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Here comes the flood
December 14, 2002 10:56 AM   Subscribe

2002 looks like 2nd warmest year on record (since recordkeeping of global temperatures began in 1867, that is) and glaciers are melting faster then ever - 30 years from now, after the great climate catastrophe of '017, when kids ask me what I did to avert it, I'll say - "see, there was this internet blog called metafilter that I'd post bad environmental news to sometimes ...what was the internet? what was a "blog"? why didn't I do more? well, there were these people called "skeptics", and there was this other thing called "the war on terrorism", and it all seemed so distant and speculative and we were all so busy, and it was hard to get around without a car, and the dogs needed to be walked, and I needed to have a cavity filled, and there was all that laundry, and my big toe hurt, and, and..."
posted by troutfishing (87 comments total)

 
As much as I think we are stupid for not taking better care of our planet, I still don't think there is any conclusive evidence that warm temperatures are the fault of pollution. Global temperatures fluctuated all over the place before humans could even write "chlorofluorocarbons," much less spew them into the air.
posted by Foosnark at 11:10 AM on December 14, 2002


There will be a new ice age anyway. Maybe global warming will extend the time that we can actually survive. In my opinion, we cannot predict or even grasp what might happen in 100+ years. Nevertheless, reducing CO2, soot, etc. and will surely have an effect on our present lives.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 11:13 AM on December 14, 2002


So, does this global warming thing vibrate? And if not, why not?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:16 AM on December 14, 2002


I think the reason people are skeptical are because of past environmental predictions:

Malthus on Population
1960's on the future of Petroleum
The faster-than-predicted ability of nature to regrow (Chernobyl, air over LA, among others)

Global warming a problem? Possibly. A huge problem? Doubtfully. Cost of huge cuts in CO2 vs. cost of cleaning up problems, from what we know at this stage? Cutting the CO2 is far more expensive.
posted by Kevs at 11:17 AM on December 14, 2002


Two words: Giant Bugs.

"You want larvae with that?"
posted by wobh at 11:19 AM on December 14, 2002


You could have just posted the links from ENS and the NYTimes...
But thanks for throwing in all that extra baggage...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:20 AM on December 14, 2002


For all you skeptic's out there I really look forward to 20 or so years from now when I can say "I TOLD YOU SO!"
posted by tljenson at 11:25 AM on December 14, 2002


Please tell me you're not looking forward to environmental catastrophe just to prove that you're right.
posted by gyc at 11:29 AM on December 14, 2002


20 years from now? It's already happening.
posted by muckster at 11:29 AM on December 14, 2002


And thanks for once more not contributing anything to the discussion, Steve.

I think it's a fine post.

I think the reason people are skeptical are because of past environmental predictions:

I think people just believe what they want to believe--especially when it comes to big, invisible forces like climate, and big, visible factors like their wallet.
posted by jpoulos at 11:33 AM on December 14, 2002


I have a hard time catching on to all of the fad catastrophe, "end of the world" reports that come out for just about any negative thing. Is the world warming up? Maybe. But there is also ample evidence that says that the upper atmosphere is getting colder by the year. Whatever is happening, it is far much more likely that it is a naturally occuring phenomenon, of which case we can do nothing about. And if we did do something about it, the environmental crazies would moan and complain that we stopped the earth's natural warming cycle and we should start driving more SUVs.

I walk when I can. I drive a higher-than-average MPG car. I turn off the lights when I'm not in the room. Beyond that, I can only watch and adapt to whatever changes come about.
posted by mychai at 11:39 AM on December 14, 2002


I believe that children are our future...

And Cananda must be pretty damn excited at the prospects of global warming.
posted by wrench at 11:40 AM on December 14, 2002


I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO EAT BUGS

d< t to the o to the d is death in german according to klee
posted by KettleBlack at 11:49 AM on December 14, 2002


jpoulos, this isn't a discussion. It is yet another rant. It lost any possibility of being a discussion as soon as tf added his snakry comment to he end of his post.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:50 AM on December 14, 2002


It is not 'yet another rant', but two stories about global warming. You categorise it as a rant because you don't care about it. Some people do, and discussing it on places like MetaFilter helps to make other people aware of it.
posted by sebas at 11:57 AM on December 14, 2002


/ignore Steve_at_Linnwood

dammit, it doesn't work
posted by RylandDotNet at 12:04 PM on December 14, 2002


And Cananda must be pretty damn excited at the prospects of global warming.

