Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Other Side of the Coin

While the global warming denialists are back at it again, a group of the most prominent climate change experts are warning that the latest IPCC reports have actually understated the true dangers of global warming.

"'Recent greenhouse gas emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of control, with great dangers for humans and other creatures,' the scientists say. Only intense efforts to curb man-made emissions of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases can keep the climate within or near the range of the past one million years, they add. From The Independent:

"The researchers were led by James Hansen, the director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who was the first scientist to warn the US Congress about global warming.

"The other scientists were Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha and Gary Russell, also of the Goddard Institute, David Lea of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Mark Siddall of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York.

"In an email to The Independent, Dr Hansen said: 'In my opinion, among our papers this one probably does the best job of making clear that the Earth is getting perilously close to climate changes that could run out of our control.'

"The unnatural 'forcing' of the climate as a result of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases threatens to generate a 'flip' in the climate that could 'spark a cataclysm' in the massive ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, the scientists write.

"Dramatic flips in the climate have occurred in the past but none has happened since the development of complex human societies and civilisation, which are unlikely to survive the same sort of environmental changes if they occurred now.

"'Civilisation developed, and constructed extensive infrastructure, during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now almost 12,000 years in duration. That period is about to end,' the scientists warn. Humanity cannot afford to burn the Earth's remaining underground reserves of fossil fuel. 'To do so would guarantee dramatic climate change, yielding a different planet from the one on which civilisation developed and for which extensive physical infrastructure has been built,' they say.

"Dr Hansen said we have about 10 years to put into effect the draconian measures needed to curb CO2 emissions quickly enough to avert a dangerous rise in global temperature. Otherwise, the extra heat could trigger the rapid melting of polar ice sheets, made far worse by the "albedo flip" - when the sunlight reflected by white ice is suddenly absorbed as ice melts to become the dark surface of open water.

"'The glaciers and ice sheets of Greenland in the northern hemisphere, and the western Antarctic ice sheet in the south, both show signs of the rapid changes predicted with rising temperatures. '

"'The albedo flip property of ice/water provides a trigger mechanism. If the trigger mechanism is engaged long enough, multiple dynamical feedbacks will cause ice sheet collapse,' the scientists say. 'We argue that the required persistence for this trigger mechanism is at most a century, probably less.'

What it all comes down to is that, if these eminent scientists - the people who've been focused on this problem for the past two decades - are right, we don't have enough time left to afford the sort of windowdressing measures envisioned by Harpo. If they're right, our earth and our civilization are in very real peril right now.

It comes down to a question of who and what you want to believe. If you don't want to believe these claims do yourself a favour and don't go near the vast body of scientific literature upon which they're based. If you don't want to believe it, read the next post and you'll find out how to make it all go away.


Anonymous said...

Ya know what? I started the afternoon Guiness contest early and thus mellowed, I'm inclined to take the positive road on this one.
Global warming is kinda like surfing the, "North Shore". There's a odds on chance you'll smash your skull or have a shark eat your ass, surfing therein. But it'll be one helluva ride! So lets lighten up a little. We can't live forever and science tells us were gonna breed ourselves out of existance so, why not relax, have a few (or, several) beer, smoke a little dope and.....watch the world go to hell from the back porch?????? Think outside the box once in awhile, for cryin' out loud!
You're right and all, but hey....relax. Don't miss out on the good things in life.....you might even come around to hugging a conservative.
(back to the Guiness)

The Mound of Sound said...

You're right. It probably will be "one helluva ride!" In fact if you're a sub-Saharan African or a Bangladeshi or a Kavutu islander or an Inuit, it already is. Our indifference seems to be bred out of the fact that we're causing their hardship but aren't suffering much ourselves. That's thinking outside the box, I guess.