25 March 2012
MAKING OUR OWN BED
From Wikipedia ~ "Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans, which began to increase in the late 19th century and is projected to continue rising. Since the early 20th century, Earth's average surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 dC (1.4 dF), with about two thirds of the increase occurring since 1980. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and scientists are more than 90% certain that most of it is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities such as deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. These findings are recognized by the national science academies of all major industrialized nations.
" .... The global warming controversy refers to a variety of disputes, significantly more pronounced in the popular media than in the scientific literature, regarding the nature, causes, and consequences of global warming. The disputed issues include the causes of increased global average air temperature, especially since the mid-20th century, whether this warming trend is unprecedented or within normal climatic variations, whether humankind has contributed significantly to it, and whether the increase is wholly or partially an artifact of poor measurements. Additional disputes concern estimates of climate sensitivity, predictions of additional warming, and what the consequences of global warming will be.
"In the scientific literature, there is a strong consensus that global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and that the trend is caused mainly by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases. No scientific body of national or international standing disagrees with this view .... From 1990-1997 in the United States, conservative think tanks mobilized to undermine the legitimacy of global warming as a social problem. They challenged the scientific evidence, argued that global warming will have benefits, and asserted that proposed solutions would do more harm than good."
There have always been those who resist any challenge to their world view. For centuries, people persisted in believing that (a) the earth was flat, (b) the earth was at the center of the solar system, or (c) bloodletting could cure illness. Over time we've disenthralled ourselves of these errors. The problem in the case of global warming is that we don't have time. We've long since passed the threshold for reversing greenhouse gas emissions, halting deforestation, and finding alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels. Natural processes are already in motion, and their momentum is such that even if we took corrective measures overnight, the processes would continue to accelerate in a feedback loop.
Polar icecaps are melting. The Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are shrinking at an ever-accelerating pace, contributing to sea level rise which threatens coastal cities and natural habitat. As the seas warm, they expand in volume, further raising sea levels. As the land and air warm, weather patterns shift in unpredictable ways -- hurricanes are becoming more frequent and more powerful, drought is becoming more devastating and persistent, rainfall may be torrential or non-existent.
Care for specifics? I refer you to several resources ~
Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong
90 Degrees in Winter: This Is What Climate Change Looks Like
Both Coasts Watch Closely As San Francisco Faces Erosion
Our Enduring Desert May Be Coming Apart at the Seams
The data are clear, the stakes are dire, and we are caught between rising seas and a hard place. 30 years ago when I was an undergraduate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, these issues were already well-known and much-discussed among scientists. Those who tried to raise public awareness were branded as alarmist, and the profits kept rolling in to the oil, timber, energy, and banking industries. Even now, those same vested interests would have you believe that they have everything under control. Trust us. Drill, baby, drill.
Meanwhile species go extinct daily, entire ecosystems disappear weekly, the water keeps rising, and the root cause of it all, human overpopulation, accelerates unabated. There's a Native American sentiment which says "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." Pity our children. I think even that semi-enlightened view is off the mark, for it assumes human ascendancy over the world. Rather, we are only a part, however influential, of the web of life. What a shame that, having achieved self-awareness, our species turned from being mindful planet stewards to being a mindless cancer.
It is already too late to prevent what we've started. For the sake of our future integrity (assuming we're still alive), we have no choice but to start setting things right. Not for our sake. For the sake of all living things.