Climate Change

Some one who went longer to school then I said : it is not what humans do that is bad for the climat chance but the problem is that there are to many humans on earth. I do believe him.

Sorry for all the faults against the English, I am Flemish and left school at 16.

Well I know the hand clinic cos Caroline hurt her hand in the garden but my injury took place when we lived in Aubeterre and I was stitched back together at the A&E plus a very nice young to come every day and pull off dead tissue to make sure I didn't get gangrene. I was told later on that the French are the experts in blunt force trauma allegedly following the Napoleonic wars. I am sure things have improved since then.

But also crunched same hand skiing and discovering I wasn't quite as good on an icy piste at speed as I thought.

Still back to climate change, we will miss our skiing if the trend continues and there will be a serious risk of "stone" avalanches as the permafrost decided not to be in fact permafrost. On the other hand the Alps will reduce in height quicker and that will potentially change the local weather patterns and climate.

Conversely one of the risks is that the Gulf stream will slow down or stop and winter weather in N West Europe including the UK will more closely resemble Canada, so maybe more skiing in Scotland which will become wealthier and enable them to declare independence as they will not be economically dependent on oil.

OK, written slightly tongue in cheek, but the repercussions of climate change will have all sorts of local effects that nobody has considered.

Deviation BUT necessary. The sports clinic in Bordeaux, I am under Dr Flurin who will eventually give me a nice new titanium joint. He is one of the top five shoulder specialists in the world there but I know that his colleague who does hands is one of the world's finest too, don't know a name though.

Anyway, let's get this post rolling and you read Elizabeth then make short comments or even grunts with the healthy finger you must have.


Is this short term damage or a long term disability?

And are you getting treatment? Any?, Right?

Do you know there is a specialist hand clinic in Bordeaux, who might be able to help you?

Some years ago I managed with careful aforethought - not - to put my hand into a mower that was still cutting. Actually it wasn't that painful but did I miss my hands when I was trying to do anything. So I understand your predicament.

Hand is fine now, still waiting on the brain transplant though.

thanks guys, thoughtful comments all. wish i could type

Actually Peter, for probably too long I was dependent on grants and other funding. From my doctoral work on I think so many of us and across so many disciplines must have talked about donors. The donors who do exert a lot of influence are usually big business concerns who tell all manner of researcher what they want to have and expect to get it. However, the majority of us who get funding have it from governments, foundations, charities, direct funding and bursary organisations and sometimes from philanthropists particularly very directly. Thus we have what we are proposing funded, thus our outcomes are entirely of our own choice based on analysis of our work, designed, carried out, analysed and written up by us. Little if any influence is borne on us. However, the popular view is that the research community is 'bought' because of the sometime generous amounts given to people (never had a generous one myself :-( ). So, for my part I have no suspicions on that account.

The bottom line is that human activity is contributing clearly and whilst what we loosely call nature takes its own course anyway, there is clearly a meeting point. Nonetheless, it does not justify spewing out more 'rubbish' into the world in its many varied forms. So actually, at the end of the day I guess John, you and I have a point of agreement within a large band of possible and flexible definitions of the whens, hows and so on. Obviously human beings are frailer than some other things in this world, thus we either consciously bring our eventual demise forward a bit by doing nothing or go as far as evolution has more or less predetermined we can go by cleaning up a bit and hope that whatever comes after has something 'they' can surivive on.

Hi Brian

Without access to the detailed research one must assume the results and analysis are correct.

But, bear in mind that research scientists rely on funding and grants so I would not assume total objectivity since most science is less objective than many assume and that is ignoring the inevitable personal bias of all of us in our ability to be selective about what we read and absorb - not least me of course.

Having said that then the question is "Yes but does it matter?" My gut feel is Yes but then does nature take over and fix the problem, again assuming there is a problem, in ways we do not either recognise or understand.

I expect that John W will be more concerned than I am and not without good reason as the short term effect on the oceans and their ecosystems could be profound but from my perspective (plus or minus the odd 10 million years) I am more relaxed.

