Free Will, Energy, and Climate Change the Paradox


I have for 4 years followed the discussions about climate, and as a lay person have had great difficulty in making my voice heard above the clamouring of claim and counter claim.

In this post I wish to explore the paradox of free will and climate change.

Much has been made of the mastery of the environment by ‘MAN’, but in truth humans live in a closed system and any apparent free will is constrained by this system. Much has also been made of the use of ‘FREE’ energy, to replace our use of fossil fuels, solar/wind energy being holy grails of the environmental movement.

Because the earth is a closed system, the choices for heat and light are constrained. We either use ‘free’ solar/wind/tidal/hydro energy, nuclear energy, or fossil fuels

But at its most fundamental level all these sources are nuclear energy, or gravitational energy, 2 of the fundamental components of our Solar System. At its most fundamental level our climate is driven by these same 2 energy sources.

Fossil fuels are the product of and the storage of solar energy by the internal biological and geological processes of this closed system, over millennia. We had no choice over the source of our energy for most of our evolution, except in the most rudimentary sense (coal or wood,/ash or oak/oil or gas) . We had no choice but to use this readily available energy supply

WHY?

I believe that we evolved to recycle this available energy, in the process of obtaining this energy we also recycled fossil CO2,  but this outcome was also constrained by the system. We needed the energy to overcome the vagaries of the climate, and the earth needed the CO2 to also overcome the vagaries of the climate. There seems to be a theme developing here.

THE PARADOX is

We freely developed and used systems and materials and liberated energy and CO2 that had been stored by the system, but these were the only products that the system would allow us to release, in any meaningful quantities. In our quest to exercise our free will all we did was act as a dumb agent of the system, and ultimately renewed the climate, for the benefit of all LIFE.

CLIMATE CHANGE is

Part of the system. we are only the agent of liberation, just as in the past the biosphere was the agent of sequestration, We evolved to use this energy and paradoxically save the world.

Mad Mike

Junceira

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Grass, Ruminants and the evolution of humans


In my previous piece I explored evidence of how grasslands and its attendant fauna have come to dominate the earths ecosystems from approx 15 Myrs ago.

There is conflicting evidence for the evolution of both the biosphere and the climate since then, this evolution has been studied extensively, but firm conclusions about causality are lacking. I have a theory which I believe best fits the facts but for which evidence is both anecdotal and conflicting but nevertheless has the best explanation for the current pseudo crisis.

Grasslands have developed over the last 20 Myrs, with an attendant faunal complex to create a dominant ecosystem. This dominance is mainly due to the way in which the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

The ecosystem is comprised of grasses, grazers and hunters. The evolution of large herds of grazing animals in a mutualistic system with the grasslands created an opportunity for the development of pack hunting carnivores, this development is reasonably well documented for individual species, wolves, lions hyenas etc.

About 7 Myrs ago primates descended from the trees, and although omnivorous entered this ecosystem, and the rest as they say is history. Humans developed to both use and dominate this ecosystem. Human evolution has occurred in tandem with the development of this system and a cooling climate. It can be no accident that the principle foods of humans are grasses (wheat , rice etc) and grazing animal products (meat, milk etc). Indeed these products not only sustain us but are part of our psyche, witness the western worlds love of lawns, and the eastern world and bamboo.

The development of humans of course involved elements which had not previously occurred i.e. intelligence and the use of tools including fire. Indeed fire and the humans use of it increased the dominance of this ecosystem, see previous posts.

Many modern scientists and commentators point to the human abuse of this ecosystem, and the climate, but I contend that serendipitously or not the principle reason for the evolution of humans was to reverse the downward trend of co2, and end the ice ages. The final link in this chain, which started with the spread of humans across all land masses over the last 30,000 years, was the industrial revolution. The vast increase in CO2 over the last 300 yrs was partly in response to an incipient ice age. This and previous human interventions in the climate over the Holocene can be viewed as a biological environmental control mechanism (biological pump), with the sole purpose of stabilising the climate. This was both necessary and also a result of our evolution and genetic programming.

