LOWE VIEW OF THINGS: Global Warming
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.