Still since we do not know either the long term or short term effect, best if we stopped spewing out loads of nasty gases.

If we could only get a working fusion reactor, we could then find ways to down scale it and then most of our issues would go away in terms at least of any climate change. But then that creates a few new issues I expect.

Scientists, this one is over to you really but I had a look. The full version either comes up or you can click it up.

The pure science parts are well above my hat but the message gets through. That there is so much work going on, and I always look at things to see how well referenced they are, should alone tell us that something is happening, to look and listen and take it seriously. Have a good read.

To that final paragraph it only needs to be added that we already know that one way or another what we sometimes call 'natural selection', that is actually far more complicated than it seems, has long since decided our species will eventually die out. However, since we developed the qualities that make us supposedly unique, rationality, intellect, versatility, adaptability and so on, we have decided we are not going to go willingly. Therefore we are stuck in the embrace of a serious contradiction. If we continue as we have and irrespective of what natural cycles have in store for us, we are probably shortening the length of our existence. On the other hand, firstly what has been done needs to be undone, as far as is possible (very little I believe), and somehow human beings need to completely take control of the planet, thus doing some implausible things like eternally stabilising our rotation around the sun so that hot and glacial periods do not happen every so often. Without going into detail, human beings need to become as god(s) to keep our species going for as long as this planet will accommodate us. However, we know the sun has only a finite life, so even though we know it is many millions or billions of years off we now need to go walk about among the planets to find a new home.

Most of it will not affect us ever, indeed so many generations will have come and gone that we don't really need to worry about our poor future relatives. However, in social terms this is an unacceptable proposition because even if people do find another home, then it will be a select few colonists rather than all of humanity. We all, on the basis of fundamental principles of human rights, have the same rights, especially such things as survival.

So,there we are in a corner with our backs to the wall and only a few million years to go but in the meantime we need to clean up shop before it closes us down earlier than expected. That way we will at least buy time. There is actually nothing lost by doing something about the human made mess other than giving future generations a nicer world to live in whilst it sustains us.


Now this is where it gets confusing. The article reports:

“Do the Earth’s volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities? Research findings indicate that the answer to this frequently asked question is a clear and unequivocal, “No.” Human activities, responsible for a projected 35 billion metric tons (gigatons) of CO2 emissions in 2010 (Friedlingstein et al., 2010), release an amount of CO2 that dwarfs the annual CO2 emissions of all the world’s degassing subaerial and submarine volcanoes (Gerlach, 2011).”

Or more specifically that the Anthropogenic CO2 in 2010 was 33.6 gigatons (gt) compared to Pintatubo of 0.05 Gt I have no idea what anthropogenic means in this context since it might or might not include domestic animals and humans besides the obvious industrial contributions,

By chance in this weekend in the Economist it reports that ruminants (cows, etc) have contributed 14% of the methanogens at the rate of 100 gt per annum and these are 25 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.

And with all due respect, I am sure we all make our own contribution to global warming from our digestive systems expulsion of gaseous products!! I fully accept, of course that doesn’t and indeed cannot apply to anyone who reads SFN, save those who wish to accuse me of talking BS!

So we have “evidence” that changes in the global climate both warming and cooling are “survivable” and that the earth reverts to some form of norm for the epoch at the time, though the reversion may take thousands, maybe up to a million years.

One central issue is our inability to distinguish changes taking place in our life time and long term geological changes.

At the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) 18,000 years ago, sea levels were 400m (the number is from memory) lower, so that the “North sea” was a grassland and has been slowly being flooded. This has been a repeat pattern that allowed early hominids at different to cross out of Africa and into the rest of the world. ,

What we know is that the global climate has always been changing caused by mainly terrestrial geological processes with some external factors, asteroids, changes in solar radiation caused by changes in the solar output, the relationship between the earth and the sun. As I posted earlier in theory we should be close to the next glacial cycle and maybe we are not because of our contribution to global warming.


