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Shocking photos
August 14, 2002 11:05 PM   Subscribe

Shocking photos which show just how much glaciers have melted in the last century. Now that the North Pole is a swimming pool, the Ross Ice Shelf has, as the Onion put it, embarked on a world tour, and the worst flooding in 800 years is hitting Eastern Europe, aren't we maybe a little bit worried about climate change... just a little, maybe? What freak weather phenomenon is creeping you out these days?
posted by AlexSteffen (82 comments total)

 
You have any five-hour-long, dark-at-2pm, lightning-every-second-and-a-half-throughout, winds-at-50mph storms where you are last week?

We did, here in Tokyo. So'd New York.

Works for me.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:09 PM on August 14, 2002


Nice link Alex. I, for one, had no idea glacial melt was so pronounced.
posted by crasspastor at 11:12 PM on August 14, 2002


aren't we maybe a little bit worried about climate change... just a little, maybe?

Remember when there was an Ice Age? And then the ice melted? And then there wasn't an Ice Age? And then it got cold and the process repeated itself three more times?

Yeah, ice melts. Climates change. All of the above happened without human intervention.

No, I'm not worried about this.
posted by Danelope at 11:13 PM on August 14, 2002


Well, perhaps all that BOTTLED water we have should be brought to the artic, poured, and allowed to freeze. Would that fix the problem?
posted by ericdano at 11:20 PM on August 14, 2002


Global warming would actually mean less rain in the summers not more, the floods in Europe are El Nino related (and not that rare considering it's happened before in the past two hundred years)
posted by zeoslap at 11:25 PM on August 14, 2002


Does anywhere in nature look exactly as it did in 1922? I'm not a disbeliever in things like global warming, etc. but I have no taste for alarmism ("The world will boil!" or "Everything is okay, continue polluting as planned") on either side of the debate.
posted by owillis at 11:28 PM on August 14, 2002


Danelope, how many sophisticated civilisations were sustained through that last cycle of freezes & melts?
Maybe...none.
Because human civilisation has appeared over the last 10,000 years, approximately, - in fact, since the end of the last Ice age. We may not survive another major change to our climate, and this time, we won't be looking to malevolent deities to blame, we'll know exactly who caused it. And we did nothing about it till it was too late...

But it won't matter, 'cos life will go on, nature is very resilient. It just won't be human life, is all.
posted by dash_slot- at 11:34 PM on August 14, 2002


What freak weather phenomenon is creeping you out these days?

Drought.
posted by homunculus at 11:35 PM on August 14, 2002


It just won't be human life, is all.

Actually, human life is well over 40,000 years old, and probably over 100,000 years old. So that's an ice-age or two, even without the conveniences of reverse-cycle air conditioning.
posted by Neale at 11:41 PM on August 14, 2002


Neale: what I meant was that civilisation is gonna face huge challenges to survive, and the human race - which has existed for maybe more than 100,000 years, who knows - may not make it.

I was referring to civilisation - as defined by dictionary.com - is an advanced state of intellectual, cultural, and material development in human society, marked by progress in the arts and sciences, the extensive use of record-keeping, including writing, and the appearance of complex political and social institutions. is a lot more recent, and distinct from, humanity.
posted by dash_slot- at 11:54 PM on August 14, 2002


zeoslap:

Could you kindly prove your assertion that the floods in Europe are El Nino related?

A link to a meteorologist or climatologist claiming this would be helpful.
posted by yertledaturtle at 12:02 AM on August 15, 2002


We used to go ice fishing once the dead of winter arrived here in central Illinois. Nobody's been able to do that consistently due to lack of ice for about 10 years.

Last year's first shotgun season for deer(a week before Thanksgiving) had hunters in shorts. No one remembered needing sunblock while deer hunting before.

We used to chase pheasants through the corn fields by tracking their footprints in the snow. Recently, it's just been slogging through the mud.

Also, the corn's not as high as an elephant's eye. In fact, a lot of it isn't even as high as my eye.

All of this is anecdotal, but so is my reporting that a fair number of the gun-toting caucasian blue-collar demographic that I've been known to run with have mentioned that "this global warming crap" is starting to cut into their outdoor lifestyle.
posted by dglynn at 12:35 AM on August 15, 2002


Well, the photos arn't that shocking, really. Perhaps if they had taken them the same time every year... and they showed a drastic drop off in the past 10 or so, it would meen something to me.
posted by delmoi at 12:52 AM on August 15, 2002


i was just reading (via a&l) the june cover story of cantankerous old uk spectator mag. :

'If the global warming scare has little foundation in fact, the ice-age scare is only too solidly founded. For the last two million years, but not before, the Northern Hemisphere has gone through a regular cycle of ice ages: 90,000 years with ice; 10,000 years without. The last ice age ended 10,000 years ago. Our time is up. The next ice age is due. What causes the ice ages? We do not know. It is probably something to do with the shape and arrangement of northern land masses and the path of the Gulf Stream, but we do not know. However, a new ice age, unlike global warming, would be a certain calamity.

