One Last Breath: A Look Back at 200 Years of Global Warming
Global Warming: Future Depiction of Cities Such As New York City Flooded By Melting Ice Sheets
As a young man, Scott Stevens never thought it would come to this. What started out as a scientific, then political debate during the later part of the 20th century had now changed his life and the entire world dramatically. Perhaps growing up in the far northern reaches of the Yukon Territory of Canada had made Scott more resourceful than others. He was not sure, but he knew his family had endured the harsh elements of the northern Yukon for many years, and he had survivalist instincts in his blood. His forefathers had moved to the Yukon way back in the beginning of the 20thcentury, about 200 years ago, right about the time that the industrialization of human society started to impact the Earth’s atmosphere with releases of large quantities of global warming gases.
A Look Back at 200 Years of Global Warming
Since the early part of the 19th century, humans released global warming gases into the Earth's atmosphere at increasing rates, as human societies quickly industrialized and became concentrated in urban areas; oblivious to the long term consequences such actions were having the Earth’s atmosphere and the survival of the human species. In the the late 19th century, a few scientists postulated that the releases of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), that mankind had been emitting since the industrial revolution took hold decades earlier would cause a gradual rise in global temperature. In the same manner as a greenhouse warms up as the sun's rays are trapped inside, they theorized that the sun's rays would be trapped in the Earth's atmosphere by the increasingly concentrated gases. Then, in the later decades of the 20th century, scientists took note of a slight but discernible global temperature warming trend that appeared to be taking hold. The scientific hypothesis that mankind's release of global warming gases was causing warming of the global climate set off an enormous debate that lasted well into the 21st century.
Coming from very conservative roots that were typical of the type of self-sufficient people who settled in remote areas like the upper Yukon, Scott remembered as a child his grandfather being a vocal global warming denier; even in the face of overwhelming evidence that global warming was occurring and there was more to it than just natural climate variation, Scott remembers his grandfather spending countless hours debating and debunking global warming as an international conspiracy designed to feed the green industries and paper pushing scientists. Scott scoffed to himself thinking back to those days. What folly his grandfather’s efforts now seemed in the early 22nd century year 2115, with the Earth’s average global temperature now 10 degrees Fahrenheit (6 Celsius) warmer than it had been when this whole global warming debate got stared in the later half of the 20th century.
It was not until the Greenland Ice Sheet collapsed in 2041, inundating major coastal population centers with a sudden and dramatic sea level rise, that the political debate over global warming finally ended for good, and mankind collectively decided to take action to stop global warming. Unfortunately, the tipping point in global warming had already been exceeded by this time. Global warming gases had already been dumped in the Earth’s atmosphere to such a degree that natural forces had taken over to accelerate global warming thereafter, despite valiant human efforts to reverse the rising temperature trend.
The scientific debate over mankind’s involvement in global warming had ended during the 2010s, long before the political system realized that global warming was a problem that needed to be addressed. At that time, a scientific consensus had formed that warned the political establishment that mankind was on the verge of reaching a global warming tipping point. Scientists tried to alert policy makers that the increasing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would warm the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans to the point at which an irreversible and sudden release of enormous deposits of methane (CH4) gas would occur from frozen deposits locked up in permafrost in areas above the Arctic Circle and in frozen methane ice, known as methane hydrate, beneath the ocean floor. Scientists warned that these massive releases of methane (CH4) gas would lead to runaway global warming that would act as a positive feedback loop, feeding upon itself as more and more methane (CH4) gas was released as the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans continued to warm. They predicted that this would result in melting of the ice sheets, ice caps, and glaciers, which would raise the sea levels dramatically, and would eventually lead to global temperature rises that would have catastrophic impacts to the Earth’s environmental balance and to mankind.
Unfortunately, weary populations in the industrialized world that were tired of paying $5.00 or more for gasoline and people in the developing world that were desperate for a higher living standard ignored the scientific warnings of catastrophic global warming and supported highly politicized and well funded efforts to open up the Arctic and then the Antarctic regions to oil and natural gas exploration and drilling, as the polar regions thawed. People continued to increase their use of fossil fuels and releases of global warming gases until 2041, when the inhabitants of Earth were faced with major cities and once heavily populated coastal areas underwater, due to the Greenland Ice Sheet collapse.
After 2041, support for long neglected carbon free energy sources caused a dramatic reduction in carbon fuel usage and global warming gas releases. Ironically, this change to clean non-carbon based energy sources actually caused an economic renaissance for a couple of decades, as consumers that were once paying up to 10% of their income to power their vehicles and heat their homes were now paying just 2% of their income for far cheaper non-carbon based energy technologies that were clean and green. However, the good times did not last long. By 2081, it had become apparent that mankind had released global warming gases in such large quantities before 2041 that the positive methane (CH4) global warming feedback loop had taken hold. The Earth’s atmosphere started to warm by 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade; a rate that was too fast for many species on Earth to survive, including homo sapiens. Massive flooding, fires, crop failures, wars, and then outbreaks of disease epidemics had caused mankind to die off by the billions.
As a ham radio enthusiast, Scott was able to monitor this disturbing chain of events from the relatively safe northern reaches of the Yukon Territory. Although the area in which he lived in had warmed considerably, it was still suitable for farming and hunting, due to its location near the Arctic Circle. Scott’s last contact with another human being was with a survivalist ham radio operator in Alaska a few months ago. His ham radio contact informed him that based on the information he had gathered from other ham radio radio operators around the world, civilization as they had known it was gone and human beings appeared to be going extinct, due to lack of food and uncontrolled disease outbreaks. Earlier reports from tropical and temperate climates indicated that humans had already ceased to exist in those now sweltering regions of the world. Now it appeared even the polar regions were uninhabitable. Scott figured that he had avoided catching one of the deadly diseases that had swept the world because he had no direct contact with other human beings in over a decade. Now he was left to wonder if he may be the human being who takes the last human breath on Earth; a species done in by the natural forces that it had unleashed on the planet that it had inhabited for millions of years.
© Copyright 2014 by the author John Coviello (a.k.a. Rock_nj) – This is a fictional essay. Feel free to share it, if you enjoyed reading it; however, all republication rights are reserved by the author based on United States and International Copyright laws.
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© 2012 John Coviello