Live Earth: Part II

July 09, 2007 by barbara

by barbara

(I took this photo at Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah last fall when there were no wildfires threatening that state.)

Blogworld is endlessly fascinating. For example, here’s a comment left on the Clothesline by Mark, taken from the Live Earth thread below:

You call it global warming, I would call it the normal ebb and flow of the earth's climate, given that at one time much of North America had a tropical climate. Then the ice age (what happened to that, global warming million of years ago? The glaciers didn't just up and walk away. Something had to warm up. No industry to emit greenhouse gasses back then.)

Mark sucked me in big time. You, too? When I started to read what he wrote, I thought, “Well, here’s a guy on the other side of the debate, but we’re going to have some good conversation here.” Then Mark went snarky. Click here to continue reading.

But you folks on the anti-human side of the board conveniently want to forget about that part of history. Of course you were preaching about the second ice age in the 70"s. Make up your minds or start using them. Sheep just follow the flock.

Well. So much for a meeting of the minds.

War of words

Some Clothesline regulars and a few irregulars took him on in kind. Trolls slithered out of the goo to lob verbal grenades at those who did.

I’d like to say I don't sink to troll level, with respect to spewing inflammatory rhetoric. And while I’m not a serial mean-mouth, I must confess that I do cave sometimes. Heck, you know that.

But have you noticed lately that everyone is wound a little tightly? This comment dust-up is the most recent, visible reminder of how partisan and bitter is the divide in our country. Pick an issue. Global warming. Iraq. Health care. Executive privilege. State attorneys. Alberto Gonzales. Scooter Libby. Bush and Cheney. National debt. Oil. Immigration. Paris Hilton. (Okay, not so much division on that one.)

Focus!

Today, I’m going to stay focused on climate change. There’s some excellent information out there (as noted in my earlier post)). Some of it comes from the U.S. government’s EPA and other agencies. Some of it comes from universities throughout the world. Some of it comes from environmental advocacy groups. Some of it comes from the MSM in the form of articles by credentialed scientists. And yeah, there’s some crap out there, too, on both sides of the issue.

In the July 2-9 issue of Newsweek, there’s a good article on global warming. The authors take into account the differing perspectives about this hot-button issue. Their sources include (but are not limited to) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climatologists from Duke University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a glaciologist from the University of Wisconsin, an atmospheric scientist from the University of Michigan, the director of the Climate Research Division of Environment Canada, etc. These are credible, highly educated scientists who operate within credentialed organizations.

Here’s part of the Newsweek article:

When 600 climate scientists from 40 countries reported in February that there was for the first time “unequivocal” evidence that the world is warming and greater than 90 percent certainty that man-made greenhouse gases have caused most of the warming since 1950, at least one expert demurred. “We’re going to see a big debate on it going forward,” said Vice President Dick Cheney. By “it,” he meant “the extent to which [the warming] is part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it’s caused by man.”

There is no denying the intuitive appeal of the idea that climate change is natural. After all, local temperatures can rise or fall by 40 degrees from one day to the next; violent storms (Barbara note: like those in Minnesota on Sunday) can barrel in over the course of only minutes. It’s little surprise, then, that many laypeople look at much tinier and subtler changes—the 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in global mean temperature since the 1970s, say—and figure those, too, could well be natural. As for 11 of the 12 hottest years on record occurring in the last 12? Well, everyone has experienced a run of statistics-defying weather. (specific examples given) {snip}

As the February report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded, greenhouse gases have caused most of the recent warming . . . . Climatologists did not reach that conclusion lightly. They know that climate change can arise from any of three basic causes.

(Here’s Barbara's summary of those causes:)

1. “Internal, natural variability” (i.e., s - - t happens)
2. “Natural external forcings” (i.e., random or hard-to-predict shifts in outside influences, such as more heat coming from the sun or from Earth’s core.)
3. The hand of man.