'Of course, the ultimate irony might be that the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are warding off the ice age. In this case, we should give tax relief to coal power stations and factories for every ton of carbon dioxide they release.'
posted by n o i s e s at 2:24 AM on August 15, 2002


I'm freaked out by the way there's always a record-breaking heat wave on. In fact, nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1990.
posted by muckster at 3:08 AM on August 15, 2002


While el Niño occurs whether there's global warming or not, it has been more common recently. Simulations suggest that this is related to global warming.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:14 AM on August 15, 2002


If you live near an ocean or even a tidal tributary, please go out and check the water level now. Then compare that water level to averages from the past 50, 100, or 200 years and I think you will find that there is exactly no change in the average. Satellite photos we now do have, changes in sea levels we do not.
posted by hama7 at 3:33 AM on August 15, 2002


I think you will find that there is exactly no change in the average.

It's nice that you think that, hama7. The United Nations Environment Programme thinks otherwise: "The global average sea level has risen by 10 to 25 cm over the past 100 years." Empiricism is a good thing, but a search for "rising sea levels" will tell you more than sticking a ruler into the East River. Oh, and if you're in Prague or Dresden, there's no need to go out and check: the river's already in your house.
posted by muckster at 3:57 AM on August 15, 2002


What about the Netherlands? Global Warming is a truly terrible thing. Along the lines of Godzilla. Or anything with "-zilla" as its suffix, if current lawsuits are to be believed. And I really love the UN, for all the good they do.

Glowarmzilla, perhaps? I'd rather chase crop circles.
posted by hama7 at 4:18 AM on August 15, 2002


Is Greenpeace really the most reliable source on environmental issues?

I went to this place a couple of weeks ago. There was a lot more ice there than a couple of years ago. Does that prove anything?
posted by einarorn at 4:18 AM on August 15, 2002


dglynn: the fact that your gun-toting caucasian blue-collar demographic have mentioned that "this global warming crap" is starting to cut into their outdoor lifestyle, makes me much happier that the US might soon wake up to the fact Climate Change at least, if not global warming, is happening. And that getting in their SUV to go kill stuff might be one of the reasons that the stuff they want to kill isn't there any more.

On preview: That may have come across as sarcastic: in fact, I am deadly serious. It often seems from the UK and Europe that while we are already experiencing the sharp end of the stick, the continental US has not suffered at all. If Joe Public in the US is starting to sit up and notice then action hopefully will not be too far behind.

PS: yertledaturtle it is highly unlikely that this summers rainfall in Europe has anything to do with the recent identification of a weak El Nino event. However, there is still a lot of disagreement about how much influence these (and El Nina) events have on Europe. A short summary of scientific research is presented here, though to sum it up the general consensus is that it might have a little impact, particularly in winter, though this is dwarfed regional variations closer to home (e.g. North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature gradients and the )
posted by barnsoir at 4:25 AM on August 15, 2002


Well, the photos arn't that shocking, really. Perhaps if they had taken them the same time every year... and they showed a drastic drop off in the past 10 or so, it would meen something to me.

You're kidding right? These are glaciers.
posted by crasspastor at 4:34 AM on August 15, 2002


Well here in Greece we have had a spectacularly record breaking year: repeated snowstorms during the winter, that dropped an unprecedented 1m of snow in downtown Athens, blocked highways in Southern Greece and created havoc generally (in North Athens where I work we had 2m of snow).
This summer we have had the almost total disappearance of the yearly winds in the aegean, record lows in May, a significantly increased humidity and more rainfall than ever before recorded in July and a tornado near Athens airport (a very infrequent event and AFAIK unprecedented for the summer season).
All in all, yes, I am very worried that climate is indeed changing. As far as I know global warming does not predict a linear increase of temperature everywhere but rather includes a period of climatic instability for large regions of the globe. Does anyone have the relevant links for this?
posted by talos at 4:51 AM on August 15, 2002


I don't doubt that the glaciers are melting, and that there is global warming, I just wish they would have linked to a more unbiased article like this one. Greenpeace has one agenda, and that puts a cloud over what they say even though it may be absolutely right
posted by Slash_fan at 4:56 AM on August 15, 2002


