Feedback Loops

You know how when your beer starts getting warm you’ve only got like 2, maybe 3 minutes (more with a stubby holder) before it becomes so revoltingly tepid you need to neck it immediately to stop the suffering of every passing sip? Well that’s the result of what’s called a ‘positive feedback loop’.

This is when the result of the impacting force - in this case, rising temperature - begins to compound the outcome (lukewarm piss). Positive feedback loops are one of the most frightening factors of climate change. Scientists call them ‘global tipping points’; when feedback compounds  environmental forces of warming.

Dr Karl wrote a great article (in 2012 mind you) about an imminent and terrifying demonstration of this phenomenon, regarding the frozen layer of permafrost extending above and below the polar ice caps. This permafrost contains an immense amount of stored carbon dioxide, and when it begins to melt - which it apparently has already btw - it will begin releasing the CO2 into the atmosphere. This will then amplify the warming, thereby increasing the rate at which it is being released, and round and round it goes. Get the picture? Dr Karl reckons the amount of carbon stored in permafrost is FOUR TIMES the amount of carbon that humans have input into the atmosphere.

Another example of a spine-tingling positive feedback loop is ‘ice albedo’. This is the often under-appreciated reflection of solar radiation by the polar ice caps, which significantly reduce the absorption of warmth by the oceans. But as the ice melts, the ocean absorbs more solar energy and warms up further, then increasing the rate at which the ice diminishes, meaning global temperatures begin rising exponentially. We’ve already gone pretty far down this particular road; in just 37 years we have lost over 80% of total sea ice. Yep, the Earth now has just one fifth of the ice that existed in 1980.

Remember how I wrote about panic? The persistently nagging anxiety of imminent environmental doom? I think I probably appear fairly extreme in my approach to the environment, but this type of situation is why. Global warming is escalating faster than any of us can see or feel. Whilst climate change has never been more prominently in modern discourse than at present, it still doesn’t appear to have yet garnered a collective response of adequate urgency.

So it is my opinion that we really, really, really need to get cracking!