Embodied Human Consciousness, Abrupt Global Climate Change, and Freedom - S. David Stoney, Ph.D.

II. ABRUPT GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE - Climate Change Movies/Links/Books. Here are some books and a list of links that consider various aspects of the climate change story. At last there is some indication that that the significance of the earth's climate cycle and abrupt global climate change may be beginning to intrude into public consciousness. For example, in May, 2004, a major motion picture, "The Day After Tomorrow," that dramatizes the effects of a rapid change to glacial phase conditions will appear. In addition, an authoritative report that summarizes the evidence regarding abrupt climate change, Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises, has recently been published by a committee of the National Research Council. They call for an upgraded, sustained, and integrated approach to abrupt climate change. Although the authors seem to pull their punches - no scientist who values the respect of his colleagues can tell you about his or her 'gut feelings' in a scientific publication - it provides a fine summary of the science, an excellent discussion of the importance and economy of early adaptation, and an extensive bibliography. Remember, by the time scientists can tell us with scientific certainty that an abrupt climate change is "imminent," it may very well be too late for large scale adaptive responses. In fact, a recently released report for the Pentagon on likely effects of a modest abrupt global decrease in temperatures offers exactly that scenario, with frightening results (see Pentagon advised that climate change a national security issue).
At this time, it is critical that we pay attention to our feelings, together with our new knowledge of the earth's climate cycle and abrupt global climate change, recognizing that the basis for our growing fear stems, at least in part, from what Nature seems to have in store for us. In fact, four important indicators of undesirable changes in the thermohaline circulation are now positive (see TOO LATE!!?? below) and it appears that we have entered the earliest part of the transition to glacial phase conditions. If we don't engage this issue right away our children's children may be forced to burn their books to keep warm. And, as the smoke from the burning books disappears into the air, so too will the modern mind fade first to memory, and then to oblivion.

"Man is the product of a very unusual epoch in earth's history, a time when the claws of a vast dragon, the glacial ice, groped fumbling toward him across a third of the world's land surace and blew upon him the breath of an enormous winter... For over a million years man, originally a tropical orphan, has wandered through age-long snowdrifts... We are the genuine offspring of the sleeping ice." (Loren Eiseley, The Unexpected Universe, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., pgs. 98 & 99, 1969)

"...the onset of the modern Ice Age led to the transition from Australopithecus to Homo by abruptly altering the African landscape... [It] also removed a barrier that had previously prevented this creature from evolving a much larger brain...the onset of the Ice Age - and hence to the origin of the human genus - [was due] to a regional geological event... the uplifting of a narrow bridge of land [i.e., the Isthmus of Panama] between two continents...As a result of this modest geological construction, profound changes in oceans and climates cascaded around the world. The jarring implication of this chain of causation is that we humans would not exist were it not for one small vagary of the the earth's dynamic crust." (Steven M. Stanley, Children of the Ice Age: How a Global Catastrophe Allowed Humans to Evolve, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company, pg. 4, 1996, 1998)

"Recent scientific evidence shows that major and widespread climate changes have occurred with startling speed... The new paradigm of an abruptly changing climatic system has been well established by research over the last decade, but this new thinking is little known and scarcely appreciated in the wider community of natural and social scientists and policy makers. At present there is no plan for improving our understanding of the issue, no research priorities have been identified, and no policy-making body is addressing the many concerns raised by the potential for abrupt climate change...Considering the known limitations of climate models, it is not currently possible to ascribe probabilities to future abrupt climate changes." (Committee on Abrupt Climate Change of the National Research Council, Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises, Washington, DC: National Academy Press, pgs. 1, 82, 2002. Italics added. For WWW version click here.)

"This report suggests that, because of the dire consequences, the risk of abrupt climate change, although uncertain and quite possibly small, should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a U.S. national security concern." (Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, a report prepared for the Department of Defense, circa 2003. See below for link.)

There is only one movie I know of that addresses, albeit very dramatically, the climate crisis. It is The Day After Tomorrow: Where Will You Be?, which will be released in May, 2004. Tell me, does it strike you as just slightly odd that you have to find out about this critical issue from a commercial movie rather than from your elected officials - you know, the ones who are supposed to be looking out for your interests? In any case, I am personally dubious about the likelihood of such severe, global superstorms as are portrayed in the movie. However, the extremely rapid flooding followed by rapid cooling is exactly what I have described as Nature's 1 - 2 punch.

