Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Specialist #1: The Most Qualified Doctor in the World (Climate Change)

Bluey here,

I went to the climate specialist yesterday. What an awesome experience, despite the not-so-promising test results, but we’ll get to all that soon. First though, I have to tell you guys about the amazing specialist Dr Steffen et al. referred me to.

My Specialist

Dr IPCC is the most experienced specialist I’ve ever come across. She’s only 28 years old, speaks all major languages, has PhDs in every field of earth sciences (not to mention all the traditional sciences and social sciences) and has over 100 different passports to her name.

More incredibly, she isn’t even working today. She’s taken the day off to volunteer talking me through my tests! That’s not all. Before I even arrived for the appointment, she’d already taken my temperature and a load of other ‘equally important’ tests. Technology these days.

As soon as I arrived, she sat me down and asked me to listen intently to what she had to say. I have summarised it all for you below:

Climate Background

Dr IPCC felt compelled to first provide me with some climate context so she introduced me to one of her nurses, Professor Mackay. He patiently took me through the underlying reasons why my temperature has varied over all these years. It was fascinating:

1) The path I take when I stroll around the Sun varies slightly each year, as do the body parts I expose. Nurse Mackay calls this ‘orbital forcing’ or the ‘Milankovitch cycles’, and says it was named after the Serbian scientist who studied how I walked a century ago. Yea, right. He broke the concept into three interrelated elements (for more information):

  • The path I take when I walk around the sun ('eccentricity'); ~100,000 year cycle
  • The angle of my body as I walk around the sun ('obliquity'); ~41,000 year cycle
  • The direction of my head at any given point ('precession'); ~21,000 year cycle.

Milankovitch Cycles (Source: NASA)

2) The amount of energy emitted from the sun that hits my body. The nurse calls this ‘solar variability’. It's about how the sun's ‘solar irradiance’—which varies slightly—interacts with my atmosphere between my skin and my clothes (my 'troposphere') and above my clothes (my ‘stratosphere’). More on clothes below.

3) How often and powerfully I fart. The nurse reassured me that this was natural, calling this ‘volcanic activity’. It’s linked to how much particulate matter and sulphur aerosols I release into my immediate atmosphere. Sulphate aerosols, for instance, if they get up into my stratosphere, can cause a general ‘radiative’ cooling at my surface.

4) The role clothing has on temperature. Dr IPCC and Nurse Mackay refer to my clothes as ‘greenhouse gases’ (GHGs) and not just because they’re all green, because they’re not. Without my clothes, I’d be frozen at about -18°C. Instead, thanks to my clothes—mainly Cotton (CO2), Chino (CH4), Ninon (N2O), Organza (O3), Chiffon (CFCs) and even Hemp (Water Vapour)—trapping infrared heat, I’m pretty hospitable to what Dr IPCC calls ‘life’, averaging out around the 14°C mark. Temperatures at my different body parts, however, vary considerably.

Greenhouse effect (Source: NOAA

Finally, Dr IPCC began telling me about a species called Homo sapiens that started moving across my body between 60,000 to 125,000 years ago and—since about 11,000 years ago—‘literally blossomed’. I’d never heard of 'humans' but the Doctor insisted I get to know them.


They’d not even ‘scratched the surface’ regarding the background natural variability stuff but as my appointment was only one hour, Dr IPCC moved on to explaining my test results.

The full results can be found here, however the medical summary is below:

Medical Report 1 - Anthropogenic Climate Change

So many questions. Who ‘on earth’ were these humans? Why are they adding more clothes (GHGs) to me? Is it bad to have a temperature? Just glancing at the results—and the rates of change over such a cosmologically insignificant time frame—it appears my temperature is about to increase. I’m not that worried yet though; nothing I haven’t coped with before—I’m always changing, albeit a bit slower than this ‘great acceleration’.

There were plenty of facts to digest, and many more to research. Dr IPCC helped immensely though, explaining that as I visited other specialists about my ‘planetary boundaries’, I'd learn more about this specific problem.

Next task? I was off to the library to research these humans.

Yours always,

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