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Earth May Reach Tipping Point

2012/06/19

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More links:

Scientists Uncover Evidence Of Impending Tipping Point For Earth

Carbon Targets Need Strong New Measures, Panel Argues

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  1. 2012/06/19 9:58 am

    What is there to say? The July issue of Harper’s magazine has an article on the collapse of agriculture in America’s breadbasket due to the draining of the Ogallala aquifer. In recent decades, 6,000 towns in Kansas have ceased to exist. The once bountiful farmland is reverting to grassland as it was when the settlers arrived. The bison are expected to return.

    In China, a comparison of national and state emissions records reveals that Chinese emissions are probably understated by 20%, slightly more than the greenhouse gas emissions of Japan, itself one of the top five emitters. Yet we keep shipping them the filthiest fossil fuels in increasing quantities.

    The hydrological cycle has already passed a clear tipping point although few want to talk about it. Our warmer atmosphere now retains what had previously been surface water available for human, animal and plant needs. That warmer, wetter atmosphere, in turn, fuels severe weather events with shifting precipitation patterns that lead to extended droughts, devastating mega-floods and, in places, cyclical floods and droughts.

    Anyone who knows the very basics of farming knows that producing crops requires water, in the right amounts, at the right times throughout the growing cycle. Too much too early and you can’t get on the land to plant. Too much during the growth cycle and your crop rots. Too little and it withers and fails. Too much during the harvest and you can’t get on the land to get the crop off in time. That essential hydrological/agricultural harmony is being trashed. The U.N. FAO has declared our world is now in a state of permanent food insecurity.

    The Global Footprint Network calculated Earth Overshoot Day for 2011 at September 27. Canada, by virtue of our country’s huge landmass and small population, is one of a handful of nations that remains in a surplus. Britain is said to now consume its annual stock of renewables by Easter, leaving it to rely on imports for the balance of the year. In a world of surplus that’s doable. In a world that’s food deficient, that means taking food off someone else’s table.

    The problem with tipping points is that we keep looking for them in the future when many warn that we’re more likely to recognize them only after we’ve passed them. If we designed airplanes with the same degree of prudence we apply to climate change and other environmental challenges, a lot of us would be dead by now.

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