Yeah, except for coastal cities, like Toronto, Montreal and Vancover.
posted by goethean at 12:08 PM on December 14, 2002


/incite riot Steve_at_Linnwood, jpoulous, RylandDotNet

o< quack quack bite spit hiss feathers fur!!
posted by KettleBlack at 12:13 PM on December 14, 2002


When you are in a mountain area (Alps or Rocky Mountains) and are near a glacier it is quite fascinating to look at old pictures of the same area. Sometimes it is almost unrecognizable because the glacier has reduced more than half. I am not too sure if this is all because humans have influenced it or maybe there is a small change in the jetstreams, but it still is quite sad since I think glaciers are awesome to look at.

Canada better stay cold for a few months, because I'd like to snowboard there.
posted by sebas at 12:13 PM on December 14, 2002


here here troutfishing.... in my 34 years, winter in minnesota has changed from a 5 month - chilly - snowy - sometimes brutally cold but usually wonderful season to a tepid brown depressing muddy mess - i feel sorry for my ice fisherman buddies.
posted by specialk420 at 12:13 PM on December 14, 2002


I've never really understood some people's attitude about this. You're absolutely "right", Foosnark et al, there is no conclusive evidence that global warming is caused by pollution.

But damn. When so much is at stake, exactly how clear does the connection need to be before we start doing something about it? It's already quite clear enough for the vast majority of environmental scientists.

And what are we afraid of, a few years of less-than-optimal economic growth? In the long run, I suspect that finding more efficient industrial processes will have a positive impact on economic growth anyway, even aside from the environmental benefits.

Wow, I started two paragraphs with conjunctions. How exciting.

On preview, sebas, I'm sorry to report that so far this is a very sad year indeed for snowboarding in Vancouver...
posted by jeffj at 12:18 PM on December 14, 2002


jeffj, that does it. I demand we all take action now and get this whole pollution/warming thing taken care of before March!
posted by sebas at 12:25 PM on December 14, 2002


We had a mild summer in Dallas, Tx. I've been here 10 years, my A/C was even out for two months. For me it felt like a normal August growing up in the LA area of Calif w/o AC. I think we had one official day over a 100F in the Dallas Metroplex. Sure with the heat index it felt like over a 100F a lot.

I'm not saying it's not getting warmer, but every 100 years things seem to cycle, floods, killer mosquitos, ect...

Wasn't there a post about the earth gaining weight around it's equator? I feel things do cycle and as they do the degree rises a little, but things go back down too. Also as the earth is getting older is it deteriorating, yes? If so it will have a end, like us in death, no?

But we should not go out of our way to destroy it ourselves. I saw in California they want to ban chimney fires in homes. But what about all the forest fires we just had? Yes a majority this past year were started by people yet if lightning had struck they were sure to of happened too. Mother nature creates them herself you know.

What am I saying about all of the above? It is going to happen with or with out us, so don't worry about. But think wisley.

It's only of late we know about more. Again we know more with the world with what is going on at one given time because of our technological advancements. Plus the news comes quicker.

PS, the last three years I've had snow on either Christmas or New Years and even both.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:27 PM on December 14, 2002


Yeah, except for coastal cities, like Toronto, Montreal and Vancover.

I assume this is a reference to rising sea levels, by which only Vancouver would be affected.
posted by copmuter at 12:32 PM on December 14, 2002


OK, I guess I need to post this for the skeptics. I take the US National Academy of Science as a benchmark which defines the current scientific mainstream and so (link #s 1,2 and 4 are from the NAS or the National Research Council, a branch of the NAS commissioned by Congree to author reports to inform national policy):

Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (2001) by the NAS Commission on Geosciences, Environment and Resources
Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises - Committee on Abrupt Climate Change, National Research Council (2002)
Wood's Hole Oceanagraphics Institute on Abrupt Climate Change (Woods Hole is generally considered to be the world's preeminent Oceanagraphic research institute)
BBC: Bush Comissioned National Academy of Science report says"A panel from the National Academy of Sciences said a leading cause is emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels...Greenhouse gases are accumulating in the earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing temperatures to rise...
"Temperatures are, in fact, rising," the panel warned. "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in the earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise," the report said. "