Slightly off-topic but relevant, I was happy to read about this prototype yesterday. Even if it is all a bunch of GM publicity b.s., at least they are bringing up the issue.
posted by mooseindian at 5:06 AM on August 15, 2002


I'm worried that global warming will only make it onto the American political agenda when large quantities of American citizens on US soil die from a dramatic freak weather phenomenon. We've had noticeable but gradual change. More and more people find it annoying. But somehow they have no sense of urgency. They don't realize that we're killing the planet. Part of me hopes for some sort of dramitic natural disaster --- half of Florida melting into the ocean, or even better, half of Texas --- to give our political establishment the slap in the face it needs to deal with this as an immediate issue, rather than a long term issue that can be ignored along with all the other long term issues the government ignores.


The frustrating part is that there is such an opportunity for innovation and technological change to address this.
posted by alms at 5:17 AM on August 15, 2002


a shower of bloody scientists,

thats the weather that freaks me out.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:32 AM on August 15, 2002


Ditto what Danelope said about the Ice Age. I love how they show the 1918 Picture with a little old canoe, and the present day picture with a GreenPeace gas-guzzling high-polluting outboard engine on their dingy....And with only one person in the boat - Ever hear of BoatPooling?! Yeah! They are really environmentally conscious. I can't stand hypocrites.
posted by mikepet at 5:33 AM on August 15, 2002


While I am certain global warming exists, I think the pictures on that site are deceptive in a way. Local conditions could have caused the views to change, and might not have wider implications.

I heard a story on the radio yesterday about how an innuit tribe in Alaska is going to have to move their village of 600 people to safer ground because the erosion of their island due to the loss of permafrost (so much for perma, eh?), at a cost of a couple million dollars.

And still scientists aren't sure if this is all caused by a natural or man-made phenomenon, giving people in positions of power the ability to waffle about what to do.

In my opinion, we should act first, and ask questions later.
posted by crunchland at 5:37 AM on August 15, 2002


What about the Netherlands?

We're already way below sea level. When the seas will rise, we will probably come up with some more clever multi-billion engineering solutions . We need to worry about the countries that cannot afford this kind of stuff.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 5:43 AM on August 15, 2002


It's all the U.S.'s fault. Always is.
posted by darren at 5:53 AM on August 15, 2002


ruddy hell look what's happened to the Thames , I've never seen it frozen. Well there you have it, indisputable, irrefutable evidence of global warming.
posted by johnnyboy at 5:58 AM on August 15, 2002


Typically, the word 'America' appears in the headline, but nowhere in that article.
posted by goethean at 5:59 AM on August 15, 2002


So that's Svalbard. Where are the armored bears?

(a bit of a frivolous link in the midst of all this global blaming, but some of you might get it....)
posted by grabbingsand at 6:05 AM on August 15, 2002


Ack!

If you think things are bad now, wait till China clocks in with its billions who could care a whit about the goofy Kyoto project, or whatever.

When the word "America" appears in any headline regarding "environmental issues", rest assured that they mean "money".
posted by hama7 at 6:13 AM on August 15, 2002


As far as I know global warming does not predict a linear increase of temperature everywhere but rather includes a period of climatic instability for large regions of the globe.

This article lightly confirms that. As does this one. This one says more snow is likely closer to the poles. Here's a quick summary of unusual weather trends in the last ten years or so, and a few facts about El Niño. The EPA has a large site about global warming, covering most aspects and including an excellent graph showing average temperature changes since the late 1800s.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:16 AM on August 15, 2002


Well, that glaciers are melting it's not just a Greenpeace opinion. I work in the organisation and, although I'm not involved directly in the climate campaign, I was surprised as many of you (btw nice to see that just a few consider us 'hypocrits') in watching those picts.

For those who are afraid this is just following a Greenpeace agenda, go and read the pdfs in the article, you'll get more info.

You can always bash me up here.
posted by gillo at 6:25 AM on August 15, 2002


To the skeptic posters above, you might wanna read this article ( the link is just an excerpt).

