Climate change is a loaded topic and you can dig deep into intimidating mathematical calculations and chemistry. What it all boils down to (pun intended) are the molecules in our atmosphere. Before the industrial revolution, it worked like this: The sun shines down on earth and mostly the energy bounces back out to space. Water vapour and some carbon dioxide keeps a fraction of the energy maintaining warmth. This way, the sun warms the earth enough to sustain life but doesn’t burn us to a crisp.
With carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydroflourocarbons and other gases in the atmosphere, a harmful amount of the sun’s heat is trapped in our atmosphere and not enough is reflected back out into space.
This is ultimately the greenhouse effect which warms our planet. This is why we are reaching record high temperatures and earth’s creatures are behaving differently.
I got so lost in links of links of links in Wikipeadia and whilst I understood the just of it, I couldn’t write about it the way I would like to. Luckily, there are some brainiacs on Youtube that can explain it perfectly in visuals.
Enjoy the videos below and pat yourself on the back for learning the science behind climate change. They all compliment each other and are fun to watch.
This planetary boundary is one of two core boundaries. This means that if this threshold has been crossed, it affects other processes on earth. The other core boundary is climate change.
By looking at the planetary boundary picture above, you can see that the green to yellow to red piece of the pie, indicates that we have crossed this threshold.
We are now experiencing the sixth mass extinction of planet earth. This beautiful blue and green planet of ours has experienced 5 mass extinctions before. These have been said to be caused by volcano eruptions, asetroid strikes, climate shifts and other natural causes. During these natural phenomenons, species extinction occurs at 1 to 5 species a year. This is called a background rate.
The sixth mass extinction known as the Holocene or Anthropocene extinction is caused by humans. The extinction rate of species is 1,000 to 10,000 times larger than the background rate of previous extinctions.
We are facing a future of losing 30 – 50% of all species by 2050 if we don’t act dramatically now.
This is caused by a number of factors:
Habitat loss and degration due to farming especially animal agriculture
Climate change through heat stress and drought stress
Excessive nutrient load and other forms of pollution
Over-exploitation and unsustainable use (e.g. unsustainable fishing methods) we are currently using 25% more natural resources than the planet
Armed conflict, which disrupts human livelihoods and institutions, contributes to habitat loss, and intensifies over-exploitation of economically valuable species, leading to population declines and local extinctions.
Invasive alien species that effectively compete for a niche, replacing indigenous species
The threat of extinction is at large and includes:
1 out of 8 birds
1 out of 4 mammals
1 out of 4 conifers
1 out 3 amphibians
6 out of 7 marine turtles
75% of genetic diversity of animal crops have been lost
75% of the world’s fisheries are fully or over exploited
Up to 70% of the world’s known species risk extinction if the global temperatures rise by more than 3.5°C
1/3rd of reef-building corals around the world are threatened with extinction
Over 350 million people suffer from severe water scarcity
Stratospheric Ozone Depletion is one of 9 interplanetary boundaries.
Introduction to Planetary Boundaries
Planetary Boundaries is a concept where each of the nine boundaries are interconnected with one another. It was proposed by a group of earth system and environmental scientists led by Johan Rockström from the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Will Steffen from the Australian National University.
When one boundary is pushed beyond it’s limits, it can cause catastrophe for the other boundaries. It’s a bit like looking at the planet as a whole ecosystem.
Some people argue and say that using planetary boundaries implies that humans can continue their destructive ways up until a determined limit and thus not change methods entirely. I agree with them. I believe we should be altering our methods so that we are healing the planet and not taking without replacing.
I do, however find the planetary boundaries concept interesting because it alerts us to the dangerous territory we are embarking on that could cause the life, including human life, on our blue planet to collapse.
Business as usual in a system that is based on infinite resources is leading us to the depths of Modor, to put it figuratively. We are dancing on the edge of a cliff and we must find our way back to the laws of nature.
