An interesting article by the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), detailing this year’s extraordinarily warm arctic winter and accelerating Greenland melt rates.
Given that the mainstream media (and the airlines and other industries that buy services from the media) continue to downplay and ignore these developments, here is a simple list of what this plausibly means re our planetary future:
- melting Greenland ice is creating a lens of cold fresh water, accumulating in the northern Atlantic; this is shunting the warm-water Gulf Stream, which backs up against the cold lens and is forced to dive under the cold fresh water.
- the result, in climate terms, is a developing configuration with an area of very warm water adjacent to an area of very cold water; this configuration tends to intensify weather patterns, creating a high frequency of weather events with stronger winds and larger rainfalls/flooding (sort of like turning up the heat under a tea kettle; water that had been warm but quiescent now starts to circulate and bubble).
- other climate change results include an intensified north-south flow of weather patterns that causes rapid temperature fluctuations from unseasonably warm to killing frosts; on a local level, this will potentially destroy trees and other perennial plants, while also reducing our ability to produce needed annual food crops.
- the ice melt from both Arctic and Antarctic regions will increase the volume of water in our oceans, which in turn will cause tens of meters of sea level rise; major cities (and airports) will be flooded, including: London, New York, Miami, Shanghai, Bangkok, Rome, Buenos Aires, and many more. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced; extraordinary acreages of the most productive farmland will be lost.
The connection to aviation comes in these ways:
- First, the evident root cause of this climate change is the collective (and excessive) consumption of fossil fuels by all of humanity.
- Some forms of fossil fuel consumption are more necessary, while some are more discretionary. While heating homes and providing electricity are relatively ‘necessary’ across the globe, flying for business or pleasure is a very discretionary activity.
- The per capita rate of fossil fuel consumption is not even close to level; while some populations consume almost no fossil fuels, other populations are ‘off the charts’ due to daily commutes, air travel, suburban sprawl, etc.
- Aviation is extraordinarily dependent on fossil fuels, in that we are nowhere close to developing alternative energy sources that can efficiently power scheduled passenger or cargo flights.
- there is no other common human activity that consumes fossil fuels – and generates CO2 and other pollutants – at a faster rate than does aviation. The per capita pollution rate is particularly intense for business jet (bizjet) operations. Instead of tax laws that incentivize acquisition and use of bizjets, we need tax laws that strongly disincentivize.
- The conversion of farmlands from growing food to growing aviation biofuels is absurd, unjust, and ultimately undermines security across vast regions of the world.
- The combustion of fossil fuels at higher altitudes is believed to create significant air pollutants, including soot that precipitates onto areas of polar ice, thus further accelerating ice melt and sea level rise.