By Ron Heusen
James Lovelock, a British biologist, developed a hypothesis, which has earth behaving like a single living organism.
Plato was the first to conceive of this idea and the ancient Greeks named their “earth goddess” Gaia. Lovelock’s hypothesis is that over eons of time, differing life forms shaped earth’s feedback systems into a finely tuned optimally balanced earth he calls “Gaia”. One aspect of Gaia is interdependent, responsive and concurrently adjusting biochemical cycles that constantly strive for homeostasis.
Lovelock states that when we treat those cycles as so elastic as to be indestructible, the feedback response may not favor humankind. Lovelock does not infer some conscious earthly malevolence; he just scientifically articulates how nitrogen, sulphur, carbon and oxygen cycles work and how human activities influence them.
For the last 650,000 years, the natural state for earth has been atmospheric CO2 concentrations of around 280ppm. Carbon laden fossil fuel use has increased concentrations to 390ppm; a staggering 800 billion tons of CO2 earth has not been able to balance through photosynthesis, dissolution and carbon fixation.
Every year we add 30 billion tons of this stable long lasting gas.
China is currently completing two new coal fired hydro plants a week and projections forecast their CO2 emissions will pale every country on earth, and India, already the world’s fifth largest emitter, projects massive increases.
Energy hungry Americans are now proselytizing the virtues of cheap abundant natural gas and Australia continues to be the world’s largest coal exporter. Canada may seem innocuous but we are one of the biggest per capita CO2 emitters on earth.
That may be why Prime Minister Stephen Harper created the 2006 Clean Air Act, which deferred Kyoto Protocol’s binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, 40 years into our future.
That was tantamount to a repudiation of the science of global warming but the political expediency of removing impediments to Canada meeting NAFTA’s proportionality clause, that prevents Canada from cutting back our oil and natural gas exports to the US, cannot be understated.
Call it irony but the B.C. Liberals boast about the number of coal mines that have reopened under their aggressively reduced corporate income tax model, while they simultaneously profess good climate citizenship through carbon taxation of the working poor.
B.C. Hydro tries to propagate a green image through motherhood statements of “developing environmentally responsible power” while they quietly import coal and gas-fired power from Alberta and Washington.
Some climate experts suggest 2050 could be the possible point when global CO2 concentrations will be so high, the initiated forcing effects will relegate humanity to stunned bystanders.
As I watch the exploitation of carbon cap and trade, escalating global fossil fuel use and the destruction of natural balancing systems such as rainforests, I share the global scientific community’s trepidation about our future.
Humanity appears to have adopted the unethical self-serving distortion of plausible deniability with respect to the science of anthropogenic global warming and in doing so likely opened Pandora’s Box.
Human inclination is to deny that which we cannot conceivably accept and our demonstrable record is that of an indiscriminate polluter. It makes me wonder if, like the myth of Pandora’s Box, all that remains is “hope”.
Retired Nanaimo resident Ron Heusen writes every second week. He can be reached through the News Bulletin at email@example.com.