Note: you will not find the positions of Global Warming "Skeptics" here. I take this to mean that their positions are not taken especially seriously, except by the public. You can, of course, invoke conspiracy theories to account for this fact also.
posted by troutfishing at 12:33 PM on December 14, 2002


On preview, sebas, I'm sorry to report that so far this is a very sad year indeed for snowboarding in Vancouver...

I'm 34 and it seemed when I was in my early teens we had a late winter. We didn't get good snow until the end of the season for skiing. Yet it even snowed in early July and we made up for it then. It's a cycle you will see as you get older. I remember my parents telling similar stories and thinking yea I'll never see that.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:35 PM on December 14, 2002


Oops, that's "commissioned by Congress"
posted by troutfishing at 12:35 PM on December 14, 2002


It's such a wonderful example of how logic is twisted to rationalize irresponsible behavior. Rather than admit that we are doing something wrong, we'll say that global warming is actually preventing an environmental catastrophe. No, no, keep consuming resources, you're a hero!

Yeah, it's always a safe bet to assume that the massive climate changes occuring around the globe are perfectly normal. It's like how heart disease is just a natural part of the cycle of life. It may just go away by itself, and hey, for all we know it may be a good thing! One thing's for sure, we'd better not take precautions against it!
posted by Hildago at 12:44 PM on December 14, 2002


30 years from now, after the start of the great global depression in '07, when kids ask me what I did to avert it, I'll tell them I tried to be a reasonable voice in the midst of the huge scientific fads that are continually sweeping the world.

I'll tell them that they shouldn't be so arrogant - that it is true - in retrospect - that it was obviously stupid for the same scientific community whose tools were not sophisticated to predict - with any accuracy - what the weather would be in even a single region, three weeks in the future, to somehow assert they were able to predict what the climate would look like for the entire globe, a decade in the future - with so much certainty that major disruptions to global economics were justified.

I'll tell them that what was known by the economists of the time - that economic development actually almost invariably resulted in improved environmental conditions - was ignored in favor of the guilt-tripping and emotional manipulation practiced by spome of the environmentalists of the period.

I'll tell them that despite the evidence of progress in the late 20th century - that saw steady reductions in global poverty rates, in global hunger, and infant mortality, as well as longer lives and rising standards of living for growing numbers of the world's disenfranchised (along with gradually improving environmental conditions wherever this happened) - many vocal people still saw the world as a terrible place, full of evil selfish people who didn't "love the earth", and who needed to be stopped.
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:53 PM on December 14, 2002


OK, I guess I need to post this for the skeptics.

Well, I guess I'll post this for the true believers.

"Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects ... But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures ... the longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality."

Sounds terrible, yes? Sounds as though we should immediately take steps, right? Interestingly enough, this is from a 1975 Newsweek cover story that scared the hell out of people. And it turns out that's it's a damn good thing we didn't immediately alter public policy for the sake of "scientific consensus" - because the "climate change" that was supposed to produce the "grim reality" was the coming ice age they were predicting. (Note, however, that the tone and substance of the rhetoric is nearly identical to those currently talking about the grim reality that global warming will produce).
posted by MidasMulligan at 1:04 PM on December 14, 2002


Hildago it's like the CO2 deal we take prevention to cut down on it. Then we discover more is produced by mother nature in volcanic explosions than we can ever produce ourselves.

We try not to pollute our oceans with oil but find it seeps into the ocean by itself.

We tell the lumber industry their cutting too many trees down yet left alone they could burn and produce more pollutants in the air.

But we should not waste and pollute because we can. Yet we should not run around like a chicken with it's head cut off telling everyone to stop what your doing because your going to bring down this world. A catch 22 for me.