Nature is a wonderful thing. She is fruitful, rewarding and can pour abundant doses of happiness into our souls. That sentence only applies when we treat her with respect. If we abuse her, punish her, force her and overpower her, she will become hostile. Unfortunately many innocent lives are at stake for the actions of a few people orientated by money and immediate gratification. We must look into the future and think ahead. Immediate gratification is like an addiction and it will make us sick.
Our Ozone Layer
The ozone layer encircles the Earth, and it is a gaseous layer situated at the lower end of the stratosphere. Ozone is a molecule made up of 3 oxygen atoms. The oxygen we breath is made up of molecules with 2 oxygen atoms. The ozone layer has more ozone in it than any other atmospheric layer around the earth. Ozone serves an important purpose for life on earth. It blocks harmful ultraviloet radiation that comes from the sun.
It is compelling to know that ultraviolet radiation from the sun actually forms the ozone molecules in the ozone layer. Ozone forms when radiation or electrical discharge separates the two atoms in an oxygen molecule (O2), and these free oxygen atoms can form with other oxygen molecules (O2) to form ozone (O3).
The general public became more aware of the ozone layer when scientists discovered that certain chemicals manufactured by humans destroyed some of our ozone. These harmful chemicals include chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) and caused a ‘hole’ (or rather a considerable less amount of ozone) in our ozone layer that sits over Antartica during the spring time.
After an outcry, an international treaty was signed in 1973 called the Montreal Protocol, and the manufacture of these chemicals was greatly reduced.
The ozone layer destruction has slowed down significantly and we are hoping that it will continue to heal with humanity’s cooperation. There is some science that suggests that major volcanic eruptions (mainly El Chichon in 1983 and and Mt. Pinatubo in 1991) may have also contributed to the ozone depletion.
If the ozone layer continued to deplete, humans would be susceptible to various cancers, cataracts and plants would not grow well thus impacting our food supply. Whales have also shown signs of skin damage due to the hole in the ozone layer.
While stratospheric ozone which protects us from the sun is good, there is also ozone produced near the ground from sunlight interacting with atmospheric pollution in cities that is bad for human health. It causes breathing problems for some people, and usually occurs in the summertime when the pollution over a city builds up during stagnant air conditions
The planetary boundary for the ozone layer is recorded in Dobson Units and is currently 276 Dobson units. That means if we fall under 276 units, we have passed the threshold. The current reading accorning to Wikipedia is 283 Dobson Units. The value before industrial times was 290.
Here is an interesting timeline of the history of the ozone layer from theozonehole.com. Note Du Pont’s role in this, who is also responsible for biodiversity loss in food by producing pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified food to survive these poisions.
HISTORY OF THE OZONE LAYER
600,000,000 B.C. Ozone layer forms
1839 Christian Schöenbein identifies ozone in the laboratory
1845 Auguste de la Rive and Jean-Charles de Marignac suggest ozone is a form of oxygen; confirmed by Thomas Andrews in 1856
1858 Andrei Houzeau finds ozone present in natural air
1865 Jean-Louis Soret proves that ozone is O3
1879 Marie Alfred Cornu measures solar spectrum and finds sharp cutoff in ultraviolet (UV) light
1881 Walter Hartley recognizes cutoff corresponds to UV absorption by ozone
1913 John William Strutt (Lord Rayleigh) shows absorption is not in lower atmosphere
1919 Charles Fabry makes first spectrometric measurements of “thickness” of ozone layer
1924 G.M.B. Dobson develops ozone spectrophotometer and begins regular measurements of ozone abundance (Arosa, Switzerland)
1925 Jean Cabannes and Jean Dufay show ozone is about 10 miles high
1928 Thomas Midgley synthesizes chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s)
1929 Umkehr method for Dobson instrument establishes that ozone maximum is below 15 miles altitude
1930 Sydney Chapman describes theory that explains existence of an ozone “layer”
1934 Ozonesonde (balloon) measurements establish the ozone concentration is maximum around 12 miles up
1930’s GM develops applications for CFC’s
