Time: Sun Dec 14 17:53:58 1997
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: Larry Ephron on the greenhouse effect
Bcc: sls, friends, liberty lists, 3cc, psc

              "Yes ... We are Close to Starvation"


                       Larry Ephron, Ph.D.


                          Acres U.S.A.
                           April 1989

Three droughts  in the  1980s, each  worse than  the  last,  have
increasingly damaged our ability to grow food.  The terrible heat
and drought in the summer of 1988 destroyed almost a third of all
our grains, the basic staple food of our lives.  For probably the
first time in our history, we were not able to grow enough grains
to feed ourselves.

Lester Brown,  director of the Worldwatch institute, says that if
there is  another severe drought in 1989, we will already be in a
global food  emergency   --   "faced with  the need for emergency
measures to  cut back grain use among the affluent to ensure that
the poor do not starve."  Within only a few months, Americans and
the other  affluent peoples may be faced with the terrible choice
of going  hungry or  condemning millions of people to starvation.
There could  be global  wars, perhaps  even  nuclear  wars,  over
dwindling food supplies.

There is  widespread  scientific  agreement  that  the  spreading
drought is  caused by  the greenhouse  effect   --   the  rapidly
rising level  of carbon dioxide and other gases in our atmosphere
which trap  additional heat from the sun.  What is only gradually
becoming recognized  is that the greenhouse effect causes several
extreme changes  in the  weather and climate, all of them already
diminishing our ability to grow food.

This Greenhouse is NOT Always Warm

Most observers assume the greenhouse effect will warm the earth's
climate dramatically in the coming years.  The four hottest years
of the  century were all in the 1980s, and the summer of 1988 was

But surprisingly,  winters have  also  been  getting  longer  and
colder for  the past 50 to 100 years.  Over and over again in the
last 15  years, Northern hemisphere winters have been the coldest
in recorded  history, and  record snow has fallen shockingly late
in the  season in  many areas, sometimes even into June and July.
What is going on?

The greenhouse  effect is  indeed occurring  --  but primarily in
the tropics and lower latitudes, where there is a lot more of the
sun's heat  for the greenhouse gases to magnify.  Since the polar
regions get  few of  the sun's  rays, the  greenhouse  effect  is
minimal there.   So the greenhouse effect is primarily heating up
the tropics while the poles stay about the same.

Any meteorologist  can tell  you the  consequences:   the  hotter
tropical air  rises faster and heavy, cold polar air rushes in to
fill the  vacuum.   The  earth's  air  masses  circulate  faster,
resulting in  higher winds.   In  fact there have been increasing
numbers of  hurricanes and  tornadoes for half a century now, and
1988's  Hurricane   Gilbert  was  the  strongest  hurricane  ever
recorded in the Western hemisphere.

These greenhouse  winds often  carry a lot of moisture with them,
evaporated from  the now overheated tropical oceans..  Carried in
clouds to the higher latitudes, this moisture falls as increasing
rain during  the spring  and fall, and as increasing snow and ice
during the  winter.   Thus winters get longer and colder.  Longer
winters have  reduced the growing season by almost a month in the
American Midwest  in the  last 40 years.  All these phenomena are
well documented in the scientific literature.

In the  summer, the  winds  circulate  more  rapidly  toward  the
opposite pole,  which is  now in  winter cold.   So  most of  the
moisture-laden tropical  clouds are  blown away,  leaving  behind
intense summer  heat and  drought to make our lives miserable and
destroy our food crops.

All of these terrible  consequences of  the greenhouse effect  --
record heat,  drought, high  winds, longer winters, and increased
spring flooding from the excess snowfall  --  destroy our ability
to grow  food.   The drought  is only  the most extreme threat at
this time.   It  began with  the unprecedented 15-year drought in
northern Africa  that killed  millions of people, and which seems
to be recurring with only a brief pause.  A severe drought in the
southeast states  of the  U.S. in  1986 destroyed some 90% of the
crops in  that region.  And now the ominous drought of 1988 shows
us where we are headed.

The climate  can be  expected to  become increasingly extreme and
inhospitable in  many ways  as the greenhouse gases accumulate at
an accelerating rate.  We may look around and see sunny skies and
supermarkets filled  with food,  and feel  ourselves secure.   In
fact, we may be virtually on the edge of an abyss.