Here's a list of some of the currently available books on the ice ages, climate cycle, and abrupt global climate change that I have found useful. The topic of the earth's climate cycle is addressed in various textbooks (such as Saltzman's Dynamic Paleoclimatology [2002], Skinner, Porter, and Botkin's The Blue Planet, 2nd Ed. [1999], and Skinner, Porter, and Park's Dynamic Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology [2004]), but these authors seem little concerned that we may be approaching the transition to the next glacial phase. Links to websites and www articles that address the issue follow the list of books.

  • Mithen, Steven (2004) After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Fagan, Brian (2004) The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization, New York: Basic Books.
  • Calvin, William H. (2004) A Brief History of the Mind, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Rees, Martin (2003) Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future in This Century, NY: Basic Books.
  • Ward, Peter D. & Donald Brownlee (2002), The Life and Death of Planet Earth: How the New Science of Astrobiology Charts the Ultimate Fate of Our World, NY: Henry Holt and Company.
  • Committee on Abrupt Climate Change, National Research Council (2002), Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises, Washington, DC: National Academy Press. For WWW version click here.
  • Calvin, William H. (2002), A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution and Abrupt Global Climate Change, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Available online at Calvin's website.
  • Ward, Peter; images by Alexis Rockman (2001), Future Evolution: An Illuminated History of Life to Come, NY: Times Books, Henry Holt and Company.
  • Alley, Richard B. (2000), The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and our Future , Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Bell, Art and Whitley Strieber (2000), The Coming Global Superstorm, New York: Pocket Books.
  • Fagan, Brian (2000), The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850, NY: Basic Books.
  • Bolles, E.B. (1999), The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age, Washington, DC: Counterpoint.
  • Stanley, S.M. (1998), Children of the Ice Age: How a Global Catastrophe Allowed Humans to Evolve, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company.
  • Felix, Robert W.(1997), Not by Fire but by Ice, Bellevue, WA: Sugarhouse Publishing.
  • Gelbspan, Ross (1997), The Heat Is On: The Climate Crisis, The Cover-up, The Prescription, Reading, MA: Perseus Books.
  • Calvin, William H. (1991), The Ascent of Mind: Ice Age Climates and the Evolution of Intelligence, New York: Bantam Books.
  • Ephron, Larry (1988), THE END: The imminent ICE AGE & how we can stop it!, Berkley, CA: Celestrial Arts.
  • Imbrie, John & K.P. Imbrie (1979), Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Eiseley, Loren (1969), The Unexpected Universe, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Here are some links that I believe will be useful.

Pentagon advised that climate change a national security issue. This recent article in the Observer/UK is based on the report by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall on abrupt climate change that was commissioned by Andrew Marshall for the Pentagon. For a copy of the report, click on An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security.

Abrupt global climate change: Link to William H. Calvin's website, a rich resource to learn about the scientific bases for abrupt global climate change and the crisis it poses for civilization. Bill, an accomplished neuroscientist and author, was one of the first to raise the issue of the pending threat of rapid climate change for the general public. His new book regarding climate change and its consequences, A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution and Abrupt Global Climate Change, published by The University of Chicago Press, has just been released and is currently available on the web. See A Brain for All Seasons.

Astronomical factors. This link carries you to the home page of Professor Richard A. Muller who has good, brief introductions to the history of earth's climate and to roles of astronomical factors in driving our climate cycle. Follow the links.

Global warming may soon end. This link is to a June, 2001, press release from Ohio State University regarding a paper by Dr. Robert Essenhigh. Essenhigh, on the basis of analysis of available data, suggests that the current warm interglacial phase will shortly end, with a reversion of the earth's climate to colder conditions. A link to a copy of his paper, which appeared in Chemical Innovation is provided.

Has the next glacial phase begun? This link is to a 1999 article documenting the disturbing finding that the southerly flowing deep ocean currents, whose movement is associated with a northward movement of warm surface waters into the North Atlantic, have stopped or reversed their flow. Climatologists have suggested that such changes in these currents are associated with abrupt cooling of northern European latitudes, i.e., onset of the next glacial phase or "ice age."

