oceans and lands to reach a temperature equilibrium — think of equilibrium as “uniformity,” though that analogy is not exact;

3, and then the slow (decades to centuries) re-absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere by the surface waters of the oceans and photosynthesis (plants);

4, with a gradual (centuries to millennia) reduction of global temperature.

It took 200,000 years to clear away the global warming “hyperthermal” event known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which occurred ~55.5 million years ago.

The sooner the emissions of greenhouse gases cease: the lower the height of the inevitable maximum temperature plateau, and the shorter the duration of the period before temperature returns to “normal” (as in the Holocene). Regardless, that duration will be vastly longer than a human lifetime, and even many human generations.

The social and political implications of these scientific findings quickly become obvious on honest reflection.

[Thanks to Peter Carter for the AGU reference.]

<><><><><><><>

Nate Hagens, on Earth and Humanity

Watch the video presentation “Earth and Humanity: Myth and Reality,” (2:52:15) by Nate Hagens, linked below. Hagens presents an analysis and grand synthesis of the multi-entwined crises of unsustainable human society living in the rapidly degrading world climate of an increasingly resource-depleted and increasingly inhospitable Planet Earth.

I guarantee that you will find many of your own views on this topic reaffirmed by Hagens, and also that he will challenge at least one of your cherished beliefs about it. This is good for serious people, it prompts them to think anew, and to rethink their assumptions.

What impresses me about Hagens’ analysis is that it is based on a wealth of data — the lifeblood of any real scientific or economic analysis — and that it is a multidimensional systems analysis, and not merely a “one note Johnny” narrow expertise (just finance, or just physics), single “smoking gun” caused problem (as the “overpopulation” reductionists claim) or a promotion of a single route to salvation solution (as the “nuclear power” reductionists claim). Hagens’s is an integrated description of the dysfunctional global system, which Nature plus Humanity has become, rather than merely being an uncoordinated list of a myriad of disconnected disasters, pathologies, ruins and wrecks.

Hagens does make specific recommendations near the end of his video, aimed at getting us (particularly in the U.S.A.) to begin dealing with our ongoing global systems failure in a substantive manner. After that he adds a few seconds of wordless video that will delight all lovers of wildlife.

Any abstraction of Hagens’ presentation to a single phrase would wash away all its insights and nuance, and would be unjust to the cause of transmitting understanding to the public. But, if you want an indicative soundbite, here is my maximally reductionist summary: humanity needs to scale back its use of energy very very significantly, and permanently, and now — an energy diet — just like a forever-maintained eat-less food-calorie diet needed to break an individual free from obesity.

Hagens’ video will make any serious person think (and we all better get serious), and that is the first essential step for us ever having a chance to get out of the mess we’re in.

Earth and Humanity: Myth and Reality
16 May 2021 (Nate Hagens)
https://youtu.be/qYeZwUVx5MY

The following two paragraphs are my abstraction and consolidation of internet descriptions of Nate Hagens, with much of this information drawn from The Post Carbon Institute (https://www.postcarbon.org/our-people/nate-hagens/).

Nate Hagens has a Masters Degree in Finance from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. He is a former editor of The Oil Drum and worked on Wall Street for a decade before “seeing the light.” Since 2003 Nate has shifted his focus to understanding the interrelationships between energy, environment, and finance and the implication this synthesis has for human futures. Previously, Nate was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers. Currently, he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar at the University of Minnesota ‘Reality 101 – A Survey of the Human Predicament.’

Nate focuses on the interrelationship between debt-based financial markets and natural resources, particularly energy, and the unplanned for risks from the coming ‘Great Simplification.’ He also addresses the evolutionarily-derived underpinnings to status, addiction, and our aversion to acting about the future and offers suggestions on how individuals and society might better adapt to the coming decades.

Jeff Gibbs 2019 video “Planet of the Humans,” released publicly on Earth Day 2020, was the most important presentation on the realities of our global “climate change” crisis to be made available in many years (https://planetofthehumans.com/). Nate Hagens’ new video “Earth and Humanity: Myths and Reality” is of much grander scope and at least of equal importance. See it and don’t get defensive, then refine your own stance from your points of disagreement with Hagens, and/or improve his systemic analysis, which is the type of thing needed to converge politically on what in all honesty would have to be called a World Plan for guiding human civilization through a transition — the Great Simplification — to a post carbon future, without suffering a catastrophic and life-ending collapse.

