06/03/2013 12:58 pm ET Updated Aug 02, 2013

The Overwhelming Majority of the Earth's Poor Live Near the Equator - the Canary in the Global Warming Mine

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As I documented on May 30th, with links to the sources (such as this), the overwhelming majority of the Earth's poor live near the equator, the hottest part of the planet, the part of the planet that already experiences the heat that will come to the United States and other moderate-climate countries after global warming speeds up, which it almost inevitably will do.

Many of the reader comments to that report were in denial, and these denials were based largely on readers simply not clicking on the links to the sources; in other words, those readers didn't care about the data, and nothing can be done about that. But some denials were also based on readers merely not understanding what the climatological scientists are actually saying; and, so, what climatologists are saying about global warming (other than this) will be summarized here, in order that people in the U.S. and such moderate-climate (i.e., not equatorial) countries will be enabled to understand how and why their grandchildren, and following generations who live in what presently are moderate-climate nations, will probably be spending their lives in deep poverty, despite the coming advancements of technology.

It's well understood that global-warming gases in our atmosphere, the carboniferous gases such as methane and carbon dioxide, let the sun's heat in but don't let the sun's heat escape back out again to outer space, and that this heat-trapping mechanism (which is called the "greenhouse effect") is causing our planet's average temperature to rise - rather slowly right now, but getting faster and faster as these carboniferous gases accumulate in the atmosphere; and here is why this temperature-rise is speeding up:

Much of our planet's surface is light-colored, white actually, because it's covered in snow since the temperature there is below freezing and since snow is white, which is the most-reflective color. That surface-area of our planet thus tends to reflect the sun's rays and heat back again to outer space. Consequently, the larger a percentage of the Earth's surface that's snow-covered, the lower is the percentage of the sun's heat that stays in our atmosphere and builds up.

In order to be able to reverse the melting of the snow at the poles and in Greenland, etc., global warming must itself first be reversed. However, if global warming instead continues on, then the darkening of this planet's surface-area (from the melting of the snow) will be adding still further to the already-existing greenhouse effect, supercharging it, so that a higher percentage of the sun's rays that hit portions of the Earth's surface will stay there and be absorbed, and a lower percentage will be reflected back up toward outer space. The result will be added heating of the oceans - added global warming. This is now baked into the cake.

So, there are actually two mechanisms that are operating here, to heat the planet: first, there is the "greenhouse effect"; and then, there is what might be called the "darkness effect."

The greenhouse effect is, of course, much bigger, because most of the Earth's oceans (and land surfaces) are not snow-covered. However, the darkness effect adds to it, and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is already above the 400 parts per million critical-danger mark and is thus certain to rise still further before it can even possibly start to head back down again; so, this will soon be a world where even the all-white North Pole will no longer be white. Much of it (even all of the North Pole) will be ocean-colored. This means that, going forward after that time, it will be even more difficult to get global warming under control than it now is, and we shall be in a situation of runaway global heating, which will cause even places such as Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand - even the non-equatorial countries - to experience the ceaseless summery warmth that is now impoverishing the countries that are near (within, say, 2,500 miles of) the equator: countries such as (and all of these that are listed here are within just 1,500 miles of the equator): Haiti, Yemen, Guatemala, Honduras, Somalia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Burundi, Zimbabwe, and Indonesia.

The overwhelming majority of the Earth's poor live in places like that, not here. However, our grandchildren will live there, too. As for the grandchildren of the people who now live there: they'll be surviving in hell.

What I documented on May 30th was that the average annual incomes of the people today who live near the equator are less than 10% of the average annual incomes of the people who live in the colder climates. This extreme difference, which is due to climate, caused a World Bank researcher to say that, "Global inequality is much greater than inequality within any individual country," but apparently many people are resistant to believing this, perhaps because they want to believe that global warming just isn't happening at all.

The simple bottom line here is: the less of the Earth's surface that's covered with snow, the poorer the entire world's population will be. To protect the snow will be to protect our heirs. This is economics, but it's also biology and physics.

PS: For those who want to know, the last time that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was as high as 400 ppm, was 3,000,000 years ago, when it was declining (not rising like it now is) and when sea level was 82 feet higher than it is today; so, we're definitely headed there again - and worse, if we don't stop this now, which we can't. The melting that we are seeing is just the start. The decisions that humans make now will determine not whether things get worse, but how much worse things will get. Here is a more standard popular presentation of the way almost all climatologists view our future. And here is an explanation of why the public is largely ignorant of this.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They"re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST"S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.