Back to the article

When scientists measured a rise in Earth’s average temperature of 1 degree F over the past 50 years, they therefore scurried to the record books, both man’s and nature’s—that is, to historical weather archives as well as tree rings and ice cores that preserve records of ancient temperatures—to search for precedents . . . . The temperature increase since the 1950s “is not like anything seen in the paleoclimate data . . . .It’s very clear that the last 50 years are very unusual. (Joyce Penner, atmospheric scientist, University of Michigan). {snip}

". . . Human and natural factors that affect climate have unique signatures,” says climatologist Ben Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) . . . . The clearest signature is differences in the warming of different layers of the atmosphere. According to satellites and weather balloons, the lower atmosphere, or troposphere, has warmed; the upper atmosphere, or stratosphere, has cooled. That’s not what a hotter sun would do. . . . The warm troposphere and cool stratosphere “is entirely consistent with our best understanding of how temperatures would change with an increase in greenhouse gases,” says Santer. {snip}

From 1955 to 2000, the world’s oceans warmed .7 degree F, Tim Barnett of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and colleagues reported in 2005. That may seem small, but the immensity of the oceans means the amount of heat required to warm them even a little is enormous. In the same period, the sun has increased its energy output less than 0.1 percent, according to satellite measurements. . . .

Extra heat pouring out of the planet’s core could warm the oceans, except for one problem: it would heat the oceans from the bottom up. In fact, the greatest warming is on the waters’ surface. . . .

“And if it were a natural variability, then a couple of oceans might warm but others would cool, and the net would be zero,” says Barnett. “All the oceans are warming, and for that you need a net heat source. We’ve ruled out everything but greenhouse gases.” {snip}

But that raises a question for those who emphasize nature’s contributions to global warming and other aspects of climate change. Let’s suppose that those are nudging the climate toward worse and more droughts and more heat waves, just as greenhouse gases are. In that case, you’d think the world would want to control the causes of global warming that it can. At last check, no one has figured out how to turn down the sun.

Additional resources

Need more? Google “global warming” to reveal 88,200,000 results. Google “global warming resources” and pare it down to 1,660,000 results.

Read the whole Newsweek article. It’s fairly short and highly readable.

Then:

You know that expression “a world of hurt”? I believe we’re there. I also believe we’re in this together.

Read everything about global warming you can get your hands on. Carefully. Inwardly digest. All of it. Not just the parts that appeal to your point of view. Evaluate the sources. Consider the alternatives. Envision the outcome.

And there you have it.

Posted in

Comments

perhansa (not verified) | July 9, 2007 - 10:08pm

Whoa...I go visit my daughter in Denver for a week and the blog goes aflame...over global climate change? Too late to blog in on the conversation?

Let's be as honest as Skye--us human-haters secretly hope Mother Earth purges herself of the flawed despoiling experiment called humanity. That's what anon wants to hear, right ANON? That way you can write off anyone who finds your "reasoning" offensive. Anyone who has done an honest job of research on climate change (Barb did a FABULOUS job cataloging a good starting list) and has a modest degree of intellectual honesty cannot help but come to the conclusion reached by the IPCC...the EPA and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Are there ABSOLUTE certainties? No. Are there skeptics? Yes. Have they made their case? Obviously not to their PEERS or the public at large.

Fuget-about-it. Skye and ANON are aberrations. Just like the skeptics they like to quote. Even Skeptic Magazine has come down clearly on the side of human-excelerated climate change. There will always be dissenters and they help keep us honest. Now...I have to say that reading the "doubter/devil's advocate" comments pissed me off just like many of you. However, you'll notice the snarkys' never have any concrete rationale or support for their arguments and have to rely on those that have already been addressed and ruled DOA--like "natural fluctuations".

Would ANON like to provide a list of sources even half as long and credible as Barbara's to support his/her "claims"?

My daughter took me climbing in Rocky Mtn National Park on Sunday. We spent much of the day exploring the variety of mini-eco systems in the Rockies, above and below the tree line. It was overwhelming to be amidst such grandeur, beauty, age, and diversity evolved (and eveolving) over hundreds of millions of years. If I'm anti-human I'd like to know what the "real humans" feel in the midst of such natural shock and awe. I felt so small and insignificant--a puff of smoke in time. I imagined the different ice ages, glaciers, tropical epochs, volcanos and continental drift that gave rise to the Rockies. I wondered, as anonymous about the many fluctuations and catastrophic periods in our earth's history and I wondered as they did if this is just the next in a long line of climate changes to shape the planet and the life upon it. And then I thought--no, that's not what the best evidence is telling us, that's not the reasonable conclusion one reaches upon reviewing the evidence. We, ego-sapiens, are destroying many of the earths diverse ecosystems with our thoughtless lifestyles, our selfish behavior, and our shortsighted thinking and lack of imagination that keeps us from thinking in deep time.