I happened to have read it the other day and it is chilling (pardon the pun). In effect, climactic researchers have discovered a huge river of fresh water flowing down the middle of the atlantic ocean. Did I mention that the amount of freshwater is huge? Its also cold cuz its coming from the arctic melt-off. And this isn't a local phenomenon. But I digress...
This huge river of cold fresh water sinks to the bottom of the atlantic, where it pools.
Meanwhile, warm water currents head up the western side of the atlantic, where normally, westerly winds blow across it, cooling the warm water and making it fall to the bottom of the middle of the atlantic. This huge volume of water being cooled and dropping is what powers the gulf stream. But this huge "river of fresh water" coming from the arctic blocks the drop of the gulf stream water and stalls the entire current.
Thanks to sediment cores taken from the bottom of the atlantic, it has been observed that the last time the gulf stream was halted, it took 500 years to get going again and that period of time was associated with a large drop in average temp. Its known as the mini ice age (aprox 1300ad thru 1800) and had global climactic effects.
Here's still more more info on this not postulated, but observed cause and effect.
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:07 AM on August 15, 2002


large quantities of American citizens on US soil die from a dramatic freak weather phenomenon

Like what? Raining bowling balls?
posted by yerfatma at 7:20 AM on August 15, 2002


Climate change is obviously at least in part driven by the industrialization of mankind on earth.

Conservatives for the large part ignore or deny global warming - calling it either a myth or a simple and natural trend of heating and cooling. Interesting that for conservatives (such as the Bush Administration) to acknowledge global warming would hurt their bottom line. After all - what Texas Oil Man in his right mind would admit that his black gold is actually harmful to the environment?

That our ecosystem can’t tolerate having hydrocarbons continually released into the atmosphere shouldn’t come as a surprise - it is after all through unnatural processes (the work of man) by which these products are unlocked from rocks deep below the earth’s surface and placed in the atmosphere.

Global warming aside - the most-telling impact of man upon the earth is the decrease of bio-diversity due to direct and indirect actions of man. Scientists think we are in the midst of the 6th greatest extinction cycle in the history of life on earth. The difference being that this cycle is brought about not by a catastrophic event like a comet or meteor impact - but rather by the squeezing out of species by man.

Most sinister of all is the way our ignorance of science helps this process of screwing the planet up. These jerks on NewsMax and other places will spout out some diatribe about how volcanoes cause more pollution than cars or whatever and then rank in file the conservative populace will fall in line. Rush is right, after all. Further there is the treatment of scientist as these sort of liberal overlords who look down on the Joe Six Packs of the world from their ivory towers - these people never realize that scientific understanding is open to everyone - all you have to do is take a trip to your library to get started.

In it’s most extreme form I’ve met superstitious Christians who were of the opinion that what we did to earth didn’t matter in either the short or long term because a) god has given man dominion over the earth to do with as he pleases and b) after the second coming of Christ all the true believers will be taken off the planet and the only people left here will be the heathens. Speaking as a heathen I hope we can undo the damage George II and his ilk have done after they are beamed up.
posted by wfrgms at 7:22 AM on August 15, 2002


I think there's very good scientific evidence that the human race's behavior is affecting climate, but I've always been aggravated by your man-on-the-street evidence that this season's rain/drought/snow/heat/cold is evidence of climate change, or of anything in particular.

The cover story of last Sunday's New York Times magazine was all about our perceptions of coincidence: how humans seem to have some sort of innate desire to find patterns, leading people to believe conspiracies based on selective evidence.
posted by tippiedog at 7:52 AM on August 15, 2002


alms: They don't realize that we're killing the planet

That's related to another of my pet peeves: the 'Save the Planet' bumper stickers.

It takes a lot of hubris to think that the human race is going to 'kill the planet' (kill all life on the planet, I guess that means). In actuality, we humans may well be making the planet less hospitable to our own species (and many others), but I don't think we have the ability to 'kill the planet'. If we killed ourselves off tomorrow, the vast majority of life on the planet would carry on and not even notice our absence.
posted by tippiedog at 8:02 AM on August 15, 2002


I'm actually looking forward to another ice age. I can't stand the heat and am a big hockey fan.
posted by disgruntled at 8:08 AM on August 15, 2002


Like what? Raining bowling balls?

A big outbreak of tornadic supercells in an unusual place like LA or New York would do the trick, I imagine. Anyway, the nuclear fallout will get us before the next ice age.
posted by bargle at 8:14 AM on August 15, 2002


i, for one, am awaiting the blessed pole flip to bathe our planet's surface in the cleansing glow of cosmic radiation.
posted by kliuless at 8:24 AM on August 15, 2002


Just another couple of additions: First, glaciers can be both advancing and retreating in the same general region at the same time - it's just that the overall behavior of glaciers worldwide lately has been retreating.

Case in point: Hubbard Glacier in Alaska: This story from yesterday talks about an amazing outflow of water from a lake that was previously dammed up by the glacier. This might sound like a retreat, but in fact Hubbard is advancing, and will eventually form a more permanent lake by cutting off the river.