PS, I would like to get rid of leaf blowers.
1.They waste gas and pollute, use a rake they are quiter and use just as much energy. Unless you consider a rake is lighter and uses less.
2. Blowing leaves in the street or on your neighbors yards is not cleaning up your block. As the leafs are still there. Like sweeping the dirt under the rug.
3.No wonder everyone has asthma and allergies. Because your blowing pollen and spores up our noses. Plus any other pollutants too. So we spend extra money to combat this at the doctors and pharmacy.

I'll support any cause weather I feel worthy of the cause or not if we could just get rid of these useless things. Plus most folks pay to have them used, by their lawn service. Dope! There is the money that could go to a good cause or charity.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:14 PM on December 14, 2002


you don't have to be a raging ideologue to realize that putting chemicals into the atmosphere is the opposite of a good thing.

Sounds terrible, yes? Sounds as though we should immediately take steps, right? Interestingly enough, this is from a 1975 Newsweek cover story that scared the hell out of people.

fortunately we've enacted strict enviromental regulations since then.
posted by mcsweetie at 1:22 PM on December 14, 2002


McSweetie....I don't think anyone thinks there should be more pollution or even that pollution is a good thing. The argument is that

a) Global warming very well could be natural
b) If it has some human-induced component, the effects could very well be less than predicted
c) Even assuming worst-case scenario, the world is not going to end
d) All that global warming causes is *climate change* - in many areas, agricultural production will go up and disasters will lessen, of course
e) There is far less than conclusive evidence that an economic cost of hundreds of billions of dollars should be suffered because of uncertain, long-term estimates, no matter how eminent the scientists in support are

Should we be doing all we can to lessen human's footprint on the planet? Of course. Should we halt industry because of something that may happen in a hundred years? Of course not.
posted by Kevs at 1:32 PM on December 14, 2002


you don't have to be a raging ideologue to realize that putting chemicals into the atmosphere is the opposite of a good thing.

Er, "atmosphere" is "chemicals".

fortunately we've enacted strict enviromental regulations since then.

??? Thus averting the predicted global cooling, leading to the need for even stricter environmental regulations to avert the currently predicted global warming (which will lead to ...)? Odd trend suggested there ...
posted by MidasMulligan at 1:32 PM on December 14, 2002


Interestingly enough, this is from a 1975 Newsweek cover story that scared the hell out of people.

Is this the same decade that saw two of the most economically disabling energy crises, and the first wave of modern terrorism? Hmmm... Maybe we should've listened then.
posted by condour75 at 1:37 PM on December 14, 2002


Should we halt industry because of something that may happen in a hundred years? Of course not.

Glad my great-grandad didn't have the CO2 production capacity we have and that attitude...
posted by RichLyon at 1:40 PM on December 14, 2002


I still don't think there is any conclusive evidence that warm temperatures are the fault of pollution.

The difficulty is, foosnark, that by the time the evidence is conclusive there is a distinct possibility it will be too late to do anything with it. Sometimes a possibility is nothing more than scaremongering. Sometimes it is a really, really bad, nightmarish possible outcome. The best we can do is apply the intelligence we were given to assess the likely consequences of our behaviours now, and govern ourselves according to any conclusions we might conservatively draw from it.

The facts that we can no longer discount the possibility that we are permanently altering our climate, and that even small changes are likely to have catastrophic consequences for large numbers of people really ought to be sufficient to persuade us to take action.

And although we have all been conditioned to expect that our lives on this planet will be spent in a state of relative ease, we ought to consider the possibility that the actions requried of us may involve giving up some of our comforts.

Shit. Could have been worse. We could have been asked to fight the second world war or something. Abandoning the prospect of grotesque, unfettered growth seems relatively light as a burden. To me.
posted by RichLyon at 1:55 PM on December 14, 2002


jpoulos, this isn't a discussion. It is yet another rant. It lost any possibility of being a discussion as soon as tf added his snakry comment to he end of his post.