My final observation in this piece is that although common belief is that weather is more volatile today, the paleoclimatic data suggests the climate has been more stable over the last 15,000 yrs than in the previous 1 Myrs, this is almost certainly been caused by the growing influence of the grassland biome. This coupled with the observation that stone age humans survived much more extreme climates than we currently do, should mean that the future is rosier than the doom mongers are predicting.

As another favoured blog of mine often says, ‘keep calm and enjoy the interglacial’

MadMike

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Grass, Ruminants and Climate Change


The planet continually experiences Climate Change, but this post will describe the effects of climate change on an ecosystem since the beginning of the Oligocene. 

Climate and Tectonics (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cenozoic)

After the tectonic creation of Drake Passage, when South America fully detached from Antarctica during the Oligocene, the climate cooled significantly due to the advent of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current which brought cool deep Antarctic water to the surface. The cooling trend continued in the Miocene, with relatively short warmer periods. When South America became attached to North America creating the Isthmus of Panama, the Arctic region cooled due to the strengthening of the Humboldt and Gulf Stream currents,[7] eventually leading to the glaciations of the Pleistocene ice age, the current interglacial of which is the Holocene Epoch.

I aim to show that this cooling of the planet for the last 34 Myrs was the driving force behind evolution of the biosphere, and lead to the creation of an ecosystem which co-evolved using Mutualism  i.e. a probable service-service relationship.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutualism_(biology)

Ecology of Grasses (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grasses )

Biomes dominated by grasses are called grasslands. If only large contiguous areas of grasslands are counted, these biomes cover 31% of the planet’s land.[5] Grasslands go by various names depending on location, including pampas, plains, steppes, or prairie.

In addition to their use as forage worldwide by many grazing mammals, such as cattle and other livestock, deer, and elephants, grasses are used as food plants by many species of butterflies and moths; see List of Lepidoptera that feed on grasses.

The evolution of large grazing animals in the Cenozoic has contributed to the spread of grasses. Without large grazers, a clearcut of fire-destroyed area would soon be colonized by grasses and, if there is enough rain, tree seedlings. The tree seedlings would eventually produce shade, which kills most grasses. Large animals, however, trample the seedlings, killing the trees. Grasses persist because their lack of woody stems helps them to resist the damage of trampling.

Evolution of Grasslands (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grassland)

The appearance of mountains in the western United States during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, a period of some 25 million years, created a continental climate favorable to the evolution of grasslands. Existing forest biomes declined, and grasslands became much more widespread. Following the Pleistocene Ice Ages, grasslands expanded in range in the hotter, drier climates, and began to become the dominant land feature worldwide.

Human impact and economic importance

Grasslands are of vital importance for raising livestock for human consumption and for milk and other dairy products.

Grassland vegetation remains dominant in a particular area usually due to grazing, cutting, or natural or manmade fires, all discouraging colonisation by and survival of tree and shrub seedlings. Some of the world’s largest expanses of grassland are found in African savanna, and these are maintained by wild herbivores as well as by nomadic pastoralists and their cattle, sheep or goats.

Grasslands may occur naturally or as the result of human activity. Grasslands created and maintained by human activity are called anthropogenic grasslands. Hunting peoples around the world often set regular fires to maintain and extend grasslands, and prevent fire-intolerant trees and shrubs from taking hold. The tallgrass prairies in the US Midwest may have been extended eastward into Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio by human agency. Much grassland in northwest Europe developed after the Neolithic Period, when people gradually cleared the forest to create areas for raising their livestock.

