posted on Jun, 1 2014 @ 09:53 PM
That was arguably the most powerful TV program ever broadcast on television since it's invention.
The show begins with a visual of the planet Venus. Were told that the planets outer atmosphere is almost entirely sulfuric oxide - an aerosol - which
reflects the suns rays away from the planet. Why then, is Venus 455 degrees celcius - a hellish environment? Because the minute rays of sunlight that
do eke by the shield of sulfuric oxide are kept IN by a small concentration of Carbon Dioxide. If you can imagine, an outer gas enveloping the planet
keeps energy away from the planet. But the bit of energy that gets through is kept within the lower atmosphere by a gas which enhances the effects of
the energy. This is where Venus' boiling hot 455 degree surface temperature comes from.
What an incisive way to start the show. Carbon Dioxide and it's effect on planetary temperature needs to be understood. Yes, there are only a few
parts per million of it in our atmosphere, but through analyses of ice cores were able to establish correspondences between co2 levels and climate
millions of years into our past, and we can see that carbon dioxide is the main regulator of the earths climate i.e temperature
In 1775, planetary co2 was measured at 280 ppm. Today, in 2014, it is hovering around 400 ppm. That is an enormous elevation, obviously caused by us
and our own profligate use of fossil fuels that power our electrical grid and move our vehicles. The earth has kept these fuels as deposits WITHIN the
earth, and out of the atmosphere. Our drilling and extracting these fuels out of the earth and subsequent combustion of them releases co2 back into
So were burning fuels that release this gas a byproduct. The atmosphere is getting hotter. So what? We can dial it back by developing technologies
like solar, geothermal and wind. True. True. But the issue is far more complicated than this.
The show goes on to explain that higher atmospheric co2 has ineluctably led to the melting of the frozen waters of the arctic. Today, for the first
time in recorded history, the northern passage is open. Ships can sail from Russia to Canada through this northern passage. It's important at this
point - if you've allowed a skeptical thought to enter your mind - to remember that co2 levels in the atmosphere have increased. Remember Venus? co2
regulates temperature, and so the increase of co2 within our atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution has led to an unceasing melt of
the arctic ocean, the ice sheets of Greenland and the ice sheets of Antarctica.
When the suns energy hits our planet, about 20% of it is reflected back by the ice sheets of the North and Southern poles. Think about that. In a very
real way, these ice sheets help keep the planet cooler - the oceans cooler - and in turn optimize the growth of life. This means that with the ice
sheets melting, less and less energy from the sun is being reflected away. Dark blue water absorbs more energy than white ice. This creates whats
called a positive feedback effect. Elevated Co2 levels -> Increased planetary temperature -> Melting of the ice -> Warming of the Oceans -> Increase
in Planetary temperature. Other positive feedback effects like this are the thawed organic materials in the tundra, which will release co2 into the
We are in danger of throwing nature into a dangerous spiral. The ice in the north and south poles cool the oceans. They help stabilize planetary
temperature. With a melting of these ice sheets will come a exponential increase in temperature.
I don't think the planet is going to die. But this sort of runaway effect is absolutely terrifying. The glaciers which half the world depend upon for
drinking water will certainly melt. This means floods (from precipitously melting glaciers) and drought (from a dearth of normal water flow from the
glaciers into the rivers in the summer months.
Honestly, this episode was important. This needs to be better understood because we do not have much time to dally. We cannot wait for 'renewables'
like solar and wind and geothermal to in their good time supplant coal, oil and natural gas. The longer we wait, the further we risk putting ourselves
beyond a point of no return. Runaway effects will be difficult to control; and frankly, I would feel very uncomfortable doing what the Earth has done
for free: regulating it's own climate, especially when there is still so much we don't understand about how the earths biota and molecular
atmospheric gases interact.
Thus, it was appropriate that the show returned to the image of Venus at the end. The planet is literally hell. Just think for a second that Venus
doesn't have to be as hot as it is. It's the combined influence of aerosols in the outer atmosphere keeping the suns energy out, and carbon dioxide
keeping energy in, that makes Venus such a hellhole.
If the earth got to hot, and we were forced to put aerosols in the outer atmosphere to cool the planet, how unfortunate it would be if things grew out
of control and the earth began to stabilize aerosols in the outer atmosphere without ejecting enough co2 from the lower atmosphere. It seems Venus
would be an apposite model of what could result.
So, this means, we are up against time. I do not think this show is a coincidence, nor do I think the White Houses official statement a few weeks back
was an accident either. People need to face up to the fact that we really are in a dire situation calling for immediate action. This action cannot
afford to be delayed. We cannot have our cake and eat it too: we cannot maintain our economic standards if we are to act effectively. We have to
accept a carbon tax. We need to make carbon - fossil fuels - too costly to be economically viable. We need to PUSH solar and geothermal and wind, and
even nuclear, as replacements.
Yes, this does mean the price of living will go up. Price of electricity will go up. Water will go up (electricity powers water infrastructure plants)
everything, because everything is essentially predicated on fossil fuels as the engine of the economy. Yes. It sucks. I don't like it. BUT, I am
mature and aware enough to recognize whats at stake. When you're sick and you discover you have a terminal illness you will do whatever the doctor -
the most knowledgeable person - recommends. Similarly, we need to appreciate the science that's been discovered and we need to recognize the
necessity of action. THIS IS THE RATIONAL RESPONSE.
What addles my mind is the cognitive dissonance this will create in people who a) subscribe to a contrary view b) are afraid of the cosnequences. The
former group of people always seem to manage to find some rationale - they give precedence to some ridiculous idea, all the while ignoring the most
relevant piece of information: this being how cognitive dissonance manages to be effective.