TOO LATE!!?? This link is to "The Next Ice Age," the cover story by Brad Lemley in the September, 2002, Discover magazine. The article describes the recently discovered "huge river of freshwater in the Atlantic formed by melting polar ice." By disrupting the thermohaline circulation, in particular the northern reach of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, this surface freshwater, many scientists believe, "could, within a decade, lead to devastating frigid winters in North America and Europe." Note that there are four indicators that must be present if there is to be a change to the glacial phase: 1) freshwater intrusion into the North Atlantic (which is what this link documents); 2) decreased deep water formation (see next link); 3) decreased northward flow of the Gulf Stream; and 4) decreasing Northern Hemisphere temperatures, beginning in Europe. The first three indicators, fresh water intrusion, decreased northward flow of the Gulf Stream, and decreased deep water formation, are already present. A fourth indicator, colder European winters, may now be appearing. According to the Accuweather world news service, the first week of 2003 saw temperatures 35 degrees below normal in northern Europe. With four out of four indicators pointing toward a shift to glacial phase conditions, it is reasonable to argue that we are already in the earliest part of the next glacial phase. This suggests that humanity will soon be dealing with very difficult conditions. Thus, if this is the onset of the next glacial phase, it may be too late for a progressive, reasoned response aimed at insuring the survival of civilization's most precious treasures. Sadly, this will likely be especially true for the USA, where the lying clatter of those jostling each other for the most favorable place from which to loot the public treasury drowns out all other sound. Soon, perhaps very soon, the American ideals of liberty, equality, and religious tolerance may become vulnerable to extinction as "survival of the fittest" becomes the order of the day and fear-filled elites resort to any and all measures to maintain their wealth and privilege.

But maybe God will give us more time and this is only the beginning of a briefer, less intense cooling trend as discussed by Joe D'Aleo, Chief Meterologist for WSI/Intellicast in his online article of July 9, 2003, GLOBAL COOLING ABOUT TO "KICK IN"? An Alternative View on Climate Change If we do have a reprieve, let's make good use of the time.

What the Pentagon thinks may happen when the climate collapses. David Scripts' fine January, 2004, article from Fortune magazine.

Even the Wall Street Journal is starting to pay attention.

Weakened ocean currents could cause climate flip. This recent article by David Susuki of the Environmental News Network briefly discusses how changing ocean currents could, perhaps rapidly, cause the global climate to shift to the glacial mode.

The Brits are waking up to the threat of global cooling. This recent article in The Times (of London) discusses the big picture: global warming is likely to lead to global cooling, with Western Europe leading the way.

Rapid Climate Change. Kendrick Taylor's 1999 article from the American Scientist summarizing the current state of knowledge about rapid (decades or less) transitions between glacial and interglacial temperature regimes.

Pew Center on Global Climate. This site, which focuses mainly on global warming and provides factual, informative up-to-date reports, is funded by major international businesses. The focus is on global warming. The very existence of this website illustrates the growing level of concern about global climate change.

Articles on global warming The Environmental News Network has collected over 500 recent articles on global warming. So you think you know the facts? Try taking their Global Warming Test.

How Will Global Warming Effect Your State? This site is provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  At the present time the rate of increase in temperature seems to be increasing, so one should probably pay attention to the upper ranges of effects and consider the possibility that effects may exceed even the largest estimates, occur sooner than expected, and be followed by rapid global cooling.

Report on Climate Change. The latest report by the US Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warns of the possibility of very serious effects of global warming.

Climate Change Indicators in the United Kingdom. A fine site outlining the program to continuously monitor and report changes in certain variables sensitive to climate change. I understand that the EPA may soon establish a similar site for different regions of the US.

Are We Facing a "Madhouse Century?" Describes the rapidly changing, current condition of the Antarctic ice shelves and the 50 foot variation in sea level that is reported to have occurred over the course of one "madhouse" century at the end of the last interglacial period. See also the Science News article. For background information and the current status of the ice shelf most prone to collapse, see the 1998 Boston Globe article and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Initiative homepage. Even the US Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges a real (but small, according to their current calculations) possibility of a catastrophic, 14 foot rise in sea level due to global warming in the next two centuries.

A Contrary Point of View. This site, funded by the fossil fuel industry, provides a vigorous disputation on most claims that human activities are influencing global warming. Unfortunately, in their zeal to prove that global warming is not real, these folks fail to distinguish natural global warming, which occurs during each interglacial phase, and anthropogenic global warming due to greenhouse gases, which may or may not be accelerating the current rate of global warming. This, together with their failure to acknowledge the on-going climate cycle, makes it difficult to take their arguments very seriously. They also argue that there is no global rise in sea level.

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Last Updated March 31, 2004

Comments are invited. Send mail to David Stoney, POB 523, McClellanville, SC 29458. - dstoney@tds.net