Ruminants Abundance, distribution, and domestication (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruminant)

Wild ruminants number at least 75 million and are native to all continents except Australia and Antarctica. Nearly 90% of all species are found in Eurasia and Africa alone. Species inhabit a wide range of climates (from tropic to arctic) and habitats (from open plains to forests).[10]

The population of domestic ruminants is greater than 3.5 billion, with cattle, sheep, and goats accounting for about 95% of the total population. Goats were domesticated in the Near East at approximately 8,000 B.C. Most other species were domesticated by 2,500 B.C., either in the Near East or southern Asia.[11]

Evolution of Bovidae (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bovidae)

The bovid family is known through fossils from the early Miocene, around 20 million years ago. The earliest bovids, such as Eotragus, were small animals, somewhat similar to modern gazelles, and probably lived in woodland environments. The bovids rapidly diversified, and by the late Miocene, the number of bovid species had greatly expanded. This late Miocene radiation was partly due to the fact that many bovids became adapted to more open, grassland habitat.[8] There are 78 genera known from the Miocene (compared to 50 today).

Early in their evolutionary history, the bovids split into two main clades: Boodontia and Aegodontia. This early split between Boodontia (of Eurasian origin) and Aegodontia (of African origin) has been attributed to the continental divide between these landmasses. When these continents were later rejoined, this barrier was removed, and both groups expanded into each other’s territory.[9]

The largest number of modern bovids is found in Africa, while substantial but less diverse populations are in Asia and North America. Some scientists[who?] has suggested that many bovid species that evolved in Asia could not survive predation by humans arriving from Africa in the late Pleistocene[citation needed]. By contrast, African species had many thousands or a few million years to adapt to the gradual development of human hunting skills. Yet many of the commonly domesticated bovid species (goats, sheep, water buffalo and yak) originated in Asia. This may be because Asian bovids had less fear of humans and were more docile.

The small number of modern American bovids are relatively recent arrivals over the Bering land bridge, but they long predate human arrival.

Miocene (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miocene)

The earth went from the Oligocene Epoch through the Miocene and into the Pliocene as it cooled into a series of Ice Ages. The Miocene boundaries are not marked by a single distinct global event but consist rather of regional boundaries between the warmer Oligocene and the cooler Pliocene.

Miocene Life (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miocene)

Flora

Grasslands underwent a major expansion; forests fell victim to a generally cooler and drier climate overall. Grasses also diversified greatly, co-evolving with large herbivores and grazers, including ruminants. Between 7 and 6 million years ago, there occurred a sudden expansion of grasses which were able to assimilate carbon dioxide more efficiently but were also richer in silica, causing a worldwide extinction of large herbivores.[4] The expansion of grasslands and radiations among terrestrial herbivores such as horses can be linked to fluctuations in CO2.[5] Cycads between 11.5 and 5 m.y.a. began to rediversify after previous declines in variety due to climatic changes, and thus modern cycads are not a good model for a “living fossil”.

Fauna

Approximately 100 species of apes lived during this time. They ranged over much of the Old World and varied widely in size, diet, and anatomy. Due to scanty fossil evidence it is unclear which ape or apes contributed to the modern hominid clade, but molecular evidence indicates this ape lived from between 15 to 12 million years ago.

extract from Miocene Paleogeography (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miocene)

The global trend was towards increasing aridity caused primarily by global cooling reducing the ability of the atmosphere to absorb moisture. Uplift of East Africa in the Late Miocene was partly responsible for the shrinking of tropical rain forests in that region, and Australia got drier as it entered a zone of low rainfall in the Late Miocene.

Grass, Ruminants and Climate Change

The hypothesis I will now give is based on clues contained in the above Wikipedia extracts.

As the earth cooled due to continental rearrangement and mountain building the grassland biomes came to dominate the earth. This domination was aided by the co-evolution of herbivores in the Miocene; see extract below

(There is evidence for grassland being much the product of animal behaviour and movement;[6] some examples include migratory herds of antelope trampling vegetation and African Bush Elephants eating Acacia saplings before the plant has a chance to grow into a mature tree.) from Wikipedia

The Ruminants have co-evolved with grasses during the Miocene, this co-evolution can be seen as a mutualistic as the grazing and trampling and fertilizing activities contribute to the maintenance and spread of grasslands. Both groups benefit in a service-service relationship, and they came to dominate the Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene terrestrial landscape

tbc

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All I need is the Air that I Breathe


The current composition of the atmosphere is as a result of CO2 breathing organisms (plants and bacteria) and is composed primarily of a neutral molecule N2 and a POISON. This POISON is O2, and is a waste product of photosynthesis. The evolution of higher lifeforms was a response to the pollution of the atmosphere by early life.

