I know I'm one of the last people on Earth to see "The Inconvenient Truth," but I may be among the first wave to see the DVD. Though I enjoyed the movie and found the presentation extremely well done, I found most of the content to be somewhat old news to me as I've been keeping up on a lot of the disaster scenarios as it's kind of become my special morbid fascination. What I did find really meaty on the the DVD was one of the special features: Al Gore's 'update' on the progress on these issues in the year since the move was released.
Simply staged, mostly with just a seated Gore speaking intently to an off-film interviewer, Gore makes few jokes and shows few charts and graphics- but those he does produce have deep impact. He covers the main facets of the problem and goes into greater depth with some that especially concern him. Ocean acidification was discussed as a growing and extremely serious problem. The overabundance of CO2 in the air is causing a vast amount of marine life to have difficulty building calcareous shells and structural material required for their existence. It's the root reason for the bleaching of coral and affects even the tiny diatoms that form the basis of the oceanic food chain. A scary idea is that not all life is threatened, some are aided- jellyfish in particular. He showed one slide of a diver dwarfed by a huge monster jellyfish that looked like something from another planet.
Even scarier is the potential tipping point with permafrost melting. As he explained it, the extremely elevated levels of CO2 we now have that are causing all these other problems (unless you happen to be a monster jellyfish) could be effectively doubled- with methane providing a big boost to the mix- practically overnight if a substantial amount of permafrost melts. I’ve heard similar dire forecasts regarding the methane clathrates on the ocean floors which some see as another potential energy panacea and others see as the ultimate greenhouse pandora’s box.
All of this sounds grim, but Al wasn’t all doom and gloom. On the population front, he emphasized that the declining birth rates around the world are resulting a gradual stabilization of the extraordinary rise over the past couple of generations and that experts now predict a leveling off just over 9 billion rather than the “Make Room, Make Room” type of scenario where it just keeps going up until we’re all living in a shoebox. I tend to think 9 billion won’t be stable because that level can only be supported by fossil fuels at around the levels we now enjoy (and our planet despises). I expect that there will be a horrific correction at some point, possibly fast, possibly spread out over a few centuries, but that we’ll end up with significantly lower population than we have at present. As nasty as that would be to a sizeable chunk of the corrected out individuals and their loved ones who go on to form the more stable hordelet (i.e., a horde of reduced size), it will be the ultimate solution to the global warming problem. The only question is, will the correction occur before we cross these tipping points? It could mean the difference between continuing to develop as a species- and potentially becoming a spacefaring people- or becoming subservient to giant jellyfish. Maybe we should just think about ways of hastening the correction?