We do not know nearly enough to make informed decisions that have a global effect, and it seems to me we cannot apparently separate out short term fluctuations, some of which are caused by man and longer term changes that reflect the ever changing climatic patterns that we can deduce from the historical record.

The points raised by John are not wrong and the potential issues raised by Brian are equally valid but life continues, always has and always will, we are not the final species on earth, but we have a duty to protect the environment provided at the same time we recognise that change is an inevitable geologic process.

Hi Elizabeth really sorry to read about your broken bones and wish you a speedy recovery.

Well as they say you asked for it. Two posts that I hope you find interesting.


OK well off we go.

The stuff in Italics are from articles available on the internet and as requested unedited, the rest is my commentary, observations and thoughts.

“The Deccan Traps are one of the largest volcanic provinces in the world. It consists of more than 6,500 feet (>2,000 m) of flat-lying basalt lava flows and covers an area of nearly 200,000 square miles (500,000 square km) (roughly the size of the states of Washington and Oregon combined) in west-central India. Estimates of the original area covered by the lava flows are as high as 600,000 square miles (1.5 million square km).

The volume of basalt is estimated to be 12,275 cubic miles (512,000 cubic km)(the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens produced 1 cubic km of volcanic material).

The Deccan basalts may have played a role in the extinction of the dinosaurs. Most of the basalt was erupted between 65 and 60 million years ago. Gases released by the eruption may have changed the global climate and lead to the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. “

Europe is approximately 3.8 million sq KM. But in the article I read, Europe seemed to include the M East???, but definitely excluded Russia. However I offer this to give you a better sense of the size of the eruption. Self evidently at 2,000 m thick most of Europe would have been completely covered with only mountains sticking out and they would at best been covered with ash and denuded of any life, save seeds. Evidence from the St Helens eruption was that the land was quickly recovered in plant life followed by animal life shortly after, so I imagine something similar would have happened with the Deccan Traps – see also the article on the Toba eruption below.

The Deccan traps were extruded onto land surface and the gases would have been injected into the atmosphere. The best current example are the lava flows that can be seen in Iceland at the boundary of the European and N American plates as they drift apart.

The point here is that whilst there are substantial under sea lava flows, also typically at the boundary edges of tectonic plates, they are not the only ones. Their significance in terms of changing the acidity of the oceans is covered in the next extract.

“Volcanoes can impact climate change. During major explosive eruptions huge amounts of volcanic gas, aerosol droplets, and ash are injected into the stratosphere. Injected ash falls rapidly from the stratosphere -- most of it is removed within several days to weeks -- and has little impact on climate change. But volcanic gases like sulfur dioxide can cause global cooling, while volcanic carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, has the potential to promote global warming.

The most significant climate impacts from volcanic injections into the stratosphere come from the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid, which condenses rapidly in the stratosphere to form fine sulfate aerosols. The aerosols increase the reflection of radiation from the Sun back into space, cooling the Earth's lower atmosphere or troposphere. Several eruptions during the past century have caused a decline in the average temperature at the Earth's surface of up to half a degree (Fahrenheit scale) for periods of one to three years. The climactic eruption of Mount Pinatubo on June 15, 1991, was one of the largest eruptions of the twentieth century and injected a 20-million ton (metric scale) sulfur dioxide cloud into the stratosphere at an altitude of more than 20 miles. The Pinatubo cloud was the largest sulfur dioxide cloud ever observed in the stratosphere since the beginning of such observations by satellites in 1978. It caused what is believed to be the largest aerosol disturbance of the stratosphere in the twentieth century, though probably smaller than the disturbances from eruptions of Krakatau in 1883 and Tambora in 1815. Consequently, it was a standout in its climate impact and cooled the Earth's surface for three years following the eruption, by as much as 1.3 degrees at the height of the impact. Sulfur dioxide from the large 1783-1784 Laki fissure eruption in Iceland caused regional cooling of Europe and North America by similar amounts for similar periods of time.”

