Questions on climate change answered |24 May 2021
Following the publication of my last article on climate change in your esteemed newspaper I received quite a number of requests from your readers to explain further certain aspects of climate change. I have grouped the most requested questions together from all the callers and I will answer only 6 for now due to space limitation. I am approaching these subjects purely from a scientific point of view and keeping away from any religious discussions. The most popular questions were:
- How old is our Universe? – We do not know for sure but scientists estimate the Universe was formed 13.8 billion years ago. They have come up with this estimate by putting together certain information they collected on Earth and from information space probes are sending back to us. They have also carbon dated certain pieces of asteroids that hit the Earth, fossils including ancient humanoid remains and whole dinosaur remains and other items found during their archaeological diggings. Scientists have also studied the oldest known light in our Universe called the Afterglow which is the cosmic microwave background of the Big Bang Theory. They say the Earth has gone through 3 Eon periods and the Eons have been sub-divided to create 8 Eras. Humans did not arrive on Earth until the Cenozoic Era which is in the Phanerozoic Eon. This is the best information we can assimilate about the origin of our Universe and we continue to learn through our space exploration activities. One day we may find out whether the multi-universe theory is true.
2. Is there an alien civilisation in the Universe? – We do not know for sure yet, butscientists believe there could be several other alien lifeforms on other planets in the Universe. When these lifeforms learn to live in relative harmony like us on Earth then they have or they will create their own civilisations. The word civilisation means living in cities, the process by which a society reaches an advanced stage of social and cultural development and organisation. Scientists also base their theory on Quantum Physics which is the behaviour of matter and energy on the atomic and subatomic level where atoms, electrons and photons can create lifeforms in the same way that we have different lifeforms on Earth such as humans, animals, fish, plants, insects etc. so why should we believe that we are unique and alone in the Universe? So far scientists estimate that 99% of lifeforms on Earth have already gone extinct not only due to climate change but the natural process of selection and a few can be attributed to mankind’s activities like over hunting, over fishing, spraying of insecticides, deforestation and habitat destructions. The other aspect that gives scientists a positive answer is the Universe comprises space, time, matter, energy and information and the Law of Total Probability says why should lifeforms exist only on Earth and nowhere else in the Universe? The odds are in favour of new lifeforms in existence in our Universe that we have yet to discover.
In addition we have only recently cracked the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) of the human genome, where we have learnt how the human body is constructed, what are the hereditary diseases that we pass on to our offspring and furthermore we are sending probes into the Universe to get some more answers about what is out there but ironically we are still fighting wars and killing each other on Earth mostly for material advancement, land occupation while half the world is going hungry. It beggars the question whether umankind is really civilised.
3. Did climate change create mankind? Let us look at this question from a Palaeoanthropology view point which is the scientific study of the evolution of mankind. To this day we do not have concrete proof of where did mankind come from, we were not created overnight or fell out of the sky although there is a theory which says mankind came from another planet but the theory does not say which planet. We have several theories but no proof. So let us examine one of the main available theories then you make up your own mind. Scientists aver that mankind originated from Africa some 300,000 years ago at the time when several hominids evolved side by side. Then 200,000 years ago our most recent ancestor, the Homo erectus, the upright man (and women), evolved into the Homo sapiens and acquired higher intellect. Between 70,000 to 100,000 years ago the Homo sapiens migrated South towards Europe and Asia and by 35,000 years ago they had reached Australia. Remember the Earth was one mass of land called Pangea at the time so they did not have to build ships to cross any oceans and around that time the Homo habilis, the handyman, had developed tools for hunting and they migrated to Eastern and Southern Africa. Something else happened to them, their skin colour started to change from dark black to a lighter colour because skin colour is a blend of chromophores where red is oxyhaemoglobin, blue is deoxygenated haemoglobin, yellow-orange is carotene which is an exogenous pigment and brown is melanin. This is why black skin people originally came from hot countries, white (pink) skin people came from cold countries and Indians and Chinese people have yellowish brown complexion due to the amount of melanin in the sunlight that bathed their new migratory habitats on Earth, of course inter-marriage produced mixed genes. The same principle applies to the colour of the eyes where people from cold countries have blue or green eyes and people from hot counties have black eyes. In addition people in hot countries developed wide nostrils to cool the hot air as they breathe and people in cold countries developed narrow nostrils to reduce the amount of coldness in the air they breathe. Also why do Chinese and Japanese people have small slanted eyes, may be because the sun glare was very intense in their habitats.
4. Did climate change make dinosaurs extinct? The answer is definitely yes based on remains found in several areas on Earth. Dinosaurs lived in the Mesozoic Era and in that era there were 3 consecutive geological time periods – the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Extinction of the dinosaurs occurred 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period after they had lived on Earth for 165 million years. There is no evidence that the dinosaurs neither polluted their atmosphere nor deforested their environment, nor created any destructive weapons nor fought any wars to achieve dominance.
