Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Meltdown

TPM has a little ditty on GOP chairman Michael Steele claiming that the warming of our climate is part of the global cooling process. That's a good one. The planet is cooling down. I wonder what that is based on, what evidence.
I was thinking about climate change just yesterday. I had heard or read somewhere that Germany has cut 4,000 miles off the shipping lanes from Japan to Germany by using the channel in northern Canada, open in 2008 for the first time in thousands of years or tens of thousands or something to that effect. Global cooling my ass.
But yesterday I was wondering if maybe there's something about these wide temperature swings that science has yet to recognize. This isn't the first time that average global temperatures have been on the move. There have been both ice ages and times of extreme temperatures at other times in earth's history. Is it just something dependent on solar activity or is there something more significant at play here?
After all, it's the temperature of the biosphere that keeps changing. The biosphere is that part of earth's atmosphere where plant and animal life lives. One could argue that it also includes the oceans and surface soils. Global climate change happens where life exists so why wouldn't it make sense that it is life that alters the temperature of the biosphere?
How?
Well the global warming people have been telling us for a long time now that it is the "greenhouse effect" that is causing global temperatures to rise. The greenhouse effect is what happens in air containing an excess of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and/or methane gas. These gasses form a layer that retains heat and radiates it back to the earth's surface rather than allowing it to escape into space. Yes the heat comes from the sun but the greenhouse effect causes the biosphere to retain more of the sun's energy than would be retained otherwise.
Plants use carbon dioxide in their life process. They convert carbon dioxide into organic (carbon-based) substances and give off oxygen into the atmosphere as a byproduct.
Animals do just the opposite. Animals use organic fuels and combine them with oxygen from the atmosphere to generate energy giving off carbon dioxide as a byproduct.
So what I was thinking is that maybe nature has a little war going on here between plant life and animal life. Maybe there are periods in the history of life on earth where plants were dominant and thus carbon was stored up in hydrocarbons (oils, coal, peat, sea bottoms, etc.). With reduced greenhouse gasses, the biosphere would cool down. This would have a self-limiting effect if it brought on an ice age and perhaps water vapor or methane gas from decomposition or even carbon dioxide from animal life would reverse the trend.
Maybe there are other periods where animal life dominates and the resulting increase in greenhouse gasses causes warming of the biosphere.
What is happening right now makes sense if you look at this overall process. We are living in an age dominated by animal life, an age where humans are not only reducing the amount of plant life but also using the world's stored hydrocarbons to once again release them as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Using hydrocarbons for fuel is serving to rapidly alter the temperature of the biosphere in a way that would otherwise take nature thousands of years to accomplish.
The thing is, there's a very long ways to go still before we reach any sort of limits. The upper latitudes have been much warmer than they are now. There is a lot of carbon remaining in reserve still, carbon that was at some point in the history of the biosphere available for life, both plant and animal, and available for use as greenhouse gasses.
We have a very long way to go yet before we reach earth's limits.
But to claim that the warming we are seeing is part of the larger cooling process? Ummmmm.... What cooling process are we talking about here? Entropy?

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