Compare that to Alaska's Portage Glacier - a few hundred miles away. (Self-link of sorts here) A comparison of Portage Glacier from 1914 to 1998, and an overhead photo from 1914. Compare this second photo to later overhead images here, and see that there was no lake in 1914, and there is now a fully exposed Portage Lake several miles long.

Also, there's a good article in this month's Discover magazine about a possible new "Little Ice Age" approaching - as Heavy glacial melt is possibly disrupting Ocean currents and might cause a large climate shift.

Fun links, thanks!
posted by kokogiak at 8:24 AM on August 15, 2002


Facts to prove/disprove global warming... You can use facts to prove anything remotely true. The point is, we aren't giving up our SUVs, because it's more important to drive "in style" and mash up smaller vehicles than to stave off potential catastrophe. After all, most of the people who are going to die will be in those third-world-type places, anyway...
posted by drstrangelove at 8:36 AM on August 15, 2002


circumstantial and evidence.
posted by johnnyboy at 8:37 AM on August 15, 2002


Alex-The Pope Emperor should give you a star for the post! (the Mefi Viridian Greens know what I mean...) Seriously, wfrgrms, what are you and your "ilk" doing to lower your own contributions to CO2 emissions? I commute by bicycle.
posted by mcchesnj at 8:39 AM on August 15, 2002


Take a peek at "The Ingenuity Gap" by Thomas Homer-Dixon. Very interesting read. Long story, medium-short: we're moving too fast technologically to understand the full implications of our actions, especially when it comes to the environment: a highly complex system within systems within systems that we've only just begun to understand.
posted by tgrundke at 8:42 AM on August 15, 2002


I just love these two quotes:

"Glaciers are on the wane and we risk losing them altogether"

Oooohhh! Scary!

and

"The blame can be put squarely on human activity. (my emphasis) Our addiction to fossil fuels releases millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and this is what is causing temperatures to rise, and our future to melt before our eyes."

(yawn) Prove it....

There is plenty of reason to believe that we (the human race) are contributing to the build up of greenhouse gases and at some level impacting global temperatures, but I have yet to see any evidence that if we reduced the production of greenhouse gases to zero, it would make a whit of difference in what happens to the earth's climate. The earth's average temperature has varied between 10 and 16 degrees celsius over the last 150,000 years and over a wider range in the couple million previous years. It's silly arrogance that we act like we can prevent the next interglacial temperature spike or stop an ice age from coming by riding bikes or building fields full of windmills. Not that there is anything wrong with bikes or windmills....
posted by cyclopz at 8:46 AM on August 15, 2002


Dear tippiedog,

It takes a lot of hubris to think that the human race is going to 'kill the planet' ?

More than a third of the natural world has been destroyed by humans over the past three decades.

Oh, but that's just those crazy lefties talking. Right? Right?

No love,
acrid
posted by acridrabbit at 9:32 AM on August 15, 2002


It's silly arrogance that we act like we can prevent the next interglacial temperature spike or stop an ice age from coming by riding bikes or building fields full of windmills. Not that there is anything wrong with bikes or windmills....

you're right! we might as well enjoy our destructive and wasteful lives while we are still afforded the opportunity.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:35 AM on August 15, 2002


If you're so uncertain as to our scientists' ability to extrapolate the effects of our pollution how would you believe the statistic about the Earth's average temperature varying between 10 and 16 degrees celsius over the last 150,000 years? Or more during the past few million? That information is also based on indirect evidence. You're choosing statistics that make you feel comfortable.

And this claim that environmentalists are "arrogant" because we're so little and the Earth is so big and the fact that our settlements cover the vast majority of the Earth's land mass is so irrelevant and what difference could we possibly make is just precious. Especially when it's combined with pseudo-relativist bandying about how there's no real difference between this era of life on Earth and, say, the pre-Cambrian, so who cares about mass extinctions really? It's a dodging of responsibility as transparent as it is massive.

Hint: environmentalism is fundamentally self-centered. "Save the Planet" is a metaphor, and it is technically overstating the case - that's what bumper stickers do. Yes, your cynical insight is amazing if you've figured that out on your own. But no, it's not about reversing ice ages or whatever. Though what's funny is, if it were, there'd be a much greater chance of us getting off our asses to do something about it.
posted by furiousthought at 9:35 AM on August 15, 2002


I don't think we're in a position where the causes of global warming have to be proven. I don't think there's anyone of any import who can claim the world isn't heating up, CO2 or ten-thousand-year cycle or whatever. We're in a position where whatever the cause of global warming, we're unprepared for its serious effects. Therefore, we need to do whatever possible maintain our human condition. *That* should be unarguable. And yet, the heads-in-sand approach is so popular among the greedy, lazy, stupid, arrogant, short-sighted, thoughtless, selfish people on this planet who outnumber everyone else. My conclusion, then, is that this problem will get worse before it gets better, and in the meantime, many will die, the lands will flood, the deserts will spread, the animals will perish, and the planet will become an irretrievably less pleasant place to live.