As a 20th century mechanical engineer who focused himself on the 19th century science of thermodynamics (and got away with a career in experimental nuclear explosions), I’ve said all what little I was competent to say about the physics and economics of “climate change.” So at this point all I can offer on the topic is bad poetry, and I’ll spare you that. But I can also recognize the value of new presentations like those of Gibbs and Hagens, and urge others to see them, study them, and act on them.

I am mindful of the urgent and totally justified demand posed by the next generation onto us world-controlling and world-destroying adults, through the voice of Greta Thunberg, for “action!” Nate Hagens’ systemic analysis is a very important step toward answering the questions of “what actions?” and “how do we implement them?”, and of actually working on Greta’s demand.

[Thanks to Isabel Ebert for pointing me to Nate Hagens’ video.]

<><><><><><><>

ADDENDUM:

Richard Heinberg both appears in “Planet of the Humans,” and leads the Post Carbon Institute.

The Most Colossal Planning Failure in Human History
May 2021
Richard Heinberg
https://richardheinberg.com/museletter-339-the-most-colossal-planning-failure-in-human-history

<><><><><><><>

Open Cycle Minds and Thermodynamic Socialism

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

On 21 May 2021, Mark Ashwill’s excellent and moving article, “Of Class Rings, Bone Fragments and Fish Ponds: the Interminable Search for US MIAs in Vietnam,” was published (https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/05/21/of-class-rings-bone-fragments-fish-ponds-the-interminable-search-for-us-mias-in-vietnam/). It is about the searches by both Vietnamese and American groups for the unrecovered remains of those killed during the Vietnam War, while at the same time Americans continue to studiously avoid searching through their 20th century history to face up to its ongoing contortion of their 21st century national life. Think: Gaza in Palestine, May 2021, bombed Guernica-style by an unopposed Israeli military massively armed and lushly funded by the American Government.

“History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes,” (misattributed to Mark Twain, but actually from 1970).

It is my belief that 1968 was the most pivotal year in United States history after 1945. The commitment then to continue pursuing the Vietnam War, and the refusal ever since to face up to the consequences of it — unlike Germany’s postwar forthrightness about its 1933-1945 period — have doomed the U.S. to sink with increasing madness into the delusional path of “exceptionalism” it has been on since.

The last time there seemed a faint chance of breaking free from our American neo-fascist trajectory was 1976-1978, during the Carter Administration — and, yes, I know he was far from “perfect.”

I don’t think the U.S. will break free of its current delusional-ideological trajectory until it has fully come to terms with its Vietnam War history — and war crimes — and I mean by much more than just erecting a Black Wall.

The Amerindian Genocide, Black Slavery + Jim Crow, and the Vietnam War are in my view the three major American-perpetrated Holocausts. American “sleep” is shame-based denial of historical American reality. We as a nation could awaken from that sleep and transcend its underlying pathology, to such great benefit to everybody everywhere.

A good friend of mine is a 1966-1967 US Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War, who survived much heavy combat and encirclement during the 1st Battle of Khe Sanh. He is the fiercest peacenik-socialist I’ve ever met, and also a really sweet gentle guy. He knows the truth.

And that truth is that official US Government ideology operates as an open cycle through the propagandized American Public Mind: we are not to “connect the dots” between what “we” have done with what “we” are doing. Acknowledging such attitudinally-causal links would be to operate both the personal and public minds in a morally closed cycle manner — to actually understand what is happening and why — and such clarified thinking must be dispatched into the non-thought oblivion of the memory hole in order to preserve the artifice by our political class of their guilt-free righteousness in perpetrating and sponsoring the war crimes deemed essential to the success of American foreign policy.

Let me suggest one such open cycle sequence of rhymed histories:

the Wounded Knee massacre, South Dakota 1890;

the Moro Crater massacre, southwestern Philippines 1906;

the No Gun Ri massacre, Korea 1950;

any number of massacres and bombardments in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1975;

the El Mozote massacre, El Salvador 1981, by a US trained and Reagan Administration sponsored Salvadoran Army;

the 2003-2011 Iraq War and its catastrophic aftermath;

May 2021: Palestinians apparently do not have a “right to exist,” but Israelis continue to have the right to destroy them with massive firepower gifted to them by the United States.

