Sunday, February 10, 2008

Six Degrees Could Change the World (National Geographic Film)

Six Degrees Could Change the World, about 90 min, aired tonight (Sunday Feb. 10, 2008) on the National Geographic Channel, link here. It is narrated by Alec Baldwin and directed by Ron Bowman. The documentary explores the effect on the planet for each one degree Celsius (1.8 F) of global warning, up to 6 degrees C (10.6 F). So far, the world has warmed about .8 C (1.44 F) since 1900. However the rate of increase (second derivative) is increasing, and a tipping point could be reached.

Even with 1 degree, extensive damage to coral reefs near Australia, with their bleaching, occurs. Drought has come to eastern Australia producing wildfires comparable to those in Southern California. Serious melting has occurred on icecaps and glaciers in mountains and the poles, with arctic ice melting away in the summer. Many forms of wildlife are endangered, such as the polar bears.

The program runs through simulations, often with graphic animation, of the planetary changes at various levels of warming. A “runaway train” effect is possible if the global warming trend is not reversed by 2015. Among the scenarios include the Amazon turning into a desert-like savannah, leading to more fires and more warming; the disappearance of most glaciers and water supplies for many cities; most of the Great Plains in the United States become desert, where as northern Canada, even into the Northwest Territories, becomes farmland, as does Scandinavia. Heat waves like what hit France in 2003 become annual events. Category six hurricanes occur, and even parts of New York City could be under 25 feet of water after a hurricane, and the subways and underground infrastructure could be completely lost. Surge control systems, like those already installed on the Thames in London, could be installed at three critical locations in New York Harbor.

At six degrees increase, possible in a few decades, much life in the ocean would expire. The film points out that most excess carbon spewed by volcanism is absorbed by biosystems and stored in the earth as coal or oil, which is now being released back into the atmosphere, as we no longer live off of current energy.

An energy efficient home in Aspen, CO was shown, and household practices that consumer “vampire energy” were shown. Novel ideas like fusion energy or solar reflectors in space were discussed. It would take several million wind turbines to replace all of the world’s fossil fuel-fired power plants.

In July, 1971, I was almost arrested for trespassing while photographing strip mines near Mt. Storm, W Va. I wound up being given a reclamation tour in a smoke-filled cabin.

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