My proposed new bumpersticker: "Live on this planet as if you're immortal."
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:51 AM on August 15, 2002


Does this mean we might finally get those domed cities? Or maybe palm trees up here in Canada!

Sign me up :)
posted by canucklehead at 9:56 AM on August 15, 2002


It's silly arrogance that we act like we can prevent the next interglacial temperature spike or stop an ice age from coming by riding bikes or building fields full of windmills.

The earth's processes will always be cyclical because it is (essentially) a closed system. The long term effect of increased CO2 emission will be an increase in the amplitude and frequency of climatic oscillations: Steeper spikes, deeper valleys and more violent transitions from peaks to valleys. A useful analogy would be a guitar string or a vibrating spring: the more energy you put in, the more furious is its vibration. By releasing CO2 we are accelerating our approach to the next ice-age and the next "hot-age" and the following ice-age ad-nauseum.

No matter what we do today, it is unlikely that anyone alive today will observe catastrophic climate change on a global scale. So the real question is "What kind of planet should we leave for our ancestors?" Even our grandkids are likely to have a comfortable (though measurably different) climate so it really is a question of responsibility to quite distant relatives.
posted by plaino at 10:01 AM on August 15, 2002


Thank you Mo Nickels.

On preview: plaino, I wish that were true. My sense of it is that it's already well underway. Wheeee!
posted by muckster at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2002


The next ice age is due. What causes the ice ages? We do not know.
'Of course, the ultimate irony might be that the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are warding off the ice age. In this case, we should give tax relief to coal power stations and factories for every ton of carbon dioxide they release.'

Actually, according to the cover article in the latest issue of Discover, the opposite may be true. Global warming may lead to heavy Arctic ice melt to the extent that the influx of cold water damps out the Gulf Stream, which has the effect of shutting down all ocean currents. (The Gulf Stream is the main pump of the global system of currents.) An Ice Age would soon follow.
posted by badstone at 10:30 AM on August 15, 2002


So the real question is "What kind of planet should we leave for our ancestors?"

You discovered how to reverse the procession of time? Cool! But I'm sure our ancestors would be impressed with the state of the planet today.
posted by zavyman at 10:33 AM on August 15, 2002


Oh, but that's just those crazy lefties talking. Right? Right?

Yes. Let me quote from the article the REAL purpose of the alarmist statements in this article...

Matthew Spencer, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said: 'There will have to be concessions from the richer nations to the poorer ones or there will be fireworks.'

Thanks for clearing thing up Matt...the article also claim that we Americans also have twice the ecological footprint of the average person in the UK. They don't, however, manage to mention that we also account for nearly one quarter of the WORLD gross income with only a paltry 268 million of us working at it out of the 6.1 billion on the planet. Far as I'm concerned, we rock...
posted by RevGreg at 10:47 AM on August 15, 2002


we also account for nearly one quarter of the WORLD gross income with only a paltry 268 million of us working at it out of the 6.1 billion on the planet. Far as I'm concerned, we rock...

Whew, that was close. And to think I was this close to actually changing my ways...oh well, back to my head in the sand.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:06 AM on August 15, 2002


Work it out for yourself. Here are temperature measurements month on month since 1659, the longest series of actual measurements on record. Fire up Excel and paste in the data. Can you see any warming?
posted by grahamwell at 11:09 AM on August 15, 2002


"If you're so uncertain as to our scientists' ability to extrapolate the effects of our pollution how would you believe the statistic about the Earth's average temperature varying between 10 and 16 degrees celsius over the last 150,000 years? Or more during the past few million? That information is also based on indirect evidence. You're choosing statistics that make you feel comfortable."

Nope...that information is based on direct evidence and supported by other work on fossil tree rings, and pollen sediments...I'm choosing statistics based on pretty solid scientific data not guesses modeled around an almost infinite number of variables.

I'm more inclined to buy into plaino's argument although the earth is not truly a closed system because our climate is impacted by solar cycles and where the sun is in its orbit around the galactic center among other things.