When my daughter and I reached the Alpine Tundra above the tree line there were signs that said, "Fragile ecosystem--please tread lightly and keep to the paths." And, of course, there were people who walked off the paths and across the tundra. People who think just like Skye and Anonymous. There are people like that. And I suppose so am I a good part of the time. (Yes, cynics, I flew to Denver and rode in a non-hybrid car to the mountains--go ahead call me whatever names make you feel superior). The earth has been here for millenia. It will be here much longer than us. It is a speck in the unimaginable universe. It really doesn't matter in the scheme of things. So why try? Because. Because we feel. Because were care. Because we think. Because we feel pain and guilt and sorrow and sadness at the loss and KNOW we are somehow to blame. Because we sense that it is immoral to keep on doing what we have been doing. Because there is a spark of virtue and morality and awe and thankfulness and sheer stunned amazement that we are here, now, existing instead of not. Because we do somehow feel touched or connected or derived from the world that we find ourselves in and it's like violating one's self.

Anonymous can piss in his/her own space if they want. They will, just like the people who ignored the Fragile...Keep to the Path" signs. Most of the people stayed on the trails. Something led them to show respect and compassion for something as rare as we are. Thank you to all of you who feel that and care and want to and will do whatever we can to live differently.

Please, if you haven't, read some of Barbara's sources. They will cut deeply to reveal the hidden consequences of our shortsightedness and humanness. Let's hope we are not the latest in a string of catastrophies to shape and scar the Great Mother of us all.

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | July 10, 2007 - 8:42am

Ah, Perhansa! There you are. Thought you'd gone missing. Mighty glad you're back.

Been trying to figure out what it is about global warming et al that makes some folks go ballistic. Seems clear that it threatens them personally, the notion that humans have been complicit (if not wholly responsible) in the planet's problems.

If we thought breaking the news that the planet is in trouble was difficult, it pales in comparison to delivering part II: humans have responsibility to try to fix this.

Do you suppose the nay-sayers have some kind of collective, cosmic mommy issue? "You're not the boss of me! La la la la la la la la la."

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susan | July 10, 2007 - 9:44am

That's the question I asked Anon back in the other post. Why does saying that global warming is a problem, caused in large part by the effects of billions of humans all wanting to do things like stay warm or cool, have light, and drive cars (and eat and shit), make him so furious? Even if the three retrograde Class D scientists turn out to be right that it's just a "normal" cycle, we still have a problem.
It's like someone coming to your house and telling you it's on fire, and you better act fast to put it out. And instead of grabbing the extinguishers or calling the fire department, you quibble with the guy over what caused the fire, and are outraged when he suggests that it was the cigarette you dropped in the oily rags.

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Perhansa (not verified) | July 10, 2007 - 10:28am

I like that analogy...there are likely numerous reasons for their ire, including tight underwear, who knows. Science haters...authority haters...or just plain a**holes. The people who were treading on the alpine tundra in clear view of the signs looked normal but you wonder what the hell are they thinking and what kind of attitude and self-image do they have.

I nearly finished Al Gore's Assault on Resaon on the mini-vacation to CO (it's reason an assault on the Bush Admin. more than an argument for enlightenment reason--which is what I had expected) but he does a great job of cataloging the multitude of nefarious conduct of this cabal of crooks.

I guess I'm getting to the point Poet brought up--the phone calls and emails are easy to blow off. A mass gathering ont he steps of the capital or infront of the White House or (to take a page from the French) a mass work stoppage seems to me to be the next logical progression to take back the country. Although is you're self-employed like me it's hard to formulate a work stoppage. Do we have the majority to do it? It seems it's time to hit the Capitalists/corporatists where it hurts. Unfortunately, we're not massively unionized like France so the Corps would threaten to fire people who strike. It's a good idea--or the massive protests/sit-ins. Might be time to resurrrect the sit-in again...

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | July 10, 2007 - 12:36pm

Well, I was going to suggest "fragile ecosystem" signs all across the planet. Metaphorically and literally, we've already got them. But by and large, that's not cutting it with some of the herd. And thereby hangs the tale yet again. Where does it say, "Fragile ecosystem, please tread lightly except for you, because you're special"?

And so I come back yet again to the question that none can answer. What are they afraid of (of what are they afraid)?

And, like Poet, I am becoming more convinced by the hour that we are going to have to mobilize is some very large and visible way. About the planet, about Iraq, about lies and deceit, about civil rights, about pretty much everything.

Where are the truth-tellers?

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