Book Review: The Weather Makers: How Man is Changing the Climate and What it Means for Life on Earth-Tim Flannery. Reviewed By: Thomas Riggins (1/7)Read Now
This is an important book which explains the science behind climate change. Tim Flannery is an Australian scientist and climate authority and I intend to present what science thinks are the facts behind the changing climate of the earth and what we have to do. I will be giving a Marxist spin to some of these facts as I think it is the capitalist economic system fostering large scale industrial pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases that is the problem, not "man" as the title suggests.
Flannery tells us that the best scientific evidence indicates that by 2050 we must reduce CO2 emissions by 70%. So we must keep that in mind in any policy discussions and suggestions that people or governments put forth. We must only support programs that aim at this level of reduction.
For purposes of explanation, NOT as a scientific fact, Flannery refers to the GAIA hypothesis which treats the Earth as a living interconnected entity. This is very poetic but Marxist dialectics accomplishes the same function of treating the earth as a unity in difference wherein each and every part influences each and every other part to a greater or lesser degree.
Flannery mentions something called Earth's ALBEDO. This word comes from Latin for "whiteness. The Albedo is the ability to reflect the Sun's heat back into space and away from the Earth (clouds, snow, etc.). We should note that 1/3 of all the heat reaching the Earth from the Sun is redirected back out into space.
We are also told that if we don't control global warming we could destroy our civilization and even our species. If we did that we would kill off so many other life forms along with us that "the repair job to Earth's biodiversity would take tens of millions of years." Only ideologically driven Ayn Rand type capitalists would trade off tens of millions of years and our species itself to pump a few more barrels of oil or open more coal power plants. Remember we only have until 2050 to get rid of 70% of the CO2 emissions!
Just as there is a great ocean of H2O covering most of the Earth there is a great "aerial ocean" surrounding the planet: it is this ocean in which we live. Generally called the atmosphere it is made up of four layers. We live in the bottom layer called the troposphere which has 80% the gases of the atmosphere. We live the first 1/3 of it which has 50% of all the gases. The 1/3 we live in is the only place where we can breathe. Flannery informs us that it is warmer at the bottom "its temperature gradient is upside down." Another fact is that the air north of the equator rarely mixes with the air south of the equator. Hence polluted air in the more developed north doesn't go south.
The second layer starts about seven miles up and is called the stratosphere.Going up to thirty miles we meet the mesosphere. Last, at fifty miles up comes the thermosphere which after another forty or so miles peters out into space.
The atmosphere is basically made up of three elements that we breathe: argon (.9%), oxygen (20.9%), nitrogen (78%). There are also trace gases, less than .05%.
Flannery says we have only recently recognized that the atmosphere engages in "telekinesis." What he means is that atmospheric changes can "manifest themselves simultaneously in distant regions."
Now, the subjects of this book are the greenhouse gases, part of the collection of trace gases, but they all "share the ability to block long wavelengths of energy"-- the HEAT ENERGY coming from the sun. By "block" Flannery means "trap"-- they trap it in the atmosphere. It is instructive, he says, to make some comparisons. The temperature of Venus at the surface is 891 degrees F and its atmosphere is 98% CO2 (a major greenhouse gas). If CO2 became 1% of Our atmosphere, the surface temperature of Earth would rise to 212 degrees F. I think you all know what that means folks.
Coming up: Part 2
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association.