Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Secret Is Out. CO2 Levels Were Even Higher In The Past.

At the Conference on World Affairs we were treated to a two hour lecture from Jim Hansen of NASA, considered by many to be the world’s leading expert on climate change. For those unfamiliar with his status in the intellectual community, Hansen is the guy who went to the New York Times four years ago and blew the whistle on a twenty-something political flunky with no college education who had been installed by the Bush administration in NASA to censor press releases and silence any reference to global warming. The terms “icon” and “hero” applied to Jim Hansen are insufficient descriptions of his status in the scientific community.

The good news for Rush Limbaugh and the conservative Evangelical Christians is that they are correct with their claim that CO2 levels fluctuate over time, and that the CO2 levels have been even higher in the past. They’re right (no pun intended). Hansen’s research shows that 10 million years ago, the CO2 level was 450 ppm (parts per million) because the subcontinent of India was starting to plow into Asia and push up the Himalayan mountain chain. This, in turn, unleashed intense volcanic activity around the Pacific rim, and volcanoes are a main source of CO2 emissions. Limbaugh and the Evangelical Christians are right about that, too.

Here’s the bad news. 10 million years ago, that 450 ppm CO2 level made the earth totally free of ice, and sea level was 350 feet higher than it is now. Currently, our atmosphere contains 385 ppm of CO2, and it has climbed from 325 ppm in the last century. Based on that rate of CO2 level climb, in another hundred years the earth can, once again, be ice free and sea level can be 350 feet higher. Of the earth’s 6.5 billion people, 4 billion of them live within a zone lower than 350 feet above current sea level.

Jim Hansen wants us to go down to a level of CO2 somewhere between 325 ppm and 350 ppm. The alternative is unthinkable. Of course, by the time the unthinkable happens, Rush Limbaugh will be dead, and the Evangelical Christians will be looking at the end times which they actually want.

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