Oxygen breathing life evolved to utilise this waste product and balance the atmosphere. Nevertheless, the CO2 breathing lifeforms have been winning the war of waste products and slowly poisoning themselves. Humans are the final link in the chain, our evolutionary purpose is to change the balance of power, and reverse the trend of lower CO2. We need to release fossil CO2 to the atmosphere so that the cycle of life can continue.

Mad Mike

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Humans, Fire and Evolution of the Biosphere


My original hypotheses on this blog, were derived from an inspection of various graphs about the evolution of the climate over the last 65 Myrs, and I based my conclusions on this and knowledge I had about geology and human evolution.

I came to the conclusion that AGW was both an integral component of the earth system and a desirable outcome. I have appended some references below, with links. Link 3 is a discussion of human evolution in Africa, and the contention that human evolution was driven by climate (ice ages). Link 4 is a new in-depth paper with new correlations to changes in climate specifically transitions between wet and dry climates.

These are not new contentions, although the second paper has a detailed set of evidence based correlations. I do not intend to discuss either of these papers in any more depth but urge the reader to check them.

The information in the links 1 & 2 contain new information to me which I believe supports my previous ideas. In paper 1 the authors show that arriving waves of colonisation in new lands transform the vegetation from temperate forest to grassland, and discuss the implication of anthropogenic habitat change by the use of fire. This article contains numerous references to papers on fire ecology. One of the interesting ideas is that grassland habitats are then maintained by ecological processes

‘recurrent landscape firing can cause ecological systems to rapidly switch from one state to another and that ecological feedbacks provide strong resistance to a return to the predisturbance state’

Paper 2 is only available as an abstract but indicates that alteration of the biosphere by human use of fire could have started as long ago as 300 kyrs in Africa, followed by a large increase in fire ignition frequency coupled with population growth after 70 kyrs.

I believe that:

Because of our intelligence and use of tools, including fire we have mastered our own environment, and as an outcome of our deforestation of the earth and our use of fire we have added CO2 to the atmosphere. As the temperature warmed up at the start of the last interglacial, the growth of human populations across all continents, altered the biosphere, and these contributions tipped the balance.

The younger dryas was a cold period at the start of the Holocene, my contention is that this should have been the start of the next glacial, which would then have lasted about 100,000 yrs.

It’s possible that the longer than usual interglacial 100,000 yrs previously may have been caused by a similar human intervention, but the neanderthals didn’t make the next steps to farming and industry, so this attempt failed.

It appears that human adaption into every available niche and our attempts to keep warm and use the environment serendipitously saved the planet by eliminating the ice ages. If you don’t believe me look up snowball earth and see what could have happened

http://www.pnas.org/content/107/50/21234.full.pdf+html

Paradise burnt:

How colonizing humans transform landscapes with fire

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/12/13/1118648109.abstract

Evolution of human-driven fire regimes in Africa 

http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo/homo_3.htm

Climate change and Human Evolution

Many animal species were driven to extinction by the advancing and retreating ice ages.  Humanity survived primarily by becoming more intelligent and adaptable.

http://www.pnas.org/content/108/51/20422.full?sid=f732f2d6-9aeb-4a7a-95db-e25460f99274

Nonlinear detection of paleoclimate-variability transitions possibly related to human evolution

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Feedbacks in the Climate System


         It is easy to transpose the terms positive and negative feedbacks when discussing a dynamic system, I have managed to fall into this trap myself on several occasions while writing this blog, so for the sake of clarity I will define the terms and then apply these terms to the climate system.

