The topic of global warming is burning, so there are so many kinds of speculations and outright information garbage around it. Let’s first say something on this topic from a scientific point of view, and then let’s fantasize a bit.
So how fast can global warming hit us? It is impossible to answer this question using calculations. Planet Earth is such a complex organism in which there are countless interrelated factors that so far we simply do not have enough knowledge to build models that can be used to build more or less adequate forecasts. But we can do something else: we can look into the past, because in the past there were many cycles of turning the Earth from a snow ball from a greenhouse and back. Let’s start from the beginning. No, not the very beginning of 4.5 billion years ago, but from the beginning of the cycle of glacial periods.
Approximately 1.8-0.8 billion years ago, our Earth passed a period of amazing stability. Previously, this billion years was even called the “boring billion,” but this is certainly not the case. At first, this period seemed boring to us, because we knew very little about it. Nevertheless, this period can indeed be considered a period of surprising stability against the backdrop of the turbulent events of previous and subsequent eras.
So, about 800 million years ago, an important thing happened: the single mainland Rodinia (from the Russian word “motherland”, by the way), which sailed somewhere near the equator, surrounded by the giant ocean “Mirovia” (also from the Russian word) began to crack. Prior to that, about 1.2 billion years ago, he got together as a result of the fact that the giant granite super-cratons Ur and Lawrence (and others) collided, and after 400 million years they began to crawl away from each other as a result of elastic repulsion two granite balls, if they collide with each other).
This has important implications. Faults began to appear in Rodinia. The cratons of the Congo and the Kalahari began to crawl to the southeast. The West African Craton went south. Ur went west, and Lawrence, Baltic and Amazonia – to the east. The ocean began to flood the emerging lowlands of crotons crawling apart, and numerous shallow seas emerged, which means the evaporation of water increased dramatically. There was a lot of precipitation, and rocks began to undergo rapid erosion, which led to a sharp increase in carbon dioxide (CO₂) absorption. And carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that prevents the outflow of heat from the Earth. And when carbon dioxide was low, the Earth began to cool. The fact that the outflow of magma has increased in the faults has played its role, the area of the continents began to increase rapidly at the edges, and the land reflects the sun’s rays much better than the ocean, which absorbs heat well. It means that even more heat has been discharged into space. Glaciers began to appear, and they reflect light even better! The incipient life also played a huge role, as the rapidly growing algae devoured more and more carbon dioxide.
So, about 740 million years ago the Great Icing arrived. It was something! The earth turned into a snowball with an average temperature of minus 40 degrees. The thickness of the ice across the planet reached one and a half kilometers, and up to the equator. How did life survive ?? Well … barely survived. The most enduring extremophilic bacteria lived on the ocean floor near hydrothermal springs. Some photosynthetic algae also survived in shallow waters near the equator.
But what next? Further, the process of movement of tectonic plates continued, naturally. Volcanic activity intensified at fault areas, and billions of tons of carbon dioxide flew into the atmosphere. As a result, the CO₂ level has become several hundred times higher than the current, and a new positive feedback has started: the ice is melting, the warming is increasing. Due to geological processes, methane is formed at a depth of several hundred kilometers: water and carbon dioxide interact with iron-containing minerals under enormous pressure and at a temperature of 1000 degrees. Experiments conducted in 2004 by Henry Scott in the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institute, have convincingly shown that ordinary calcite and iron oxide at such pressure and temperature interact with hydrogen from water, and methane is formed. Following this, many similar experiments were conducted that proved the adequacy of the results.
Methane rises and as a result, huge masses of gas hydrates form at the bottom of the oceans: ice-like mixture of methane and water. This methane ice is formed by the interaction of methane with very cold water. Interestingly, such ice burns perfectly – it is very impressive 🙂 The stock of methane in gas hydrates is tremendous – they are many times more than the entire volume of natural gas in all known deposits. A lot of methane ice in the Arctic permafrost, including in the soils of Siberia, Northern Canada, etc.
