Biosphere Warming in Numbers

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Biosphere Warming in Numbers

At this time, the Biosphere is warming at a rate of 3.03×10^15 Watts, which is equivalent to a temperature rate-of-rise of 0.0167°C/year. The warming rate has been increasing steadily since the 19th century, when it was on average “zero” except for natural fluctuations (plus and minus) that were hundreds of times smaller than today’s warming rate.

The total energy use by the United States in 2019 was 100 quadrillion BTU (British Thermal Units), which is equivalent to 1.055×10^20 Joules. Averaged out over the 31,557,600 seconds in a year implies a use rate of 3.34×10^12 Watts during 2019.

From the above two observations, we can deduce that the current rate of Biosphere warming on a yearly basis is equivalent to the yearly energy use in 2019 of 907 United States of Americas.

The total increase in the heat energy of the Biosphere since 1910 is 5.725×10^24 Joules, with a corresponding increase of its temperature by 1°C. That heat energy increase over the last 110 years is equivalent to 54,260 years of U.S. energy use at its 2019 amount, per year.

So, today the Biosphere is warming at a rate equivalent to it absorbing the total energy used by the U.S. in 2019, every 9 hours and 40 minutes.

In 2008, I estimated the energy of a large hurricane to be 6.944×10^17Joules. [1] Thus, 152 such hurricanes amount to the same total energy as that used by the U.S. during 2019.

The heat energy increase of the Biosphere during 2019 was 9.56×10^22 Joules, with a corresponding temperature increase of 0.0167°C. That heat energy increase is the energetic equivalent of 137,741 hurricanes. Now, of course, that Biosphere heat increase during 2019 did not all go into making hurricanes, but it should be easy enough to see that a small fraction (for a whopping amount) went into intensifying the weather and producing more and stronger hurricanes (and consequent flooding).

Two clear observations from all this are:

– the Biosphere is warming at an astounding rate, even if “we don’t notice it” because we gauge it by the annual change in average global surface temperature (which is in hundredths of degrees °C per year);

– the immense amount of heat added to the Biosphere every year is increasingly intensifying every aspect of weather and climate, and consequently driving profound changes to all of Earth’s environments.

Those environmental changes directly affect habitability, and species viability, because they are occurring at a rate orders of magnitude faster than the speed at which biological evolution can respond to environmental pressures.

What should we do about it all?

That is obvious: ditch capitalism and socio-economic inequities worldwide; ditch all forms of bigotry, intolerance, racism, war and social negativity; form a unified planetary political administration for the management of a socialist Earth; deploy reasonable technical mitigation strategies (like drastic reductions in the use of fossil fuels, transforming the transportation infrastructure); implement very deep and comprehensive social adaptation behaviors (“lifestyle changes,” eliminating consumerism, scrupulously protecting biodiversity, resettlement of populations displaced by permanent inundation or uninhabitable drought and heat, worldwide sharing of food production).

None of this will actually stop global warming, as the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere (assuming it has a lifetime there of thousands of years [2]) has us programmed to warm by about another 1°C to 2°C within two centuries, even if we immediately and permanently shut off all our greenhouse gas emissions.

But, such an improved civilization would experience the least amount of suffering — which would be equitably distributed — from the consequences of advancing global warming; and it would contribute minimally toward exacerbating future global warming.

Notes

[1] The Energy of a Hurricane
5 September 2008
https://www.counterpunch.org/2008/09/05/the-energy-of-a-hurricane/

[2] Global Warming and Cooling After CO2 Shutoff at +1.5°C
20 June 2020
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2020/06/20/global-warming-and-cooling-after-co2-shutoff-at-1-5c

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Publicly Subsidized Climate Change Insurance for Big Oil

“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My 14 August 2018 article, “Climate Change Bites Big Business” (https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/08/14/climate-change-bites-big-business/), described the now evident large financial impacts on Big Business caused by climate change, for example:

— the bankrupting-level liabilities to one California electric utility company (PG&E) for causing massive wildfires in 2017,

— the threat of similar future liabilities to the entire electric utility industry, especially in Western America,

— huge losses to fire insurance companies in California during 2017-2018 (and similar possibilities wherever drought occurs in highly developed areas),

— huge losses to flood, hurricane and tornado insurance companies, because of the more violent rain-and-wind storms of recent years (like Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the hurricanes since),

— the possible throttling of future commercial and real estate investment if insurance rates and bank loan interest rates increase sharply because wildfire and weather related destructive events are now permanently amplified by climate change.

In the article cited above, I concluded:

“I think that the pretense of climate change denialism by the Big Money has crumbled, and we are now entering a period of overt climate change acknowledgment coupled with fanatical efforts to gain public subsidies for private interests to both insure and indemnify them against climate change-related financial losses, and to also preserve the nature of their businesses even if they are major CO2 and organic vapor polluters, like the petrochemical and coal companies.”

Confirmation of the above conclusion is provided by The Associated Press article of 22 August 2018, “Big oil asks government to protect its Texas facilities from climate change” (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/texas-protect-oil-facilities-from-climate-change-coastal-spine/), which describes:

“An ambitious proposal to build a nearly 60-mile ‘spine’ of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast… to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it. The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas’ 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation’s refining capacity. Texas is seeking at least $12 billion for the full coastal spine, with nearly all of it coming from public funds. Last month, the government fast-tracked an initial $3.9 billion for three separate, smaller storm barrier projects that would specifically protect oil facilities.”

Capitalism is a combustion engine that burns fossil fuels to churn out privatized financial wealth, government power (by fueling the military) and socialized waste heat and greenhouse gas pollution whose accumulation in Nature creates and accelerates global warming-induced climate change.

The bald fact of the oil industry seeking to have the public subsidize the protection of its facilities — and its profitability — from the natural climate-changing consequences of its own operations must rank as one the most colossal combinations of blind greed, chutzpah, cognitive dissonance and inertia during this Oil Age.

But, this is where we are today in our collective response (if you can call it that) to the advancing threats posed by climate change to organized human life.

More polemics are pointless, and our existing politics is madness.

Note:

The phrase “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad” is spoken by Prometheus in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Masque of Pandora” (1875).

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Climate Change Bites Big Business
14 August 2018
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2018/08/14/climate-change-bites-big-business/

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Now also at Counter Punch;

Publicly Subsidized Climate Change Insurance for Big Oil
27 August 2018
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/08/27/publicly-subsidized-climate-change-insurance-for-big-oil/

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