You may have heard of the Butterfly Effect – a part of chaos theory. The saying goes something along the lines of this:
“A butterfly flaps its wings in China and a hurricane forms in (insert place here)”. It basically means that a single small event can spark off a whole series of other events that may seem unrelated.
The challenges facing mankind in relation to global warming are the result of a mighty big butterfly – mankind itself. Many in power still seem to think we have time up our sleeves before urgent action is necessary.
The reality is that we don’t. Climate change is now, it’s happening, it’s real and it’s occurring faster than many scientists believed. Here’s a couple of examples of phenomenon that scientists didn’t contemplate until recently – after they actually started to occur.
a) As ice in the Arctic, Antarctic and countries such as Greenland melts due to increased temperature, it exposes dark rock, that rock absorbs heat, making ice melt even faster. Glaciers also reflect the vast majority of the sun’s rays, wheras the water around them absorbs heat from the sun. This is another scenario that melts the ice even faster. As a result, the seas may rise more rapidly and higher than previously thought, animals in those areas may become extinct before we can intervene and a whole slew of other nasty issues may occur; including the potential of hundreds of millions people living in low lying areas being displaced. There are so many scenarios that the mind boggles trying to understand the ramifications.
b) Siberia has frozen peat bogs the size of France and Germany combined. These froze bogs trap billions of tons of greenhouse gas (methane). These gases have been trapped for thousands of years. As temperatures rise, these gases are now starting to be released, increasing the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere which will spread around the world and contribute to further temperature rise.
Our activities have triggered what’s known as positive feedback loops in nature, amplifying warming and cooling trends and other disturbances to our climate. Up until recently, researchers based their predictions on human activity in relation to global warming only. Phenomenon such as the above are just a couple of the hundreds, possibly thousands of examples of just how much of a Pandora’s box we have opened.
While chaos may appear to be to be totally random, it is quite ordered. There is cause and there is effect. The chaos that this planet is about to undergo *was* avoidable, it may now not be; but still if we act together, globally, we may still dodge some of the many disasters as yet unseen and unthought of that may wait in store us.