And when the warming begins, the shallow water deposits of gas hydrates begin to melt, methane is released into the atmosphere, and methane is a very strong greenhouse gas, so that the warming increases, and the gas hydrates melt even more …
And in the era of the Neoproterozoic, all this happened, and the Earth turned from a snowball into a donut 🙂 A very serious heat began.
Can this happen now? Of course it can, because it has already happened many times after that Great Icing. I do not argue that a person can significantly influence the Earth’s biosphere, but still this influence is very, very weak and, most importantly, briefly. For the Earth, completely different factors are much more important – a truly global and even cosmic scale. The Earth’s orbit slightly changes its shape with a cycle of a hundred thousand years, the inclination of the Earth’s axis of rotation around itself changes cyclically with a period of tens of thousands of years, the precession angle of this axis also changes, there are cycles in Solar activity, there are cycles in convective magma flows and the work of magmatic plumes … compared to all this, the influence of man is less than negligible. So yes, as a result of a very complex interaction of a multitude of global and cosmic factors, global warming may occur, and it will become very warm. Even hot. Even very hot.
And how quickly can this happen? Geology can also give us the answer to this question. Judging by the available data, the Earth from the state of that Great Icing has passed into the state of a hot pie in just a few decades !! So yes, it can happen very quickly.
Now let’s fantasize about how warming is painful, or rather, “fire” can hit us.
Firstly, the climate will not only become hotter, but also tougher. Hurricanes, monsoons and all that will seriously challenge people. Will this be a problem? Sure. Will this be a serious problem? I do not think. People just learn to build more reliably. Our technologies now allow us to build the highest skyscrapers and the longest bridges that can withstand the most powerful earthquakes and hurricanes. We just have to modernize our construction industry and rebuild a lot of things – maybe even almost everything. This will create magnificent prerequisites for the further development of technologies, for the passing integration of new urban ecological human-oriented concepts. New construction boom will cover the planet.
Secondly, at high temperatures and with an increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, our agriculture will become many times more efficient. Simply put – there will be a lot of food, and the growing population will have something to feed. Moreover, this population will also have a place to live, since the new urbanism will finally embrace the vast expanses of previously unused lands. Moreover, in the modern developed and developing world, education is valued above all, which means that more and more educated people will become, and their level of education will increase, which will create a synergistic effect. As a result, the “creative value” of the population will grow rapidly, which means that we will have even more rapid growth of technology, and life will become even more comfortable and interesting. Undoubtedly, humanity will begin to settle on the Moon and Mars – this is for sure. Perhaps we can start settling both the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.
In conclusion, I would like to add that it would be foolish, on the eve of such epochal changes, to suddenly fall into depression, start decreasing and die early. It is imperative to strengthen your immune system, train your body, mind, psyche. It is necessary to gradually, step by step, begin to engage in our education on the principle of combining “professional dilettantism” with deep specialization.
Striving to be a professional, do not forget to become a professional amateur in the related sciences, and even in the sciences, far from your field. Professional dilettantism – this is an approach in which you understand something in fragments, superficially, fragmentary, in mood, to the extent of obtaining pure pleasure, and drawing information from high-quality sources and deepening your knowledge step by step. Professionalism in the main plus professional dilettantism in the side – this is the ground on which insights, “random” discoveries can and will grow, and just fresh, non-trivial ideas in different areas. If this soil is irrigated and fertilized with an awareness of the paramount importance of obtaining pleasure from the study of sciences, then in addition to purely utilitarian results, we also receive what may be the main thing in our life in general – a high level of saturation and depth of life experience.
It is necessary to finally declare war on this mental plague and cholera: negative emotions and dogmatic thinking. It is necessary to stop suppressing your desires and kill yourself of all sorts of dogmatic obyazalovkoy. In short, it is necessary to begin to apply the principles of selecting not only food, not only things, but also attractive ones to your life.