That's just wrong. A post can be a rant, but a thread is by definition a discussion. If you don't like the direction or timbre of the discussion, contribute to it.
posted by rushmc at 1:56 PM on December 14, 2002


that economic development actually almost invariably resulted in improved environmental conditions

Your time scale is exceedingly short. Try stepping back and looking at at least a few millennia, not a few decades. Short-sightedness is the root of the problem here.
posted by rushmc at 1:58 PM on December 14, 2002


we ought to consider the possibility that the actions requried of us may involve giving up some of our comforts

Perhaps, but it might just be as simple as putting some effort (and precious money!) into discovering and developing more sustainable, less harmful ways of maintaining those comforts. Hell, we might even improve upon them.
posted by rushmc at 2:00 PM on December 14, 2002


Rather than admit that we are doing something wrong, we'll say that global warming is actually preventing an environmental catastrophe. No, no, keep consuming resources, you're a hero!

If you were referring to my comment, I feel offended. I just wanted to put things into perspective. Do you realize how much e.g. one volcano eruption affects the global ecosystem in comparison to leave blowers, chimneys, etc. ? My biggest concern is that these kind of discussion always end up in extreme environmentalists ("Ban Natrium Chloride!") versus extreme liberalists.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 2:01 PM on December 14, 2002


Should we halt industry because of something that may happen in a hundred years? Of course not.

agreed, but who said we should?

Er, "atmosphere" is "chemicals".

brother, you know what I meant! I hope.

Thus averting the predicted global cooling, leading to the need for even stricter environmental regulations to avert the currently predicted global warming (which will lead to ...)?

that ain't what I said, brother.
posted by mcsweetie at 2:45 PM on December 14, 2002


Do you realize how much e.g. one volcano eruption affects the global ecosystem in comparison to leave blowers, chimneys, etc. ?

"Volcanic eruptions can enhance global warming by adding CO2 to the atmosphere. However, a far greater amount of CO2 is contributed to the atmosphere by human activities each year than by volcanic eruptions. Volcanoes contribute about 110 million tons/year, whereas other sources contribute about 10 billion tons/year." (source)
posted by gwint at 3:07 PM on December 14, 2002


Hildago it's like the CO2 deal we take prevention to cut down on it. Then we discover more is produced by mother nature in volcanic explosions than we can ever produce ourselves.

Point taken, yet there has been a measurable increase in all kinds of pollution since the industrial revolution, and there's just no getting around that. We weren't seeing the kind of problems we're seeing now before we got good at using fossil fuels, either. So clearly, what we do has a major effect.
posted by Hildago at 3:42 PM on December 14, 2002


you don't have to be a raging ideologue to realize that putting chemicals into the atmosphere is the opposite of a good thing.

Er, "atmosphere" is "chemicals".


That may be the most agile side-stepping of the issue I've ever seen. Congrats.
posted by Hildago at 3:44 PM on December 14, 2002


If you were referring to my comment, I feel offended. I just wanted to put things into perspective.

Well, no offense intended. Your comment got me thinking about the subject, but I wasn't really referring to you as much as the people who actively preach this in the media. I guess I should have addressed it more generally, sorry.
posted by Hildago at 3:49 PM on December 14, 2002


Gee - a debate about Global Warming on Mefi (?!) - must be a slow day or is the subject heating up ?

For anyone who hasn't read much about Global Warming, I posted links to 2 free books on the subject (halfway up this thread by the US National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council. The National research Council prepares reports on complex scientific subjects for the US Congress. These 2 books are the Council's reports to Congress on Global Warming. Read them for yourself! (...and you will be far more informed than most congresspeople who, doubtless, ignore these reports)

[the reports - "Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions" (2001) and "Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises" (2002)] I like the "Inevitable Surprises" part of the second title. It says a lot. I you check out these links, try the third, to the Woods Hole Oceanagraphic Institutes' explanation of Sudden Climate Change.]

The new problem about Global Warming is that, it has become apparent only in the last decade or so, the Earth's climate system is inherently unstable and can change quite rapidly - within one or two years even and so Global Warming is no longer considered merely a long term threat which will wipe out lots of species, cause a gradual sea level rise, and so on. It actually could result in a rapid, catastrophic climate shift.

Scientists in the field are...well....freaked out about this.

By the way, the often cited claim (usually without any attribution) that "scientists were talking about a coming ice age" in the 70's is based, as far as I can tell, on the existance of a few popular books on the subject (and NOT the general claims of a significant number of researchers in climatology). The Earth's climate was however, generally cooling a bit between the end of WW2 and the late 70s. This was the general trend - gradual cooling, and hence the ice -age scare. We were generally believed to be moving slowly out of the temperate Holocene period which we currently live in. So there was a grain of truth to the ice age claim. BUT....since the late 70s, human induced warming has overwhelmed the previous cooling trend.