Of course these are trivial amounts compared to the Toba eruption as discussed in the next article.

“A new study provides "incontrovertible evidence" that the volcanic super-eruption of Toba on the island of Sumatra about 73,000 years ago deforested much of central India, some 3,000 miles from the epicenter, researchers report.

The volcano ejected an estimated 800 cubic kilometers of ash into the atmosphere, leaving a crater (now the world's largest volcanic lake) that is 100 kilometers long and 35 kilometers wide. Ash from the event has been found in India, the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea.

The bright ash reflected sunlight off the landscape, and volcanic sulfur aerosols impeded solar radiation for six years, initiating an "Instant Ice Age" that -- according to evidence in ice cores taken in Greenland -- lasted about 1,800 years.

During this instant ice age, temperatures dropped by as much as 16 degrees centigrade (28 degrees Fahrenheit), said University of Illinois anthropology professor Stanley Ambrose, a principal investigator on the new study with professor Martin A.J. Williams, of the University of Adelaide. Williams, who discovered a layer of Toba ash in central India in 1980, led the research.

The climactic effects of Toba have been a source of controversy for years, as is its impact on human populations.

In 1998, Ambrose proposed in the Journal of Human Evolution that the effects of the Toba eruption and the Ice Age that followed could explain the apparent bottleneck in human populations that geneticists believe occurred between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. The lack of genetic diversity among humans alive today suggests that during this time period humans came very close to becoming extinct.

To address the limited evidence of the terrestrial effects of Toba, Ambrose and his colleagues pursued two lines of research: They analyzed pollen from a marine core in the Bay of Bengal that included a layer of ash from the Toba eruption, and they looked at carbon isotope ratios in fossil soil carbonates taken from directly above and below the Toba ash in three locations in central India.

Carbon isotopes reflect the type of vegetation that existed at a given locale and time. Heavily forested regions leave carbon isotope fingerprints that are distinct from those of grasses or grassy woodlands.

Both lines of evidence revealed a distinct change in the type of vegetation in India immediately after the Toba eruption, the researchers report. The pollen analysis indicated a shift to a "more open vegetation cover and reduced representation of ferns, particularly in the first 5 to 7 centimeters above the Toba ash," they wrote in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. The change in vegetation and the loss of ferns, which grow best in humid conditions, they wrote, "would suggest significantly drier conditions in this region for at least one thousand years after the Toba eruption."

The dryness probably also indicates a drop in temperature, Ambrose said, "because when you turn down the temperature you also turn down the rainfall."

The carbon isotope analysis showed that forests covered central India when the eruption occurred, but wooded to open grassland predominated for at least 1,000 years after the eruption.

"This is unambiguous evidence that Toba caused deforestation in the tropics for a long time," Ambrose said. This disaster may have forced the ancestors of modern humans to adopt new cooperative strategies for survival that eventually permitted them to replace Neanderthals and other archaic human species, he said.”

The current “worry” is the Yosemite Super Volcano that is due to erupt any time now (Geological time scale!!) and when it does it will effectively destroy the USA (c/f Santorini and the end of Minoan civilisation.) with a comparable effect to Toba on the rest of the world.

dont edit too much. we are all speed readers,

excuse my writing - pain increasing as now broken bones, plus surgery/

carry-on guys

Hi John, Brian and Elizabeth

Thank you and OK will do during the day.

I have collected lots of thoughts and material but need to edit it down a bit - well a lot.

i am extremely interested. i have edited mzny reports and books on this subject. i particularly want to know more about geology.

readers not keen can turn off notification.

still have my left hand disabled, so wont comment further, but will read ALL

Yep I agree, if there were/are more people interested then it's not for me to keep quiet, I am interested. It's for them to speak up if it's getting too deep.

