Winning Without Victory
a political and romantic fiction novel by Rolf A. F. Witzsche
Volume 3 of the 12-volume series, The Lodging for the Rose

Page 135
Chapter 10 - The Venice Project

      Steve raised his paper. "Jaworowski points out that the global climate is determined by what effects the water vapor content in the atmosphere. The water vapor content all by itself produces ninety-seven percent of the greenhouse effect that keeps our planet nice and warm. It lets the short-wave energy in, and keeps the long-wave energy heat from escaping into space. The water vapor content is of course greatly affected by cloud formation. Cloud formation, in turn, is affected by the intensity of cosmic radiation reaching the Earth. Cosmic radiation ionizes the air molecules in the troposphere, which changes their characteristics. Ionized air molecules are a hundred times more attractive to water vapor than none-ionized molecules are, and are thereby a hundred times more efficient at turning water vapor into clouds. Cloud formation thus reduces the water vapor content and with it the greenhouse effect. In addition the increased cloudiness also makes the Earth colder in a more direct manner, because their white surface reflects a portion of the sun's thermal power right back into space before it even reaches the planet surface. The cosmic radiation that affects this highly critical process is in turn controlled by solar activity cycles over which we have absolutely no control. The solar winds and solar magnetic storms that fluctuate with the dynamics of the long-term solar cycles, act like a constantly changing shield that protects the Earth from a portion of the cosmic radiation that would otherwise hit us full force. Since the shield is fluctuating, its effects are fluctuating. When this solar-shielding effect diminishes, more clouds are therefore created and the Earth becomes cooler. If the shielding effect becomes stronger, the Earth becomes warmer. Our Ice Age cycles and the interglacial warming cycles are all largely the direct result of those variances in shielding that are caused by the long-term solar cycles. The long term solar cycles themselves reflect to changing astrophysical interactions on a gigantic scale that we have absolutely no control over."

      Steve took a sip of water. "The bottom line is that the causing force behind the ice ages and the warming cycles that affect us all deeply, is of a magnitude that is way beyond the reach of our control or influence. Consequently the next Ice Age will begin no matter what we do. It will unfold with the cyclical consistency of these complex interacting astrophysical events. Thus the bottom line is that the next return of the Ice Age is in the works, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. We can only control how we respond to the changing conditions. Right now we are in an interglacial period, a cyclical warm period between the ice ages. We are presently five percent past the average duration of these warm periods, with the start of the next Ice Age coming up, possibly soon. In an ice age we will experience a drop in the average global temperature in the order of fifteen degrees. That's huge. This cooling is so immense that it is actually incomprehensible for the lack of a comparable experience that we can draw on. The observed huge drop in global average temperature in the ice core samples, if it would repeat itself, would affect our agriculture in a big way, especially in the major food producing regions. Historically we had miles-deep ice sheets covering 30% of the planet, some reaching as far south as Washington DC on the American continent and slightly past Kiev on the Eurasian continent. While these large ice sheets take a long time to accumulate, the cold temperatures might affect our agriculture almost immediately. Deep-core drilling into the Greenland Ice Sheet, to the ice levels past the beginning of the last Ice Age, shows evidence of large temperature swings in the boundary zone. That has already been said. Some people suggest that these transition spikes might be ranging for short periods down into regions of temperature that are way below even the coldest Ice Age temperatures. Evidence suggests that these large historic temperature spikes have been typically short, with cycles in the order of only a few decades in length."

      Steve raised his paper again and then suggested to the audience that the large temperature swings that have been discovered in the boundary zone of the previous transition period, are not inconsistent with fluctuations in fluid dynamics when radical disturbances are imposed. "Nevertheless they would be devastating for us," he said. "If the large temperature swings would last for just a single decade without the world being prepared for them, or even just a few years, mankind would be wiped out for the lack of food resources. The end of mankind could happen that quickly, or at least a large portion of it, unless we can build the technological infrastructures beforehand that enable us to grow our food in indoor facilities."

      There was a murmuring in the audience. People didn't like what was being said. Someone shouted that global indoor agriculture is way beyond our means.

Steve didn't argue with them.

      "The cold climate has much more deep reaching effects than most people realize," he said. "The cold climate radically lowers the CO2 concentration in our atmosphere, on which the entire biosphere depends, which is presently at a starvation level. When greenhouse operators double the CO2 concentration, a 50% increase in plant growth results. The global average is presently in the 380 parts per million range. This low concentration should be deemed a condition for biological starvation, as the mere doubling of it results in a 50% increase in plant growth. For a healthy biosphere, the concentration should be above 1000. In the 300 range, it's at subsistence level. Below the 200 mark, plant growth grinds to a halt. Ice core sampling suggests that during the previous glaciation cycles the CO2 concentration has frequently dropped below the 150 mark. At this point, most plant growth stops. This means that large-scale agriculture is not possible under those circumstances, no matter where it would be located, including the tropics. Building indoor agriculture with artificially enriched environments is the only option then that mankind has to sustain ten billion people in an Ice Age environment. Nothing less will do. During the transition period we might get by for a while with placing large-scale agriculture afloat in the tropical oceans. High-temperature automated industrial processes utilizing basalt would make the large-scale floating agriculture easily possible. The floating agriculture would extend across the tropical oceans from floating bridges connecting America with Asia and Africa. Under the current environment the arctic oceans absorb large quantities of CO2 and the tropical oceans release large quantities of it. We can make use of this natural dynamic cycle during the transition period by placing our agriculture where the CO2 concentration is high, until the Ice Age cold stops this dynamic cycle. Hopefully, by then, we will have indoor agriculture fully established, operating with nuclear power and also with space-based power."

      "Go home, Steve, you are dreaming," shouted a man from the front row and laughed.

      "Steve isn't dreaming," I countered the man. "For everybody else's benefit I read out Steve's credentials, his scientific background, and his long-standing involvement in the sciences as a professor of theoretical physics.

      Steve continued after that. "I applaud the burial of the SDI project," he said, "because we need to be focusing on a much more exciting project. The Star Wars project of the SDI was so small in scope that it is comparable to a game for children. We need to step away from playing childish games and focus on the real challenge ahead, that of protecting ourselves from the coming return of the Ice Age that will likely be upon us in 100 years or later, hopefully later since it will take us 100 years to create the technologies for large scale high-intensity indoor agriculture, and to build the facilities. "Yes we can do this," he said. "It won't be easy, but it will be possible to do. Also, we are not unfamiliar with these kinds of challenges, aren't we? Only the scale of them is new."

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