The point is...what do we need to in terms of greenhouse gas reductions to make a meaningful difference? Cut global emissions to zero? in half? by 3%? What is really practical and will it matter? And are the costs...to the economies of developed world...to the inhabitants of the developing world...worth it when a doable practical reduction probably won't change anything anyway?
posted by cyclopz at 11:20 AM on August 15, 2002


They don't, however, manage to mention that we also account for nearly one quarter of the WORLD gross income with only a paltry 268 million of us working at it out of the 6.1 billion on the planet.

RevGreg, you might want to note that the top 5% out of that 268 million have more money and more influence than the lower 80% altogether, including you.

Far as I'm concerned, we rock...

Well, no, actually they rock... but they don't.

Shouldn't you care, being in a democracy and all, that the 268 million of you fuck the planet up more than anyone else? It would be bad enough if you were doing it in your own backyard, but your companies and your government pollute in other countries and don't always pick up the bill.
posted by lia at 11:22 AM on August 15, 2002


Fair enough, cyclopz. I'd agree with you that the science behind your example is more advanced than the science behind that of climate prediction - but tgrundke's post shows where the rub is: you're demanding that our understanding not just of climatology but also of ecology and macroeconomics - all of which involve almost infinite numbers of variables - become advanced to the point where we can accurately determine what effects environmental measures will have on everything. (More or less.) By that time, we'll have spent maybe another hundred years doing the same thing to the environment we've been doing, which is not the same as doing nothing. I don't like taking semieducated guesses either but unfortunately we're doing that whether we want to or not.
posted by furiousthought at 12:26 PM on August 15, 2002


'Of course, the ultimate irony might be that the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are warding off the ice age.


Umm so we are screwed either way, right? If we cut greenhouse gases, it "Ice Age" time, and last time I check, were I live now was covered with some damn big ice. Or we melt the Ice Caps with our SUVs and we all die of famine due to droughts?

decisions, decisions...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:33 PM on August 15, 2002


I wrote: It takes a lot of hubris to think that the human race is going to 'kill the planet'

AcridRabbit responded: More than a third of the natural world has been destroyed by humans over the past three decades. Oh, but that's just those crazy lefties talking. Right? Right?

Actually, I'm pretty much a crazy leftie, and I certainly don't try to deny that we humans are already responsible for destroying a lot of natural diversity, natural habitats, etc. And I agree that it's something we should be concerned about.

My points, though, are:

1.) I think it's highly unlikely that we'll destroy all life on the planet. Whatever we do to it, some life will outlive us humans and life will go on in some form, and

2.) We should examine why we think destruction of species, natural resources, etc. is bad: is it your general idea that nature is good, humans are bad? Is it selfish (i.e., I like it personally that the earth is habitable by humans)?

As for me, I feel a little of each.
posted by tippiedog at 1:02 PM on August 15, 2002


You discovered how to reverse the procession of time?

Yup. 'Cause I never make silly mistakes like saying "ancestors" when I mean "descendants."

I'm more inclined to buy into plaino's argument although the earth is not truly a closed system because our climate is impacted by solar cycles

Of course I was oversimplifying my analogy in order to make a larger point. It is, of course, a matter of fact that the Earth's cycles are influenced not only by human emissions but by many other things, like fluctuations in the Sun and the Earth's precession around its axis of rotation. The important thing is that the cycles will remain and their intensity and frequency will change.

I think environmentalists would get a lot more credibility if they acknowledged the fluctional nature of Earth and accepted that there is no "right" state for the planet. It is changing and will always be in a state of change. How it changes will depend on many things including human impact. What it will change into depends entirely on how far out you look.
posted by plaino at 1:05 PM on August 15, 2002


grahamwell: Work it out for yourself. Here are temperature measurements month on month since 1659, the longest series of actual measurements on record. Fire up Excel and paste in the data. Can you see any warming?

I did this. I do see a trend upwards in temperature. Interesting, when compared with polynomic and linear analysis. But, even more interesting with a moving average....

You see, there is this odd cycle that is going on. Up and down, up and down, the world is getting markedly warmer, but in 11 year cycles. Eleven years up, eleven years down. I know only one source that works on that time scale.... Sol.
posted by dwivian at 1:29 PM on August 15, 2002


SUVs probably aren't any more polluting than the equipment that went into the manufacture and sale of computer components. Not to mention the components themselves after they've outlived their usefulness.

Catch my drift, SUV haters?
posted by cinematique at 2:16 PM on August 15, 2002


So wouldn't that 11-year solar cycle show up in temperature records whether there's global warming or not? I don't see your point. It's not as though mankind can destroy the Sun. Much as we've always yearned to. I'd even go so far as to call that idea...arrogant.

