Monday, November 16, 2009

Global Heating Is Getting Serious

Salud, Salut, Gesund—As Long As You’re Healthy
By Mort Malkin

Global Heating Is Getting Serious

SSG has spoken of the Earth as the ultimate source of nutrients for our bodies, and we’d better take good care of the soil, earthworms and all. Today, we add another source of nutrients — the sea.

The sea provides food in the form of many kinds of fish and also a number of delicacies worth of shellfish such as lobsters, oysters, scallops, and sea urchins. We all knew that fish stocks were being depleted via overfishing with long nets (miles long) and sea bottom trawling. We must add to the rapacious fishing, the pollution of the sea from urban and farm runoff. Thereby, our rivers are filled with mercury and other heavy metals, fertilizer in the form of N, P, and K, toxic pesticides with ferocious names, and prescription drug flotsam & jetsam. There are many dead zones in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Coast between Boston and Baltimore …

But, that’s old news. The new news is that the major greenhouse gas, CO2, is imperiling all sea life north to south and around the world. OK, it’s true that CO2 is not toxic like PCPs, PCDFs, and mercury, but the increased carbon dioxide in the air largely dissolves in sea water to form carbonic acid, HCO3. Acid sea water dissolves the shells of clams, oysters, and other shellfish as well as coral reefs where lots of fish hang out.  And then, we don’t know fully the effect of acid seas on plankton and other tiny creatures which are at the base of the ocean food chain. Plankton and other macro and microscopic beasties are breakfast, lunch. and dinner for very small fish, most shellfish, and even some huge sea creatures such as baleen whales. You know how it is out there in the salt water jungle — big fish eat little fish. The fiercest predator, human customers in sushi restaurants, will eat anything wrapped in raw fish. Then, when all the fish are gone, what will the penguins, pelicans, puffins and blue-footed boobies do?

Aside from gastronomy, artists, poets, and film makers will mourn the loss of the chambered nautilus and the giant clam of the South Pacific. Calendar collectors will no longer have sweet sea birds to illustrate January or July.

In the last few years most people became convinced that the atmosphere of the Earth has heated up dangerously, resulting in the shrinking of glaciers, the melting of the Arctic ice cap, and the breaking off of enormous chunks of ice shelves in Antarctica. The cause of the global heating, most of us now realize, is the rapid rise in greenhouse gases, notably CO2. The culprit is mankind — mostly coal fired power plants and transportation contrivances driven by gasoline & diesel engines. The carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, over 387 ppm last we were told, creates a greenhouse effect and so prevents the escape of heat from the land and sea into outer space. The Earth heats up, permafrost melts, ice caps melt, glaciers melt, and environmentalists become mainstream.

For six of eight years, the previous administration didn’t believe the numbers reported by the climatologists and oceanographers or the photos showing open water over the North Pole during summer months and the polar bears marooned on an ice floe miles out in the open ocean. Finally, they admitted to global “warming” and climate “change” while others of us spoke of global heating and climate chaos. Anyway, they said, it wasn’t their fault. Besides, they were certain that technology would provide an easy fix — perhaps spraying  the upper atmosphere with aerosol particles to reflect sunlight away from the planet, perhaps developing white asphalt for the parking lots of shopping malls to reflect the summer sun.

The trouble with such parasolic and reflective schemes is: we will still be spewing CO2 into the atmosphere by the ton as we burn fossil fuels, and the CO2 will still  be taken up by the oceans, producing the equivalent of seltzer (club soda). The acid brine will soften the shells of clams, mussels, scallops, oysters, and the many, more exotic sea animals. We may be approaching a time when the pleasures of oysters on the half shell or a full lobster dinner will become a fond memory. Global heating is getting serious.

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