The Ice Ages

We now  know that the major ice ages recur on a vast 100,000 year
cycle   --  about 90,000 years cold, only about 10,000 years warm
(with up  to a  couple of thousand years variation).  Evidence of
the past  25 of these cycles has recently been discovered in sea-
floor and ice cores.

We are  about 10,800  years into  a warm  period, one  of the so-
called inter-glacial  periods.   Everything we  think of as human
civilization   --  pottery, agriculture, writing, cities  --  has
been created  in that brief span of time since the last major ice
age ended and the earth warmed up again.

What could cause such an awesome recurring cycle of ice ages?  Up
until recently,  many scientists have believed that the major ice
ages are  caused by  very small  changes in the earth's orbit and
rotation, which  have minute  effects on  the amount  of sunlight
falling on  various parts  of the  globe.   Some of these orbital
movements do  seem to  cause relatively minor fluctuations in ice
cover on the earth.  But the small variation in the earth's orbit
around the  sun, which  very slightly  narrows and  widens  on  a
hundred-thousand-year time  frame, produces  changes in  sunlight
which are  so minute   --   on  the order of half of 1%  --  that
many   scientists,    like   Stephen   Schneider,   Director   of
Interdisciplinary Studies  at the National Center for Atmospheric
Research, now  feel that this is too small to be the cause of the
major ice ages.

This orbital  theory assumes that something has to cool the earth
to bring  on an  ice age.  But Sir George Simpson, former head of
Britain's Royal  Meteorological Society,  suggested 50  years ago
that, paradoxically,  some source  of increased energy would have
to be  found   --  energy that could be presumed to move the huge
amounts of  moisture from  the oceans that builds up the glaciers
during an ice age.

John Hamaker's Theory

Finally a  scientist has  come up with a plausible source of that
energy.  John Hamaker is a mechanical engineer trained at Purdue,
who has  been studying  climate  from  a  very  multidisciplinary
perspective for  the past  15 years.  Hamaker believes the energy
to build  up the  ice age glaciers come from a greenhouse effect,
which transfers  tropical moisture to the higher latitudes during
the winter.

But wait  a minute   --   isn't  the greenhouse  effect caused by
human activities?   How  could  a  greenhouse  effect  have  been
responsible for  ice ages  which occurred  long before  we humans
ever existed?

Science has  long know  that a great deal of erosion, by wind and
water, takes  place during  the 10,000  years of each warm inter-
glacial period.   One  of the  major  consequences  is  that  the
minerals in  the soil  get substantially  eroded away, or leached
deep into  the subsoil  where they are no longer available to the
trees and plants.

We now  know that close to a hundred minerals  --  iron, calcium,
magnesium and  many others are essential nutrients for all plant,
animal, and  human life.   As  the vital minerals in the soil get
eroded away,  the earth's  forests get  progressively weaker, and
eventually begin  to die  back.   They succumb  more  readily  to
insects, disease and forest fires, all of which increase.

As the forests die back they not only consume less carbon dioxide
from the atmosphere, the huge amounts of carbon stored in them is
released back  to the  atmosphere   --   where it recombines with
oxygen to  form large quantities of carbon dioxide.  Since carbon
dioxide traps  more heat  from the  sun, this  increase creates a
naturally  occurring  greenhouse  effect,  with  all  the  severe
climatic consequences we saw earlier.

This greenhouse  effect continues for tens of thousands of years,
transferring more and more moisture to the growing polar glaciers
and creating  an ice  age.   It is now known that the tropics are
hotter during an ice age.

Why does  an ice  age ever come to an end?  That's the last piece
of this awesome puzzle.  As the glaciers slowly advance over tens
of thousands of years, they grind up the rocks in their path into
a dust  as fine  as talcum  powder.  This dust is then carried by
streams and blown by wind over many parts of the earth.

Rocks are  made up of minerals..  So this rock dust remineralizes
much of  the earth's  soil!   It nourishes the forests again, and
they become rejuvenated.  As they thrive and spread, they consume
the excess  carbon dioxide  in the  atmosphere.   The  greenhouse
engine  eventually   subsides,  and  another  mild  inter-glacial
period, like the one we've been living in, is ushered in.

