General Question

josie's avatar

How will we know when humanity has "cured" global warming?

Asked by josie (22932 points ) January 5th, 2014

Every generation has Human Haters.

The current one blames humanity for Global Warming.

So, if the claim is true, and if humanity starts acting right, when will Global Warming be cured? How long will it take?

And how will you know that you finally solved the problem? When sea levels drop? When it never gets hotter than 90 degrees in August? Or colder than 20 in February? When there are no more hurricanes or tornados?

What will be the primary indicator that humanity has finally cleaned up their evil mess?

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50 Answers

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zenvelo's avatar

When the mean CO2 level gets back to where it was in the 1960s. That’s when you’ll know we’ve “cured” it.

And I think you are a bit wrong with the term “Human Haters”. I’d apply that term to those who say global climate change isn’t happening. They’re the ones who think it will be all right for widespread global flooding to occur, for dramatic shifts in weather, for weather extremes to be occurring right as we debate on Fluther.

ETpro's avatar

Here’s the graph mentioned by @zenvelo. You can see on this chart how the levels have risen rather suddenly and at an ever increasing level since the dawn of the industrial age. The graph at the upper right of the article only shows the rise since 1960, but the global CO2 levels are higher today than they appear to have been at any time in the last 800,000 years, and they are rising ever more rapidly. This can’t go on unchecked without having consequences.

glacial's avatar

“Every generation has Human Haters. The current one blames humanity for Global Warming.”

The current generation blames humanity for global warming? I guess that’s true, given that the consensus in this generation is that global warming is anthropogenic. I’m not sure who these “Human Haters” you mention are… or how they fit in with this topic. If you are trying to say that only people who hate humans could blame humanity for global warming – well, you’ve done it very badly, but also it’s obviously untrue. But somehow I think you know that already.

“when will Global Warming be cured”

I’m not sure that the effects of global warming can be reversed. Certainly, I don’t think anyone is working towards that. The goal for the moment is for humans to stop doing things that we know are harmful, which gives us a shot at not making things worse. That’s pretty much the best we can do. I can’t imagine why anyone would want us not to do that.

But I wouldn’t characterize people who want to oppose efforts to slow or halt global warming as “Human Haters” either. Am I wrong? Do you hate humans? Is that why you’d like us all to ignore the science on this problem? I didn’t think so. Perhaps you think that insulting people is going to provoke them into present sloppy arguments. I can’t think of another reason for the way you present questions such as this.

Bill1939's avatar

Civilization has liberated enormous amounts of energy from the earth. I find it unimaginable that the addition of energy to the planet’s climate has no part in the changing patterns of weather.

Years ago, when the theory of chaos was the craze and after a few hours one’s 8 bit, 64 K personal computer could produce a Mandelbrot bug in vivid color, experimenting with formulas expressed in floating point basic, it was evident that a very small addition to an otherwise stable system resulted in the system reorganizing. What appears to me to be changes in the jet streams’ paths and patterns could well be the product of human presence.

kevbo's avatar

That would make for an interesting serial drama… one where humanity has to turn back the clock to 1960s technology and infrastructure, but somehow keep (and keep self aware of) the contemporary culture.

Bill1939's avatar

All you have to do is to take the energy out of the climate to generate electricity, and I don’t mean windmills.

LostInParadise's avatar

Given the current circumstances, the more relevant question is, when will people start doing something about global warming?

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SavoirFaire's avatar

As anyone familiar with the actual science (rather than just the politics) of global warming knows, there are multiple causes of the increase in global temperatures. Some of these are ecological (what are often called the “natural” causes), and some are anthropogenic (that is, caused by human activity beyond the biological). The difference between what the global temperature would be were only the ecological factors at play and what the temperature actually is given both the ecological and anthropogenic factors is (along with the effects of this difference) the phenomenon studied under the name “global warming.”

As it is not a disease, it cannot be “cured.” Assuming you are using the word “cure” loosely, however, there are various metrics by which we might declare the problem to be fixed. If we able to bring the global temperature back in line with what it would be were only the ecological factors at play, I think many would be willing to declare the problem solved. This would leave the question of what to do about natural temperature increases, but that occurs at a much slower rate (giving us quite a bit more leeway).