Imagine if closed cycle thinking had been applied after any of these catastrophes, and that had prevented subsequent ones because of the socially transformative moral effect of such thinking on the people and government of the United States. Give peace a chance. Is that funny? Why should the moral elevation of our American civilization be seen as an unrealistic and ridiculous fantasy? That is just a cowardly excuse to cling to barbarism and immaturity.

Our planet’s habitability is too rapidly and visibly decaying today, for us humans (and that includes you, unexceptional Americans!) to continue carrying on with the sociopathological behaviors exhibited by ancestors like Achilles, Genghis Khan, the Spanish Conquistadores, and the dictators of the 1930s. It is time we applied closed cycle moral thinking for the guidance of our political selves.

Thermodynamic Socialism

On 21 May 2021, The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported that:

“Oil and gas operators’ required bond insurance in New Mexico would cover only a fraction of the potential cost of cleaning up wells and pipelines they might leave behind, which could stick the state’s taxpayers with a colossal bill [$8.3B], according to an independent study released Thursday.”
(https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/oil-and-gas-cleanup-could-cost-new-mexico-8-3-billion-study-says/article_6b8a9918-b97f-11eb-b0b1-6786d9af4fb1.html)

In pointing out this news story, Jeffrey St. Clair commented (23 May 2021, FB): “Same old story, all across the West. The mining, oil and timber corporations rip it up, abscond with the cash, leave behind poisonous rubble and the bill for cleaning it up…if it can be cleaned up.”

This “profitable” business behavior by resource extraction corporations is consistent with the type of energy cycle being promoted: the open cycle.

In thermodynamics, the open cycle is defined as the operation of any isolated “engine” — for extracting “work” from the consumption of “fuel” — by drawing the energy-containing resource (fuel) from an assumed infinite external and unchanging source (i.e., Nature), consuming it within the engine at high temperature to extract work (such as torque, or thrust), and exhausting the waste products of the conversion process into an assumed infinite external and unchanging sink at lower temperature (i.e., Nature). It is left to unspecified external reality — Nature — to endlessly absorb all wastes from our engines, and produce all fuels for our engines, without alteration to itself while existing at a constant temperature.

This has been a very useful concept for designing thermodynamically isolated fossil-fueled engines, like for jet airplanes, but it fails when “the engine” becomes so gargantuan — like being the aggregate fossil-fueled powering of our entire industrialized civilization — that it becomes comparable in “size” to the source and sink it is supposed to operate between. In terrestrial reality there are no isolated engines. You can’t wash an elephant in a kiddie pool, pretending it is in a river.

The aerobic-respiration-photosynthesis cycle sustaining wild animal and plant life on Planet Earth operates as a closed cycle. The aerobic exhalation of carbon dioxide by animal life is inhaled by plant photosynthesis to in turn exhale oxygen, in a balanced closed loop energized by the “fuel” of sunlight, and which cycle generates food for all: sugars, cellulose and protein.

The need to transform our civilization and reduce the amount of energy we use to conduct it, is entirely the task of abandoning further reliance on open cycle thermodynamics — the fiction that all our billions of little engines are each thermodynamically isolated — and operate our civilization’s aggregate planetary engine in a closed cycle. Of necessity this would mean abandoning the fiction that all our millions of little polities are sociologically isolated and can function in an apartheid and exclusionary manner.

Mens sana in corpore sano.

To power our planetary civilization with planetary closed cycle thermodynamics — in the interests of maintaining the longevity of human and much other life on Earth — we have to conduct our various socio-economic lives in a politically closed cycle manner across this planet. Think of this as thermodynamic socialism.

We humans are physically and intellectually capable of rearranging our civilization to operate at this elegantly integrated more advanced level, and we are now morally tasked to do so. We must leave our barbarism in the past and become a nation of morally closed cycle thinking in a world of thermodynamic socialism.

Is that impossible? The toppling of moral impossibilities in past human society always began as gleams of morally closed cycle thinking in just a few minds.

<><><><><><><>

A Simple Explanation of Black Holes

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

A Simple Explanation of Black Holes

Louis N. Proyect:

I was trying to follow a one-hour lecture on Black Holes [podcast] but gave up after fifteen minutes and switched to Jay Leno’s garage to hear what he had to say about the 1955 Packard Caribbean.

