LOWE VIEW OF THINGS: Global Warming

February 24, 2018

 

In the midst of the recent shocking devastation
wrought by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, at least
some people wonder if global warming has anything
to do with the increased violence coming from
nature.

 

Hurricanes form only in the warmer waters of
the Atlantic (in the Pacific such disturbances are
called typhoons and cyclones). To begin with, for
a hurricane to form, there must be thunderstorm
activity, and the ocean water must be at least 80°.
I do not understand the details, but, somehow, the
earth’s rotation creates the tendency to spin, once
the thunderstorm begins absorbing the ocean’s
warm water. Once hurricanes form they will eventually
move north, either touching land or colder
waters, either way eventually dissipating for lack of
the 80°-water that fuels them.

 

So it stands to reason that if the waters of the
ocean are indeed getting warmer (and they are),
there is a greater chance of hurricanes forming,
lasting longer, and becoming bigger and more powerful.

 

I have no interest in being political about this
subject, yet….we only have two functioning political
parties in the United States (and I use the term
“functioning” optimistically) and one of the two
parties requires, as a prerequisite for candidacy,
that any idea of global warming is a hoax perpetrated
on humanity. If there is such a thing as global
warming, doesn’t it seem drastically irresponsible
to ignore any idea of it?!

 

Scientists who understand climate and weather
have clearly stated their assessment of the issue.
There is an acknowledged world panel of experts
regarding climate change: the United Nations’

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
involving the input of thousands of scientists from
almost 200 countries. It seems to me that any
responsible elected official of our country should be
very interested in this panel’s reports.

 

The German socialist/psychologist Harald Welzer,
in his book Climate Wars makes clear that the
panel’s conclusions are very conservative. Any
exaggerations are completely eliminated. For
instance, in the 2007 report, the IPCC rested “on
existing measurements of rising temperatures and
ocean levels or shrinking glaciers.” In other words,
their predictions are based on today’s measurements,
even though current trends would certainly
argue that measurements will be even worse in the
near future. Their conclusion, by the way, is that
air and ocean temperatures have risen dramatically
since 1850 (when measurements were first taken),
and the eleven warmest years between 1850 and
2006 were during the period of 1995 to 2006. The
temperatures of the polar regions are the highest
they have been in 125,000 years. Other organizations
like NASA, the World Bank, the American Association
for the Advancement of Science, and the
U.S. National Academy of Sciences have come up
with similar findings (some are worse). According
to the assessments of the world’s most knowledgeable
experts on weather, if we don’t do something
to drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions we
will soon have altered the planet to a hazardous
level.

 

Some people who believe that global warming is
a threat to civilization suggest that it doesn’t matter
if it is man-made or not, thinking this de-politicizes
the issue. But the very reason why our society is so

torn over the issue is that corporations with money
have altered the narrative. Much like the big tobacco
companies denied there was any proof that cigarette-
smoke caused lung cancer, in an effort to keep
profiting, rather than take a responsible concern
over a possible mortal threat to human lives (moms
and dads, sons and daughters, and uncles and aunts
of U.S. citizens), the oil industry, with their billions
of dollars at stake, are doing everything they can to
block intelligent discussion of the matter.

 

Through many generations now, we Americans
have been watching our TV shows, listening to our
music, driving in our cars, and going out to eat
while nature is going along as it has for millions
of years. Oceans cover 70% of the planet’s surface.
Water and air cannot come in contact with one
another without conducting an exchange. Oceans
naturally absorb CO2 from the atmosphere while
the atmosphere naturally absorbs gases dissolved
in the ocean (like those coming up through where
techtonic plates meet). For the planet to remain
okay, there needs to be an equilibrium between
these exchanges. But our 300-year fossil-fuel-burning
binge has created too much carbon dioxide in
the air for the ocean waters to absorb. And in the
process of continuing to cleanse the air of excess
CO2 the oceans are becoming warmer, and
more acidic.

 

It’s a scientific fact that carbon dioxide dissolves
in water to form an acid. Author Elizabeth Kolbert,
in her book The Sixth Extinction writes that since
the start of the industrial revolution, humans have
burned through enough fossil fuels—coal, oil, and
natural gas—to add some 365 billion metric tons
of carbon to the atmosphere. Deforestation has
contributed another 180 billion tons. Each year, we
throw up another nine billion tons or so, an amount
that’s been increasing by as much as six percent
annually. As a result of all this, the concentration
of carbon dioxide in the air today—a little over
four hundred parts per million—is higher than at

any other point in the last eight hundred thousand
years. Quite probably it is higher than at any point
in the last several million years. If current trends
continue, CO2 concentrations will top five hundred
parts per million, roughly double the levels they
were in preindustrial days, by 2050. It is expected
that such an increase will produce an eventual average
global temperature rise of between three and
a half and seven degrees Fahrenheit, and this will,
in turn, trigger a variety of world-altering events,
including the disappearance of most remaining
glaciers, the inundation of low-lying islands and
coastal cities, and the melting of the Arctic ice cap.

 

If America was still a democracy, and elected
officials represented the interests and needs of a
majority of citizens, there would not only NOT
be a presidential administration that completely
denies the existence of warming, rising, and highly
acidic ocean waters, but there would also NOT be
a national media that barely mentions the subject,
and even then, only to quote yet another corporate
representative who denies it.

 

Physicist and author James Martin (1933-2013)
reminded us that, “Politicians are anxious to find
votes—the next election dominates their thinking.
Powerful business executives are eager to achieve
profits—it is their job to increase shareholder value,
and shareholders will judge them by this quarter’s
results. So, for the powerful people who control
events, the desire for short-term benefits overwhelms
the desire to solve long-term problems.

 

However, just as not thinking about death
doesn’t it make it less inevitable, pretending there
is no such thing as global warming doesn’t make
it not so, either.

 

 

 

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