The IPCC report is out, “An Inconvenient Truth” has been honored by the academy, a sea change is happening in the way that climate change news is being reported, and you can bet the Right Wing and the Ree-pubs are as we speak working up new Talking Points and Spins to deflate the urgency of the issue. It is an axiom that in reporting science, there are two (not one, not three or four, just two) sides to every issue, and one side is the plank nailed to the Democratic Party Platform, and the other side is the plank nailed to the Ree-pub Party Platform. This is a truth as stable and reliable as the fact that Home Depot will always sell 2” X 4” studs and plywood in 4′ X 8′ foot pieces. We are already seeing the dubious dichotomies forming up. For instance, yes, the Antarctic Ice Sheet is sloughing off the continent, but it is opening new and wonderful opportunities for both shrimp and scientists. Yes, global warming is real and is anthropogenic, but the Average American thinks, according to Polls, that it is only the third or fourth most important issue. And so on.
The global warming debate has been running continuously since the now very obscure publication of Moment in the Sun: 1968” by Dr. Robert Rienow and Leorna Train Rienow. Most people think of the literary beginning of the environmental movement has having been “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, and maybe so, but for me, it was Rienow. This is partly because “Moment…” was the first book I read on the topic, one of the first “adult” books I read at all, and on those early mornings before school I was able to watch Dr. Rienow on that crazy new fangled box … the black and white TV my parents had just acquired … on a thing called “Sunrise Semester” produced by SUNY-Albany. Rienow would lecture, and he and his wife and (I assume) the occasional student would put on skits lampooning industrialists and other polluters.
I remember one day, years after having last seen Sunrise Semester, having just acquired a car and a license (at a ripe old age of 18 or so) exploring the territory south of town, along the Hudson River. I encountered an old narrow road running down into the wooded valley from a minor highway, and took the turn thinking it would lead somewhere interesting. Soon enough there was another turn onto a narrow gravel way called “Holly Hock Hollow” … that name sounded familiar, but I could not place it. So I made that turn as well. A mile and a half or so later, the road leveled off to join the floodplain of a small creek, and I started to see little wooden signs in the forest, extolling in a few words here and there the virtues of nature, and imploring the reader to “leave no trace of your visit” and “respect the trees and animals” and such. Eventually I spied, along side the road where a stone wall opened to a gate, a sign: “Holly Hock Hollow Farm ~ Robert and Leorna Rienow.”
“The 2nd of February in Paris will be remembered as the day that the question mark was removed from the idea that humans had anything to do with climate change,” says Achim Steiner, quoted here.
It is not really true. Groups of scientists have been saying this for quite some time. I wonder what George Bush will say next?
But even before this scientific panel’s report was finished, last night (I’ll post a picture later), my daughter, Julia presented her “Achievement Fair” ( = science fair) project on Global Warming and it’s effects in the polar region, entitled “Global Warming … breaking the ice.”
To my knowledge it was the first Achievement Fair entry at her school that explicitly called for the impeachment of the President of the United States … under the list of “Things to do” (along with other items such as use compact fluorescent bulbs, car pool, etc.). (more…)
Our faith based Federal Executive has been reluctant to admit to, let alone address, the fact that global warming resulting from release of fossil carbon into the atmosphere is a real phenomenon. It is a little surprising that today, NOAA came out with a press release that virtually admits that global warming is a real phenomenon (but stops short of discussing the cause).
The scientific community is generally united in recognizing the reality of this problem, but there are still holdouts. However, considering that so much of the funding related to this research still comes from industrial sources (as does much of the fossil carbon), that there are holdouts is not surprising.
This is a parable that may be insightful or even inspiring to some. First, a look at the “Yes, it’s real” position. One of the first mainstream institutions to embrace the idea was the Union of Concerned Scientists. This is an excerpt from their web site:
Earth’s surface has undergone unprecedented warming over the last century, particularly over the last two decades. Astonishingly, every single year since 1992 is in the current list of the 20 warmest years on record.[1,2] The natural patterns of climate have been altered. Like detectives, science sleuths seek the answer to “Whodunnit?” — are humans part of the cause? To answer this question, patterns observed by meteorologists and oceanographers are compared with patterns developed using sophisticated models of Earth’s atmosphere and ocean. By matching the observed and modeled patterns, scientists can now positively identify the “human fingerprints” associated with the changes. The fingerprints that humans have left on Earth’s climate are turning up in a diverse range of records and can be seen in the ocean, in the atmosphere, and at the surface
In 1999, James Hansen of NASA wrote an editorial for Goddard (GISS) that showed this graph:
Fig. 1: Climate model calculations reported in Hansen et al. (1988).
And provided this commentary: (more…)
Amazingly enough, we (my family) are going to have to work very hard this year, as we did over the last two years, to get in even one or two good days of cross country skiing. And we live in the middle of Minnesota. This is partly because a good bit of the precip that falls on us these days is actually rain and not snow.
But this is of course a very selfish concern, to the extent that this change is related to human-induced global warming (which I’m betting on). And this reminds me of how often I get the question from students and others, “why worry about global warming … what’s wrong with a little warm weather anyway.”
For one thing I think it is safe to say that the “controversy” is over. No one is seriously questioning that there has been warming, that we are in a warming trend, and that this trend is caused primarily by human release of otherwise trapped (mainly fossil) carbon into the atmosphere. Nice to know that the Yahoos are pretty much silenced by the facts on that one…
Still, the question arises, “why is this important” … even in places where you might not expect it, like this discussion on the geology of the grand canyon: Another Timeline
There are a lot of resources available on this issue, but here is a short version of my two cents: