Global Warming, Part 2

In June I posted a piece about global warming. The focus was on the role that methane could play in accelerating the warming process. On 23 August 2017 the New York Times published an article about the disappearance of permafrost in Alaska. The article, by Henry Fountain, begins with this:

The Arctic is warming about twice as fast as other parts of the planet, and even here in sub-Arctic Alaska the rate of warming is high. Sea ice and wildlife habitat are disappearing; higher sea levels threaten coastal native villages.

All this is happening as most of us are just getting our heads around the concept of global warming. Yes the weather has been weird in the U.S., Europe and Asia, heat waves, floods, drought and the like but that’s not something to worry about is it?

Yes, it is. There has been an enormous amount of evidence collected about global climate change. More than 90% of real scientists agree that it is happening and that it is a product of human activity. What they are uncertain about is the rate and detailed causes of change, as well as its global impacts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published a series of conservative forecasts of the future levels of global warming under various assumptions of what we collectively will do to combat it. Critics of the IPCC pounce on the fact that the scientists admit to uncertainties in their estimates — as scientists routinely do; after all they’re scientists. But the critics claim that because there are uncertainties no one should pay any attention to the forecasts.

That is like someone standing in the middle of the train tracks, not noticing that his foot is caught under one of the rails, and pooh-poohing a rapidly oncoming train, thinking he’ll easily jump out of the way in time.

The problem with that is that there is evidence that the IPCC’s most negative (that is, extreme) growth rate estimates may be too conservative. Conditions may be degrading faster than we thought. As the NYT article suggests.

Meanwhile, the “powers that be” are pressing on with more development of our fossil fuel resources. Well, not all the powers that be are doing this. Europe and China seem to be getting the message, along with California, New York and other eastern states. But it’s getting to the point where our collective putting on the brakes of fossil fuel extraction and use may be too late. Irretrievable damage may result much sooner than the deniers think.

So please keep these ideas in mind:

  • global warming is real
  • it may be accelerating
  • we should be doing everything we can to slow or stop the rate of warming
  • that might mean trashing our prized gas guzzlers for electric vehicles
  • teleworking is also real, it works, and it helps reduce the risks of warming.

. . . and act on them.

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