And on preview, way to make this thread last another 60 comments, cinematique! I say we drag Israel into this.
posted by furiousthought at 2:18 PM on August 15, 2002


I think it's the nazi's fault myself..... o^)
posted by cyclopz at 2:35 PM on August 15, 2002


Yertledaturtle, this is the article I based my comment above on
posted by zeoslap at 2:38 PM on August 15, 2002


Thanks zeoslap.
Thanks barnsoir.
posted by yertledaturtle at 3:29 PM on August 15, 2002


As it happens, just today there is new evidence of a connection between global warming and solar cycles, through studying cosmic rays. Which is not to say there's no anthropomorphic warming, but it isn't the whole story by any means.
posted by dhartung at 4:49 PM on August 15, 2002


Huh. Interesting. But you could see why I'd be skeptical of the 11-year solar cycle's presence in the stats obviating the possibility of a man-made greenhouse effect seeing as how the sun's where the heat comes from in the first place.
posted by furiousthought at 6:10 PM on August 15, 2002


The 11yr cycle would be there regardless. Point is, though, that the overall trend is factually and solidly upward. Assuming dwivian's telling the truth; I haven't checked out the actual graph. But he looks like a trustworthy guy to me. Or gal.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:17 PM on August 15, 2002


It would be prudent at worst, to err on the side of caution, don't you think?

But, as Mo Nickels so eloquently put it, it seems that the majority of people are 'greedy, lazy, stupid, arrogant, short-sighted, thoughtless, and selfish'. If there are so many of that stripe here on Metafilter, Where Everyone Is So Gosh-darn Smart©, I don't entertain high hopes for the rest of the population. Or for much of the planet being very livable in a few decades.

[sarcasm] But I'll be dead by then, right? So fuck 'em! [/sarcasm]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:39 AM on August 16, 2002


fff: But he looks like a trustworthy guy to me. Or gal.

I am indeed a guy, or gal. :) Guy, actually, not Dwivette would be different, too.

Yah, the figures were interesting. The trend upwards was the most interesting, but the almost constant wave of the trendline was like a sine-graph. Rather surprising. Makes sense that warming would occur, and that the rise might be related to our primary heat source. But, I'm of two minds on the results --

Is the warming a greenhouse effect? Is is possible to figure out without stopping all greenhouse activity? And, having done that, at a cost of billions of dollars, what if we are wrong and nothing gets better? It's a risk I'm willing to take, but that's partly because it isn't *MY* billions of dollars....

In short, there is a warming. Why, I don't know. Can we fix it? I don't know. But I hate sitting here and assuming that I'm just an ant on an elephant....
posted by dwivian at 7:53 AM on August 16, 2002


The warming must be related to our primary heat source. It's our only heat source.

I believe what you're seeing is a sine wave that slopes upward.The sine wave is the ebb-and-flow of the sun's energy output; the overall trend is the result of some change on earth. It probably isn't going upward because the sun is getting ever hotter. It's more likely either because the earth is absorbing more energy (ie. it's turning "blacker") or retaining more heat (ie. more efficient greenhouse).

It's believed that back in the good ol' dino days, the earth was damn lush with life. Dense jungle, tons of ocean life, etc. Way more biomass than we have these days.

All that biomass removed carbon from the atmosphere. Some of that carbon was removed permanently, stored in vast underground reserves of oil and gas. The result may have been that the "greenhouse" became less efficient.

It's only within the past couple hundred years we've become really adept at putting that carbon back into the atmosphere, though the glory of coal-burning power generation, internal combustion engines, burning off the jungles, and manufacturing.

Q: does your graph show an accelerating increase starting at around 1750, perhaps 1800?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 AM on August 16, 2002


Only heat source? Hm... was reading recent studies about the energy source of radiation in the mantle and core... but, let's not get picky... *grin*

But, no -- the increase is most pronounced from 1900 forward. In fact, the general trend from 1750 to 1900 is flat -- no real increase in temperature. The prior lunge upwards is from 1659 to 1750. It is as if (remembering history) that a long cold spell had finally subsided, and it balanced briefly for about 150 years, before the warming continued upwards. Both the logarithmic and exponential show this plateau, as does a polynomic (2-6th order). I like the moving average, which shows the sine structure when set to values between 5 and 27.

It's interesting that we haven't seen a year colder than 8C since 1879 (7.42, average)
posted by dwivian at 11:51 AM on August 16, 2002


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