Every element  of this  complex theory  is validated  by  current
scientific knowledge in a number of different fields.

The Coming Ice Age

In 1979,  pollen specialist  Genevieve  Woillard  concluded  from
detailed studies  of deep pollen beds left by ancient trees, that
last time,  the final  shift from a warm inter-glacial climate to
the beginning  of the  last ice  age  --  when it became too cold
for fruit  and nut  trees to grow  --  took "less than 20 years."
Observing that European forests seemed to be dying in a similarly
precipitous way,  she wrote  that we  may already  be well into a
comparable period  of rapid climatic change, and only a few years
from the beginning of the next ice age.

This time  around, we're  accelerating the  natural processes  of
climatic change  by adding  our own  greenhouse effect:   cutting
down the  world's forests at an ever-increasing rate, burning the
fossil remains  of long buried forests which have turned to coal,
oil and natural gas, etc.

Hamaker agrees  with Woillard's assessment of where we are in the
current cycle.   He  believes with Worldwatch that we may be less
than a  year or  two away  from widespread hunger and starvation.
And that  if we  do not  act in  time, the  majority of people on
earth, in  every region,  will starve  to death, very possibly in
less than a decade.

What Can We Do?

If Hamaker's  theory is  correct, however, and if we act quickly,
we may  have it  within our  power not  only  to  slow  down  the
deterioration of  our climate,  but to stop the cycle of ice ages

How?  By doing four simple but monumental things very fast:

(1)  Stop the  clear cutting  of the  world's forests, especially
     the fast-growing tropical rain forests which contain so much

(2)  Plant vast  quantities of new, fast-growing species of trees
     to quickly begin consuming the excess carbon dioxide.

(3)  Take over  the glaciers'  job and  remineralize much  of the
     earth ourselves,  simply by  grinding up  mixed  gravel  and
     spreading it over the forests to rejuvenate them.

(4)  Take a  two or  three year vacation from our energy-guzzling
     way of  life   --  until enough of the new trees come in and
     existing forests  can be  revived.   This  will  reduce  the
     greenhouse gases  enough to  move us  back from the brink of
     oblivion, and  give us  the time to create a less polluting,
     less suicidal way of life.

We can also quickly remineralize our farmlands to increase yields
dramatically on  the order  of 300  to 400%,  based  on  existing
research, before  drought and other climatic threats wipe out all
our meager  food reserves  and much  of our ability to grow food.
Remineralizing our  agricultural soils will also allow us to stop
using chemical  nitrogen fertilizers,  which are  adding  to  the
greenhouse effect,  and toxic  pesticides which are poisoning the
earth and contaminating our food.

Of course,  it probably  won't be easy to get such massive things
accomplished, even  with the  threat to  our survival.  There are
enormous vested  interests making  huge profits  from the current
way of  doing things.   And we may have very little time, perhaps
only a  year or  two, before  the  momentum  of  climatic  change
becomes irreversible.

But it  may  not  be  hopeless.    "Debt-for-nature"  swaps  have
recently been  made in  which  rain  forest  countries  agree  to
protect large  preserves of  forest in  exchange for reduction of
their national  debt:   the banks  agree to  discount  the  loans
greatly (85% or more), and foundations put up the money.  On this
model we might be able to save most of the remaining rain forests
for less  than $100  million, quickly raising the money from rock
concerts, for example.  (The Live-Aid concert for drought victims
in north  Africa raised  $82 million in one weekend.)  We can buy
some time this way.

But the  world's governments  are going  to have  to finance  and
organize most of what  needs to be done,  and  unfortunately they
re probably  not going  to acknowledge the need and do it in time
unless there's  a mass  movement to  demand that they do.  It may
take a  movement as  big and determined as that which stopped the
Vietnam War, and we may have very little time to organize it.

It seems  we need to put aside everything in our lives that isn't
absolutely essential now, and get on with what is:  our survival.

Larry Ephron, Ph.D., is author of "The End" (Celestial Arts,
1988) and director of People for a Future.

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