Keep going Peter, John too and I am around, well, out and about sometimes and actually might just (shhhh!) work a bit. However, I know that there might be some kind of shyness on the part of some people who see science. They are often bright enough but are a bit like reluctant virgins so often. I will naturally continue in the interest of the human rather than natural sciences, it is what I am conversant with.

Hi John

I am happy to add further thoughts but we are really heading into academia and I wonder if anyone else is interested.

I am quite happy to keep on posting stuff, but can also email you off board as I wonder if many on SFN will see the relevance, say for example the Toba eruption that took place 74,000 years ago and pushed mankind almost to extinction and is germane to our discussion, to well "Surviving in France".

I am not being or intending to be in anyway patronising. Its all good stuff for thee and me but ......??

James: Please give me some guidance on SFN policy.

Yes Peter, can't disagree with you the underwater volcanoes and fissures do produce huge amounts of CO2 and does anyone without a corporate agenda collate the data that may show a trend in increased underwater volcano activity with rises in CO2 levels?

Hi John

My apologies, I was less than exact in my reply assuming that the one point implied the other. Extensive volcanism generates huge amounts of CO2, which do have an impact on the acidity in the sea.

Indeed studying the fossil record, paleoclimatologists can do the reverse, which is look at the skeletons of micro-fossils, derive the acidity of the sea, and correlate that to volcanic episodes - I mean episodes that created the Deccan and Siberian traps, not the odd outburst from Vesuvius.

We know that the acidity of the sea has changed significantly through time as is evidenced when there are periods of extensive deposits of calcareous rocks. The Wenlock Hills, Derbyshire Peak district, the Jurassic coast, the Chalk Downs are all calcareous rocks obviously all laid down in alkaline seas, but all over different geological epochs. And do not imagine that it was the same all over the world at those times, as in other areas different types of rocks requiring different sea chemistry (besides other things) were being laid down.

I accept that "man" is making a contribution towards climate change but it is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the climate change caused in nature.

For example, when Gondwana fractured, India moved promptly north, hit the Asiatic plate to create what is now the Himalayas and which caused a huge change in weather patterns around the world or, as another example, it was climate change that drove the evolution of our species and the movement of our ancestors and the populating of the world over the last 100,000 year. Whether that is a good or bad thing I will leave others to debate but it is the reality of our species and indeed of almost all other species going back thru time.

Now this is all technical geological stuff I mention only to make the point that what we are doing is pretty trivial compared to what the Earth can do on its own without any contribution from us, and as I posted before life sailed serenely thru all these changes and will do so again.

We only have reliable weather records for the last few hundred years and much of what we understand now has only been discovered and explained since I graduated in 1962 and even now we understand so little.

I stress this is not an argument for saying we should do nothing but only that we need to keep things in perspective as our life time is a flicker in geological time frames.

We do need to stop polluting the seas with chemicals and waste and we do need to stop emissions of industrial and domestic gases that are causing illness and potentially long term genetic damage to all species.

Hi Brian

You are quite right that as a global culture we have an absolute duty to help those who for whatever reason cannot help themselves and if the people of the Maldives for example or the people of London need relocating then we have to plan and get to do so.

The current, frankly fairly trivial numbers currently on the move are a classic illustration of the issues we will face and need to plan for. Some are relatively easy, more homes, more schools more hospitals, better and more infrastructure as all they cost is money. Though, as we can see in the UK, NIMBYISM especially amongst the educated middle classes is a thriving cultural mindset that needs to be considered.

There is also the problem of dealing with people who do not share or understand our western, liberal democratic values. I do not mean the tiny minority subset that reverts to terrorism, but more of what we have seen in Frankfurt. Their understanding and interpretation of female behaviour, dress codes, etc. and their view of women as a whole are clearly not ours and that type of mindset also has to be addressed.

But in the last few decades we have seen in much of the western world that cultural and social norms can change quite quickly and in general to the better so I am confident that given time with the appropriate societal pressures, these issues can, indeed must, be confronted, addressed, and resolved.