Manuel García, Jr.:

Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” is a pretty good book about it, for the general public.

Theoretically, Black Holes are a consequence of Einstein’s General Relativity (the effect of gravity on space-time): with enough concentrated mass, and insufficient thermal-nuclear energy generation (a star uses up its “fuel”) to keep that mass puffed out, its mutual gravity draws it into a spherical center, and since mass-gravity “curves” space-time (an effect that diminishes with radial distance from the center) and since space-time curvature is expressed/observed as the bending of light rays; at a particular radial distance (the Schwarzschild Radius) light rays are curved completely by 360 degrees – into circles.

Light emitted and/or passing by a Black Hole outside the SR is bent (by quite a bit but less than 360 degrees close to the SR, and less so with increasing distance from the SR). Light emitted at distances less than the SR are infinitely bent (curly cues), and never travel beyond the SR – they are trapped. Hence “Black Holes” because no light is emitted from them.

Black Holes can be detected by measuring how light rays from a known distance source are bent on passing (outside the SR) near a Black Hole. When Quantum Mechanics is added to the theoretical description of Black Holes, then more odd possibilities arise having to do with matter popping into and out of existence in the vicinity of the SR, but somehow entangled with mirror quantum interactions inside the Black Hole, and from that Hawking proposed ways for gaining information from inside a Black Hole despite the barrier to (non quantum)) information flow, by the SR.

Hawking also presented a theory that such “quantum flickering” (my term, here) could lead to Black Holes steadily ‘evaporating’ into non-existence; analogous to a soap bubble popping. Hawking’s way of describing it for the public is, naturally, very good; but the math behind it all is massively complicated and above my pay grade.

Louis N. Proyect:

I can’t wrap my head around space-time. When I go to the CVS across the street, it takes about 3 minutes. How can a Manhattan avenue and the time it takes to cross it occupy the same continuum?

Manuel García, Jr.:

Think of it this way, first in 2 space dimensions: imagine a checkerboard of grid lines for length and width, and their intersections “define” points in space, or locations. Maritime navigation uses this idea, where the 2D surface happens to be the surface of a sphere (latitude, longitude).

Now, at any single location (say, your desert island) time proceeds forward from a past to a future (you are always in a “now” that is the experienced part of this ‘perpetual’ stream). So now we imagine our checkerboard having vertical “time lines” piercing the horizontal spatial (2D) plane at each “location.”

Hence, the complete description of the 3D space-time of every location is defined by its x and y coordinates (spatial coordinates, like latitude and longitude) PLUS a time coordinate, t, noting the ‘time” point of whatever event is being denoted for location x-y (e.g., your 70th birthday on your desert island).

George Pal’s 1960 movie of H.G.Wells’ “The Time Machine” presented a beautiful description and use of this concept: the Time Machine could go into the past or the future but always fixed to one spot on Earth.

Now, given our actual (or perceived) 3D spatial world, we then exist in a 4D space-time. It is just impossible to draw a visual image of a 4D grid in the 3D space we experience, or on our 2D papers and art pads. But mathematics can describe 4D with exactitude (as multi-dimensional geometry, and with tensor mathematics).

Now for curvature. If you use a checkerboard quilt as a bedspread (to lay out an x-y grid of straight lines (called a Euclidian Space or Euclidian Geometry) and then place a bowling ball in the middle of it, the quilt will be deformed by the weight of the ball (gravity) and the grid lines near the ball will appear curved — because the originally flat surface they were defined in has been warped out of its original “2D-ness.”

That warping of the originally flat surface has a funnel shape: no warping (which is “down”) far away, and increasing warping as one gets closer to the bowling ball. If you now imagine a 2D (spatial) Black Hole, the funneling becomes increasingly vertical (“plunging”) on approach to the SR until it becomes perfectly vertical at the SR.

So, as light rays are in fact the grid lines forced to remain on the spatial surface, however it is warped, then the grid line at the infinite bottom of the funnel (which occurs at the SR) is a perfect circle, and can never “climb out.”

So now, for 3D space it is impossible to draw gravity-induced warping of space-time (which is 4D: 3 space dimensions, 1 time dimension), but the idea is exactly as described above.