There are two theories about their extinction. One is a huge asteroid hit the Earth in the Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula area called Chicxulub. The problem with this theory is although the Earth was one big mass called Pangea at the time, dinosaurs lived in China, Argentina, UK and many other continents miles away from Mexico. The other problem with this theory is if the asteroid was so big as to cause damage on such a huge area, the force would have knocked the Earth off its axis sending it spinning in the Universe which did not occur.
The second theory, which I find more credible and I explained it in my last article, is the Earth rotates around the sun not in a circular orbit but in an elliptical orbit. So when the sun is at the furthest end of the elliptical orbit the Earth freezes and most lifeforms on Earth die. If the Earth orbited the sun in a circular orbit then the sun would be at the same distance from the Earth all the time for billions of years and no climate change would occur, just day and night created by the rotation of the Earth itself on its own axis.
5. Will climate change cause the sun to burn out the Earth? The short answer is yes. The sun will destroy all lifeforms on Earth as the Earth gets nearer to the sun then as the Earth moves away, new lifeforms will emerge then when the sun gets to the furthest elliptical point of its orbit (extreme right or left) an ice age will be created on Earth and again most lifeforms will perish (like the dinosaurs) and so this cycle has existed and will continue for billions of years. Notwithstanding, the sun is the life giver and protector of Planet Earth and without the sun no life, as we know it, would survive on Earth. Sunlight triggers photosynthesis in plants which absorbs the carbon dioxide we breathe out and gives us back oxygen to breathe in to survive and sunlight produces vitamin D which humans and animals need to survive and chlorophyll for plants to survive . Sunlight also increases the functionality of our immune system, increases the production of serotonin hormone making us feel calm and focussed and prepares our body to produce melatonin hormone when darkness comes and we feel sleepy. Similar processes apply to other lifeforms on Earth with some variations; for example nocturnal animals thrive in the dark and sleep during the day.
Mankind’s biggest threats are solar flares or storms as the sun approaches the Earth in its elliptical orbit. A solar storm will take out our electricity distributions, communications systems, most orbiting satellites and decimate crops in the field. Such an event will also have an adverse effect on the Earth’s magnetic field which means even fish in the sea and birds in the air will lose their natural navigation system and they will get lost and all this will herald the end of mankind as we know it on Earth. Scientists from NASA and ESA are working on how to forecast solar storms. Although we have no defence against solar storms if we can have warnings we can at least deploy our civil defence plan and try and save a few people.
Climate change is created by the orbit of the sun in the Universe not by mankind’s activities. It is estimated that the sun’s temperature is 60 million degrees at the centre core and 6,000 degrees on the surface. In 2018 NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe towards the sun to collect data on solar storms. It is travelling at a speed of 690,000 Km/h (430,000 mph) and cost US $1.5 billion and the probe will approach the sun to within 6.9 million km (4.3 million miles) and send us data and warnings about solar storms.
6. Do carbon emissions cause climate change? Carbon emissions create the greenhouse effect but do not trigger climate change. They merely bring forward the evil day by exacerbating the process of climate change which is inevitable. The dinosaurs did not create the greenhouse effect and yet they went extinct due to climate change. Carbon emissions trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere cause global warming which hastens the melting of the ice caps which in turn create sea level rise, which consequently devastates low lying habitats of life forms and organisms of the Earth.
Activities on Earth by mankind such as driving millions of vehicles around the world 24x7 emit an uncontrollable amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. This can be reduced by replacing carbon fuelled vehicles with battery powered vehicles and replacing old coal fired power generating stations with clean energy from the sun. Mankind took an interim step and created nuclear power stations and now we cannot dispose the nuclear waste which can devastate our planet. The sun is the best and cheapest form of clean energy.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) livestock generate 18% of the total greenhouse gas emissions more than all the cars, planes, power stations put together. We must add to this the methane gas from 7.674 billion humans farting day and night, then what about carbon dioxide from volcanoes, then what about the emissions from CFC – Chloro-Flouro carbon – from fridges and aircon units which have been putting chlorine and bromine atoms in our atmosphere? Thank goodness these are being replaced with HFC -134a (hydrofluo carbons). The Montreal Protocol bans the use of ozone depleting halocarbons because in 2020 the ozone hole measured 24.8 million square kilometres (9.6) square miles) 3 times the size of the USA continent. The ozone layer is located about 30 miles above the Earth in the stratospheric (second) layer of our atmosphere and it prevents the UV light from the sun from causing cancer, eye cataracts and other genetic disorders on inhabitants of the Earth.
Carbon emissions increase the number and intensity of heat waves hitting the Earth. Yet the biggest danger to carbon emission increase is population growth which is expected to rise to 9.7 billion by 2050. The consequence will be failing crops through diminishing rainfall which will herald starvation on a scale never experienced on Earth before. Then of course we have diseases like SARS-2, Ebola, HIV/Aids and Covid-19 to deal with to remain alive.
Barry Laine FCIM, FInst SMM, MCMI, MBSCH
Seychelles Civil Society
The Wishing Well, Anse Des Genets