20 April, 2006

The tides, they are a-changin'

A number of interesting and alarming studies have come out in recent months underscoring the horrific pace of global warming. The most dramatic of these was one that claimed that the Atlantic currents that warm Europe have been shutting down. That claim, widely hyped in the press (and believed by yours truly), was probably overblown, it turns out. But other developments have a little more heft to them.

For example, a pair of studies came out in Science last month that examined paleoclimate evidence of sea level rise in the last interglaciation, and concluded that sea level rise of something like 4-6m might come upon us quicker than we might imagine. Since something like 450 million people live beneath the 10m mark, this sounds pretty problematic (the Gore-narrated "An Inconvenient Truth" illustrates this graphically with coastlines flooding and talks about refugee crises). Not to worry; last time the rate was 11 mm/year, which gives us something like 270 years to run away from a 3m rise. I think we'll manage to avoid immediate catastrophes.

So, don't panic. But DO panic. An assload of studies on Greenland give cause for concern that that pile of ice is thinning rapidly, and West Antarctic ice shelves are breaking up, contributing, by themselves, an astounding 0.4 mm/year to sea level rise. What's most alarming about this to scientists studying climate is that all of these processes were more or less unanticipated.

If you believe this is the product of anthropogenic forces, this is all rather depressing news, since it seems there's little being done to stop this particular trainwreck. Kyoto is set to come in to force in 2008, which means that the United States, the world's number one emitter, is almost certainly not going to be in compliance (barring a miracle - I burn a candle in your name, Mithra). The number two emitter, China, is exempt. And even idyllic countries like Canada might be on the outs, now that the Conservatives are in power (Harper is apparently a Kyoto opponent). And, let's not forget that I hate Kyoto anyway - in 1990 we were experiencing a rise of 2 ppm/year of CO2, hardly small nuts, which makes all this agonizing to achieve those cuts pointless (or less pointy, anyway). As to what happens in 2012, when Kyoto runs out, it's anyone's guess. We'll find out in November.

New poll on the right.


PIPA has some polls , surveys, whatever on the opinions about global warming. I doubt the acknowledgement of it as a real problem wiill translate into anything like serious efforts at remediation any time soon.

My solution for that part of the problem is to blame Greenpeace (you know they want us all under water) and give the poor energy corporations some compensation, say $750 billion, for their pain and suffering. Then everyone will know that global warming is a challenge! It's a money maker! It's a dessert topping!  

Posted by J. Alva Scruggs

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