In any case, what seems “human hating” to me is the defeatist attitude taken by those who declare global warming unsolvable or otherwise refuse to aim the considerable power of human ingenuity at it. They withdraw from a major challenge, thus denying the human spirit and sense of industry. They hide from science, which is one of the shining jewels produced by the human intellect. It’s the sort of head-in-the-sand attitude that people of @josie‘s political and philosophical persuasion associate with those they despise—right up until they want to make use of the same rhetorical gestures.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I think this gets sensationalized, people on both sides need to realize that once politics gets involved that all normal bets are off. Recall that the IPCC predicted dire things would have happened by now and that things more or less stayed about the same. This last report was a little more on target IMO because there is more scrutiny on their findings. CO2 is rising and we are responsible for about half of the increase. Temperatures should have fallen in the last decade because of where we were in the solar cycle but they did not. Even though the rise fell below the lowest IPCC predictions we did see one which is interesting. I don’t think we really know for sure what the magnitude of our impact is but I don’t think that should stop us from doing anything about it. I’m skeptical of the sensationalist claims about our impact though. We have added a good chunk of the total CO2 in the atmosphere but the percentage of total CO2 is very low ~0.036% That said, we still need to stop or at least phase out fossil fuels and quickly. We really just need to live sustainable lives on the whole, otherwise we will be constantly fighting a loosing battle with our ecosystem. Here is my concern: We need to do the right thing, not what the politicians or the special interests decide we need to do because that is a guaranteed ticket in the wrong direction. This is the problem I have with both sides of the argument. They’ll lead us down the wrong path if we are not careful.
As far as global warming and “climate change” is concerned it can’t be cured because it is natural. Earths natural state is a state of constant flux. What can be cured is our meddling with the delicate climate interactions that exist. I’m not convinced that CO2 is going to cause armageddon at it’s current level or even higher though. I am convinced that many of our activities will cause unforeseen and catastrophic problems for us in the near and far future if we don’t act now, CO2 being one of them.

Pachy's avatar

One way we’ll know is when the deniers admit they were wrong… if we make it that far.

Coloma's avatar

Not gonna happen. What is going to happen is mass extinction and a rebirth of the planet, ideally without humans.

Seek's avatar

We won’t.

Nothing’s going to bring back the sea ice or the extinct species, or bring back fresh water to Africa and Southeast Asia.

dougiedawg's avatar

Whether or not you believe global warming is being caused by humans should be irrelevant to cleaning up the environment we all share.

I can’t classify the desire for a better environment, better health due to cleaner air and water, or the promotion of cleaner renewable energy sources as hateful.

Politicizing it is not helpful to the problem that is occurring, amigo. C’mon, man!

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Coloma's avatar

Humans have done more to destroy this planet in the last 150 years than in all pre-history before this time frame.
It truly is unbelievable!

Pandora's avatar

Didn’t you hear? The status has been changed to global cooling. So I guess we fixed global warming.

josie's avatar

@Pandora

I didn’t know that. But looking at the thermometer on my patio, it makes more sense.

Assuming Humanity carelessly and foolishly caused global cooling, how will we know when we have fixed it?

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Pandora's avatar

I think the only thing we can do is cut down CO2 emissions. If we could get it down to what it was back in the 40’s we would probably slow down the process. But I don’t know how much of that is repairable. I don’t think that scientist even know the answer to that. I’m not a scientist (no PHD here) but I like to think of the planet is a large living thing. We have choked the crap out of it and I’m not sure if it can recover.
Then there is the idea that we are headed into a mini ice age like we did in the early 1800’s. Which was preceded by a global warming. That has to do with sun activity. I found it in this articlehttp://www.thegwpf.org/lawrence-solomon-global-cooling-consensus/.
So my point is if it also related to sun activity, then I don’t know what can we do to ever fix the problem.

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kritiper's avatar

We won’t. In Al Gore’s 2007 film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” the suggestion is made that if we don’t turn things around within 10 years, we won’t ever be able to stop it. Do you see anyone really doing a whole lot of anything about it yet??
And it is more correct to say “climate change.”

ragingloli's avatar

@kritiper
I disagree. They should have never started to call it “climate change”, because all it did was make the holocaust global warming deniers go “oh look, they changed it to ‘climate change’ because there is no global warming, hurr durr hurr.”

Coloma's avatar

Well my zone is 4 years into a drought. Little rain and snow and it is serious.
Normally there would be up to 30 feet of snow pack, much more possible, up to 70 ft.
We are in the dead zone now. Bad, really, really bad.

kritiper's avatar

@ragingloli – I am sure that you are not alone. Disagree if you like, but there it is.

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mowens's avatar

The southern icecap is getting bigger. How come no one is concerned about global cooling?!

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Kropotkin's avatar

@mowens It isn’t.

@josie For someone so concerned about the media using emotionally-laden terms for propagandistic effect, you sure use a lot yourself. “Human haters”? Really? Because that’s not any sort of poisoning the well or emotionalistic rhetoric at all, right?

If some harm is caused by humans, it is not “hating” humans to correctly acknowledge that humans are responsible and accountable for that harm.

I think if any group can possible be called human haters—it is those who prefer to maintain the status quo, which is posing a risk to our very civilisation and inexorably leading us to ecological disaster.

When will the problem be solved? When we take from the environment only as much as we can put back into it.

mattbrowne's avatar

The primary indicator is PPM of CO2 in the atmosphere.

tobycrabtree's avatar

The goal for the moment is for humans to stop doing things that we know are harmful, which gives us a shot at not making things worse. That’s pretty much the best we can do. I can’t imagine why anyone would want us not to do that.

tom_g's avatar

@mowens – Are you sure you wanted to provide that link? Read it again. It answers your question.

Anyway, I don’t think NASA is wrong. They understand the science – and the scientific consensus.

Kropotkin's avatar

@mowens The article you linked refers only to sea ice extent and not the Antarctic ice sheet.

It is interesting as to why Antarctic sea ice has been extending—despite the warmer temperatures. They go into modest detail to explain why this might be happening. (It’s not global cooling.)

The extending sea ice has also been thinning, so they’re not sure if the total volume has been increasing. This is subject to further research, as mentioned near the end of the article.

What the article does not discuss is the total mass of Antarctic ice, nor the Antarctic ice sheet, which is the ice on the actual land. The land ice is important, because its melt contributes to sea-level rise.

The most recent study that I’m aware of which attempts to accurately measure the Antarctic, and the other major ice sheets is this one. Their conclusion is that the Antarctic ice sheet is shrinking overall:

“the Antarctic Peninsula changed in mass by… –20 ± 14 gigatonnes year.”

It is a fairly large margin of error. The main difficult has been in accurately measuring the isostatic adjustment—that’s the uplift of the land that used to be pressed down by colossal
ice sheets during the Ice Age, also known as glacial rebound. Future research should further reduce the margins of error and give more accurate data with better estimates of the glacial rebound.

ISmart's avatar

the snow in North Pole would stop melting and raising the sea water.

ETpro's avatar

@josie Clearly this disturbing report on the recent increase in the rate of greenhouse gas emissions tells us we aren’t yet even moving in the right direction. In fact, it says we’re heading the wrong way toward driving off an environmental train-wreck, and we’ve got our foot jammed down on the accelerator.

But those who get their news from Faux and the conservative ideology bubble will never know that. Faux ONLY talked about global warming last year and so far this year when we had an unusual cold snap. Murdoch, Ailes and their ilk are still.perfectly willing to destroy the environment that supports their life if doing so is good for this quarter’s profits.

mattbrowne's avatar

“The planet is building up heat at the equivalent of four Hiroshima bombs worth of energy every second. And 90% of that heat is going into the oceans. Right, now I’ve got your attention.”

http://www.fluther.com/168152/how-many-atomic-bombs-are-needed-to-heat-up-the-earth/

ETpro's avatar

@josie Relevant short YouTube video.

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