Fiddling while Rome burns…
As anti-wind folks in rural North America continue their campaign of misinformation — pointing out to anyone who will listen that wind power makes people sick, that wind power doesn’t reduce CO2 emissions, that wind turbine blades can break and kill cows in the pasture, that wind power eats baby seals — the true harm to humanity and the environment continues to unfold before us.
We’ve got the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that’s threatening wildlife, tourism and just about anything else in the region, just weeks after a Chinese tanker spilled oil in the waters surrounding Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Expect more of this as the oil companies drill deeper and deeper at sea looking for harder to get and ultimately more expensive oil, as economist and author Jeff Rubin points out here. It’s not like the oceans aren’t under enough stress, as a recent study from Nature Geoscience points out: “Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in sea water are driving a progressive acidification of the ocean.” The worst, apparently, in 55 million years. This, as we know, is a marine life killer.
We’ve got the coal mine disaster in Virginia this month that killed 29 people. And as far as forests go, Canada and the U.S. are giving Brazil a run for the money when it comes to deforestation, according to a new study that concluded between 2000 and 2005 “Brazil experienced the largest gross forest cover losses over the study period, 165,000 square km, followed by Canada at 160,000 square km.”
Of course, such large-scale deforestation isn’t good when you’re trying to keep carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at manageable levels. As much as global warming skeptics wish they were right, the evidence — sadly — continues to prove them wrong. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just yesterday released a comprehensive “Climate Change Indicators” report for the United States, and the findings are depressing. The bottom line, according to the EPA’s summary: “…clear evidence that the composition of the atmosphere is being altered as a result of human activities and that the climate is changing.” WWF has a disturbing summary of the EPA report, which is reposted here at Climate Progress. It’s a shame that the silver bullet put forth by the fossil fuel industry — i.e. carbon capture and sequestration — is turning out to be more expensive, controversial and less practical than initially touted, though that won’t stop the industry from continuing to tout it.
Or how about this comment from the National Science Foundation in March, referring to a recent study in the journal Science that found the permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf — once thought an impermeable barrier that seals in methane — is beginning to perforate and leak large amounts of methane. “Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming,” it warned.
The warming we’re experiencing could, according to the U.K.’s Royal Society, even be having an effect on the rumblings of the Earth, or what the Society calls “a harzardous response from the geosphere.” That’s right, it is suggesting that global warming could trigger volcanos, earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters as the warming crust readjusts under new pressures and ice melt. It’s still early days and largely speculative, but the fact they feel compelled to study this further is a sign of concern. Some scientists are even talking about this in relation to the volcano activity on Iceland. There’s no doubt the Earth’s upper crust is warming as the climate warms, at least it is in Canada, according to a report last year from the Geological Survey of Canada.
The global warming skeptics will, of course, twist anything to serve their purposes. So when new studies come out indicating that previous studies underestimated — not overestimated — the impact of greater atmospheric CO2 concentrations on rising sea levels, land temperatures, ice melt, etc., the skeptics take this as proof that the science is unreliable, rather than weighing the evidence of the science itself, as Climate Progress points out in this post.
But the evidence, as much as the skeptics like to twist and cherry-pick and ignore and misinform, is solid. It’s indisputable, for example, that the last decade was the warmest on record. NASA made this crystal clear in January, when it wrote:
January 2000 to December 2009 was the warmest decade on record. Throughout the last three decades, the GISS surface temperature record shows an upward trend of about 0.2°C (0.36°F) per decade. Since 1880, the year that modern scientific instrumentation became available to monitor temperatures precisely, a clear warming trend is present, though there was a leveling off between the 1940s and 1970s.
The warmest decade on record, and this despite the fact that the past few years we’ve been at a solar minimium — i.e. that global warming has been clearly observed despite a lull in solar activity. NASA expects that as solar activity picks up the warming will be even more pronounced, said James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “In the last decade, global warming has not stopped,” said Hansen. This trending is consistent with recent findings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as a recent assessment from the World Meteorological Organization.
And Canada? Let’s start with the most recent winter, in the words of Environment Canada: “The national average temperature for the winter 2009/2010 was 4.0 degrees Celsius above normal, based on preliminary data, which makes this the warmest winter on record since nationwide records began in 1948.” In fact, 11 of the last 20 winters are the warmest on record. More alarming is the trend in the far north, which was 5.3 degrees higher than normal. No wonder we’ve also been experiencing more dryness in Canada. “Canada also experienced its driest winter, out of the 63-years of record, during the 2009/2010 winter, 22.0% below normal,” according to Canada’s environment agency.
But the skeptics — and by skeptics I mean the hardcore deniers — never seem to raise this factual data. If they do, they believe the warming is natural — humans couldn’t be possibly causing this. Best, in their view, to nip at the heels of scientists trying to do their jobs, even though scientific authorities continue to exonerate those under attack.
This includes many in the media. In Canada, this would be a list that includes the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente, the Toronto Sun’s Lorrie Goldstein, and the National Post’s grumpy trio of Terence Corcoran, Lawrence Solomon, and Rex Murphy. Instead of writing about the many studies and events I just described above, they prefer to rant and rave about a climate conspiracy and green energy boondoggle that simply doesn’t exist. And if they do have an ounce of concern about climate change, they’re convinced the market will sort it out.
Apparently the oil and coal guys, the ones dealing with the catastrophies described above, seem to have it all figured out. That, my friends, is the market in action. Isn’t it comforting?