1950 David Bates and Marcel Nicolet propose catalytic (HOx) ozone destruction
1957 Global network of Dobson spectrophotometers established during the International Geophysical Year (IGY)
late 1950’s CFC market expands rapidly
early 1960’s Catalytic destruction is necessary in order to explain ozone amounts
1960’s Boeing proposes supersonic transport (SST) fleet of 800 aircraft
1969 Paul Crutzen discovers NOx catalytic cycle
1971-74 Dept of Transportation sponsors intensive program of research, The Climatic Impact Assessment Program (CIAP)
1971 Congress axes funding for the SST
1971 Johnston calculates that NOx from SST’s could deplete ozone layer
1973 Rick Stolarski and Ralph Cicerone suggest catalytic capability of Cl
1973 James Lovelock detects CFC’s in atmosphere
1974 Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina warn of ozone depletion due to CFC’s
March 1977 First international meeting (Washington DC) to address issue of ozone depletion held by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)
March 1978 US bans non-essential use of CFC’s as aerosol propellant
1978 Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) is launched aboard NIMBUS-7 spacecraft giving global coverage of ozone layer thickness
1980’s Renewed expansion of CFC market
Oct 1982 Shigeru Chubachi measures low ozone over Syowa, Antarctica (reported at Ozone Commission meeting in Halkidiki, Greece in Sept 1984)
1984 British Antarctic Survey scientists discover recurring springtime Antarctic ozone hole (published in Nature May 1985)
March 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer
Sept. 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer (Amendments – London 1990; Copenhagen 1992)
March 1988 DuPont agrees to CFC production phase-out
late 1980’s Ten years of satellite data begin to show measurable ozone depletion globally
1991 DuPont announces phase-out of CFC production by end of 1996
1992/3 Abnormally low ozone observed globally
1995 Crutzen, Rowland, and Molina win Nobel Prize in Chemistry
mid-1990’s springtime Arctic ozone dent appearing
Jan. 1996 CFC production ends in US and Europe
2000 Maximum CFC concentrations in stratosphere are reached
Today The Ozone Layer – Global Map
2010 CFC production ends world-wide
2030 Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) alternatives are phased out
2040 HCFC production ends world-wide
2050 Springtime Antarctic ozone hole disappears
I did find a video that states that the ozone layer is not healing and I cannot ignore it from this article. To view it, click here.
I wanted to write about climate change so that every day people could understand what is happening to our planet. The science journals and graphs and special lingo can be offputting and a lot of information is not understood by the majority of people. The motivation to write about climate change happened one year ago and sadly, I have not devoted the time needed to resarch this topic fully in the way that I would like to write it.
My starting point was to explain planetary boundaries. This is a system based on 9 planetary life support systems and how they are interconnected. If a number of them are pushed, then the system in it’s entirety collapses threatning this planet’s habitability. To just explain one of these nine systems, I had to build on my limited scientific knowledge and quickly, I realised that writing this would be a series of artcles that would take a considerable amount of time.
Writing articles is not my main focus however I do feel that humans need to radically change their lifestyle to live harmoniously with the ecosystem. Hence, I write artciles to promote regenerative living however, there is more to expect…
Climate Change is happening now.
We are at the point of irreversable damage and that point may have passed us already. Sustainable is no longer good enough and regenerative living is not enough right now. For those that can accept the difficult and uncomfortable truth, preparation for adaption is needed.
We need to be informed of what to expect so that we can make preparations. Unicorn Cafe focuses on the positive side and drives change from this angle. Doom and gloom is not an experience we want to feel yet ignoring that serious consequences lie ahead of us would be irresponsible.
What I can do now is post links to media out on the world wide web and I hope to take you on the journey with me as I explore options to survive.
There are support groups in place
It is inevitable that some of us will feel hopeless and helpless when we understand the magnitude of what is to come and so, suport groups are forming.