To add more fun to it all, by Einstein’s General Relativity, the curving of light rays is equivalent to a slowing of them (analogous to taking your sports into a curve after racing down the Mulsanne Straight). So, with infinite curvature (the situation at the SR) time becomes infinite: or “stops.” Light rays at or below the SR are in “suspended animation” or “eternity,” they are stuck forever.

Lots of science fiction is based on the idea of the “light cones” centered on the “time axis” piercing our spatial here-and-now, coming to our specific (x,y,z,t) out of the past (“history”), narrowing down from the totality of events of the distant past to the single moment-spot of our specific here-now (x,y,z,t); and projecting into the future with an expanding range of possibilities as one projects into the more distant future.

It is easy enough to find images (sketch representations, cartoons, videos) on the internet of this light-cone limitation of the possible causes of this here-now, and its range of possible future effects.

BTW, the “grid lines” in “surfaces” (forming the coordinate system that maps them out) are called geodesics.

Have fun.

Thanks to Louis N. Proyect for asking good questions, and being patient enough to let the explanation unroll.

<><><><><><><>

 

Light Cones

The Climate Threat from Arctic Methane Releases

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

The Climate Threat from Arctic Methane Releases

A friend, who is an intelligent person with no science background, asked me to explain simply what the concern expressed with alarm by many scientists and (anti) climate change activists is about the increasing rate of methane gas emissions in the Arctic. That attempted explanation follows.

From even before the extinction of the dinosaurs by the Chicxulub Meteor 66 million years ago (66mya), to about 34mya, the Earth was much warmer (the peak occurred 50mya) and there was no polar ice, north or south.

Antarctica was covered in forests and jungles; the Arctic Ocean was a warm sea ringed by swamps and forests of ferns and Redwood trees along the Eurasian and North American northern continental shores; and those swamps swarmed with crocodiles.

Between 34mya to 12mya Earth’s temperature fluctuated and Antarctica froze thawed and refroze. Then Panama swung into place closing the oceanic gap between North (Central) and South America, and that altered ocean currents so that a Southern Ocean circumpolar current sealed off Antarctica climatically: the deep freeze of that continent that continues to this day.

That global cooling trend continued after 12mya and plunged Earth into the deep cold of the repeated glaciations of the Pleistocene Epoch (Ice Ages), from 2.58mya to 11,700ya, before the thawing of temperate latitudes introduced the balmy global climate we have enjoyed since.

All the lush and soggy vegetation around the Arctic Ocean was buried by sedimentation into the shallow continental shelves around that ocean, and then further locked away by the deep freeze producing permafrost, which extends quite a bit down below the ground surface, and down from the top of the seafloor of the shallows near land.

Rotting organic matter in the seas (algae, plants, fish, animals) sinks to the bottom and is decomposed by bacteria, and that produces methane gas (like cows fart from eating grass, and we fart from eating beans); but because of the cold and pressure deep down in all oceans, or in cold shallower seas like the Arctic, that gas actually combines with water into a fragile unstable crystal-like solid called methane clathrates or methane hydrates.

This is an “ice” that people can light up with a match and it burns like gas-soaked charcoal, but with a blue flame. When a methane hydrate solid is brought up to the surface of the ocean from the high pressure of the depths, it can spontaneously ignite because of the release of methane gas mixing with the oxygen in the air. Such flares have been seen on the ocean surface at night by airline pilots.

There is a large amount of compressed, frozen methane-rich organic matter, including peat, all along the sub-Arctic ring of sea and land about the Arctic Ocean. The thawing of that region is now increasingly releasing some of the trapped gas: from out of the clathrates, from out of subsurface compressed organic plant matter, and also from new underground fires burning peat seams and coal seams. Such fires are now extensive and burning continuously all along northern Siberia; they are called Zombie Fires.

Because of the complexities of molecular structure, a molecule of methane (CH4) has 2.5x (15/6) more ways of moving, plus rotating about and vibrating along the chemical bonds between its atoms, so as to store heat, than does a molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2). So, CH4 is 2.5x times more effective at being a global warming agent than CO2.

A large release of CH4 into the atmosphere will have a more pronounced global warming effect than an equal mass of CO2. But CH4 eventually combines with atmospheric oxygen molecules to form more CO2 and H2O (water).