         Negative Feedback: is processes within a system that oppose change by applying a opposition to the force making the change thereby reducing the amplitude/attenuating the output of the system. By extrapolation any dynamic system such as the earths climate, which has existed for billions of years, is dominated by negative feedback, otherwise our climate would have shown extreme behaviour.

          Positive Feedback: is that process which amplifies the change and in the most extreme instance causes runaway change. By extrapolation positive feedback is largely absent from the climate system, but it can be shown that in a few instances some positive feedback has been present.

          There are 2 scenarios which are defined by paleoclimatologists called greenhouse and icehouse earth in which positive feedbacks could have caused a climate flip, but only one state icehouse earth or SNOWBALL EARTH has been described in the scientific literature. Changes to and from the Snowball earth must have included positive feedbacks see http://www.snowballearth.org/ for discussion of the processes. My theory suggests that another example of positive feedback is ICE AGES, which is a less extreme form of Snowball earth.

          Milankovitch theory attempts to describe ice ages using orbital dynamics. This is only valid when the average temperature of earth falls below a fixed temperature which is defined on the following graph as 0 degC Vostock equivalent  (0 degC polar ocean equivalent)

It can be seen from this graph that average temperatures above 0 degC Vostok, are dominated by negative feedbacks, and that average temperatures below o degC Vostok have positive feedbacks, such that as the ave temperature falls climate changes are amplified.

Conclusion:

           Based on the fact that 0 degC Vostok is the current baseline any changes that increase temperature i.e. Insolation or CO2 will be opposed by negative feedbacks, then any claims of runaway warming are alarmist propaganda.

           As 0 degC Vostok is the key temperature it can be inferred that ice is the enemy of life.

           Temperatures between 0 degC and 100 degC imply linear response and low climate sensitivity. By extrapolation positive feedbacks may only become dangerous to the earths climate when the temperature of the earth approaches one of the limits defined as either the freezing point or the boiling point of water. When the average temperature of the earth is consistent with water as a liquid the climate is more stable, and amicable to life

Mad Mike

Junceira

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Is AGW Religion, Politics or Science


I have developed a theoretical model of climate change against which I will attempt to quantify the reactions of others.

The greenhouse effect is sound science and has a measured effect on temperature approximately equal to 0.8 deg C for a doubling of CO2 concentration. AGW proponents then try to equate additional warming of up to 5 deg C to CO2, attributed to accumulative effects, this is both anti-scientific and analogous to an article of faith. Politicans and business then use these hysterical projections to obtain either huge profit, Global domination or both, all sane men should be suspicious of all but the science.

My model suggests that large reactions to parametric changes are only driven by ice induced negative incursions, where positive feedbacks will amplify the negative Insolation lobes or CO2 reductions such that a halving of CO2 from current levels is the only forcing which will be amplified by the system. If CO2 falls to a level below 200 ppm a ´tipping point´may occur, such a tipping point if reached will lead to the next glacial cycle. This is because the O degC parameter associated with H2O solidification will both decrease GW forcing and increase negative Albedo forcing.

For global temperatures in excess of 0 degC reactions to CO2 doubling are linear. The primary reason for this is that H2O forcing and cloud albedo rapidly stabilise to the new temperature ´long term average´ and oppose further forcing. Insolation changes over the next solar MILANKOVITCH cycle then dominate the temperature record. Temperature changes (long term ave)  then stabalise to a approx sinousoidal P-P 2 deg C cycle averaged about the current CO2 level. i.e. 0 deg to +2 deg C at @280 ppm, +1 deg to +3 deg C at @ 60o ppm and +2 deg to +4 deg C at 1300 ppm. This theoretical trend is then attenuated by system feedbacks to a lower cyclical level by H2O/cloud balance conditioned by the rising temperature.

Finally the long term paleoclimate record is disturbed by extra or intra terrestrial perturbations which are ammeliorated by the CO2 and H2O cycles.

Global Warming is good science, AGW disaster scenarios are either Religious Rants or Cynical Political Manoevering

Mike Davies

Junceira

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