What is happening in the Arctic is that the massive amount of stored subsurface methane — in all the forms that bound it — is now being warmed sufficiently to allow it to overcome the cold and pressure that used to hold it in. So there is an increasing rate of methane gas bubbling up from the seafloor, and from the Arctic tundra which is permafrost grassland that is thawing, slumping, and popping out with methane eruption craters, some tens of meters in diameter and depth. [1], [2]

Because of that accelerating rate of emission, and because the total amount of methane stored in the Arctic is so large, climate scientists are very concerned about the negative potential for our climate in the near future.

How worried? How fast? How alarming?

Well, the presently accelerating rate of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, and of global warming, is proceeding at a pace at least 20x that of previous major CO2 eruptions and global warming events in Earth’s geological past (like during the onset of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, 55.5mya); and that rate today could even be hundreds of times faster.

The CO2 increase in the atmosphere over the last century or so has equaled comparable amounts of increase that may have occurred over several thousand years during the massive eruption episodes in the geologic past that caused major extinctions.

During those past eruption events, where the pace of change was over thousands of years (a blink of the eye geologically), despite the extinctions that occurred much animal and plant life was able to adapt, and such adaptation carried on over longer spans of time was their transformation by biological evolution.

But today such a tactic of biological adaptation by a species in response to the shifting of climates is impossible because the genetic processes of evolution are far outpaced by the rapid rate of increase of CO2 concentration, and thus of global climate change.

However, we are not talking about doomsday in 5 or 10 years. Just think of how climate and weather have changed (gotten worse) since, say, the 1970s, and imagine a similar rate of degradation for another few decades, and you can then guess that sometime near the end of this century (maybe the 2070s) that Earth will really be at the edge of environmental collapse: if humanity had continue to do nothing about curbing its greenhouse gas emissions since this moment, and continues heedlessly emitting fossil fuel exhaust fumes beyond that point. 

Many people worry that such an unhappy timetable could be sped up if there were to be a truly massive eruption of “all” the methane locked up in the Arctic. If I get to live to be 100, in 2050, I’ll then know the ultimate course of Earth’s dynamic climate system.

Young people worldwide, sparked by Greta Thunberg [3], will be alive in 2050 and very much want to know NOW what the environmental conditions will be THEN, when they are supposed to experience their adult lives and be responsible for continuing civilization. And they have every right to demand that today’s adults do their intergenerational duty to pass on a hospitable Earth that sustains their dreams, our human civilization, and all species’s futures.

Within the next 10 years we had better begin to actually and continually cut down civilization’s (anthropogenic) annual CO2 emissions; by 25 years we had better be reducing them at a very pronounced rate; otherwise by 50 years Earth’s temperature may be high enough to trip the climate system into a new mode we will very much dislike — being much more of what we don’t like now — and which will be beyond our ability to correct regardless of whatever heroic measures we would then take, like miraculously dropping our CO2 emissions to zero forever.

The geophysical reality is that it takes the climate system hundreds of years (I once estimated 240 years) to BEGIN to shift in response to new atmospheric conditions. This is like a huge thermostat lag to a heating system of global scale, or like the lag between turning the rudder on a large ship and then actually having the ship begin to veer in a new direction.

It is because of this inertia that it is essential to stop our emissions as soon as possible (ASAP). The longer we wait — emitting more while waiting — the longer it will take Earth to respond to our finally throttling our emissions, and the longer it will take for the climate system to flush out that excess CO2 and lower the average global temperature. I estimate 1,000 to 1,400 years, but it could be much longer.

So that is what the worry about the increasing Arctic methane releases is all about.

Notes

[1] Giant new 50 meter deep crater opens up in the arctic tundra
https://siberiantimes.com/other/others/news/giant-new-50-metre-deep-crater-opens-up-in-arctic-tundra/

[2] More than 300 sealed craters are ticking time bombs from a total of 7000 plus arctic permafrost mounds
https://siberiantimes.com/other/others/news/more-than-300-sealed-craters-are-ticking-time-bombs-from-a-total-7000-plus-arctic-permafrost-mounds/

[3] “I Am Greta,” an excellent documentary about the young lady who is puncturing the big phonies of all our governments, on the overarching issue of climate change.
https://youtu.be/xDdEWkA15Rg

<><><><><><><>