The newest wrinkle is: the Earth's climate can lurch from one state to another very, very fast. And it is believed that human induced warming could trigger one of those sudden, nonlinear shifts which have been shown to have occured fairly recently (as recently as 12,500 years ago during the "Younger Dryas" period) and which could overwhelm our industrial civilization.
posted by troutfishing at 4:38 PM on December 14, 2002


I'm 34 and it seemed when I was in my early teens we had a late winter... It's a cycle you will see as you get older.

Many thanks, thomcatspike, for your wizened (and not a little patronizing) weather lore. I guess the assumption is that anyone with mildly pro-environment views must be a young'un who doesn't know any better?

Anyway, you're right that one year of poor snowboarding in Vancouver is not proof of global warming. It's only when such statistics are looked at in the aggregate (like, for example, in the links that started this thread!) that the pattern emerges.

In any case, global warming isn't the question here, I believe that even the skeptics have accepted that we're in the largest heating trend ever recorded. The only open question is how much impact have humans had on this trend, and whether we should bother trying to do anything about it. And even this question is closing quickly, in the scientific world at least, and in most of the political world as well.

I'm not in favour of dismantling economies, and I'm certainly not a Luddite. But why would anyone just assume that we can't do anything about this? That seems like the worst sort of conservatism to me, pure fear of change. We can change our emission patterns, and we will be better off for having done so.
posted by jeffj at 5:22 PM on December 14, 2002


jeffj - As a matter of fact, the US economy grew, for a period of nearly 10 years in the late 70s through the mid 1980s - with little to no net increase in energy use! So cutting CO2 emissions doesn't equal cutting economic growth. Quite the opposite. Energy consumption is an industrial INPUT. Cut the INPUT cost, and you will boost the PROFIT.

The "dismantling economies" argument is hot air
posted by troutfishing at 5:30 PM on December 14, 2002


The newest wrinkle is: the Earth's climate can lurch from one state to another very, very fast.

Yeah -- one of the possible scenarios is that rising sea temperatures in the North Atlantic could cause a dramatic slowdown in oceanic circulation, shutting down the Gulf Stream and plunging Europe into a deep freeze.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:40 PM on December 14, 2002


I recently finished a course in combustion and the first pages of our text list the amount of different pollutants put out by the United States every year since the 50s. After a big focus on controlling pollution in the 70s, the amount of NOx, SOx, and other pollutants (from cars, factories, etc) are around 50% less, or more for some pollutants, in 1995 than they were in the early 70s. It just shows better pollution control on our part even though there are more cars and factories and so on. But this is for the United States. I don't think all countries have such stringent pollution laws. I know Mexico doesn't.
posted by Ron at 7:30 PM on December 14, 2002


Sonny Jim - Yeah: "thermohaline circulation collapse". I have a page on it here

When I first started tracking this story ~1999, researchers in the field were talking in terms of 50-100 year scenarios for the shutdown of North Atlantic (and thermohaline, in general) circulation. Now, the director of Woods Hole is saying "It's not a matter of 'if' but of 'when' - possibly within a decade."

This is, in my mind, a big story, as in: "Director of world's preeminent Oceanagraphic research Institute predicts world climate catastrophe within 10 years"

Ron - nonetheless, the US, with only about 5% of the world's population, puts out about 25% of world CO2 emissions.
posted by troutfishing at 7:39 PM on December 14, 2002


Then there's the possibility that the global climate is changing and there's nothing we can do, one way or the other, to change it.
posted by tommasz at 7:53 PM on December 14, 2002


Ron - your textbook was accurate, sort of: sure, US autos sold in the 1990's, in general, only put out about 1/100 of the NOx and SOx ( and Lead and other types of pollution) of cars sold in the 50's - except for CO2. CO2 output is a wholly different issue, not covered in your texts - perhaps because the issue is too new: but CO2 is a fundamental (mostly irreducible) by-product of internal combustion. And the key driver of Global Warming. That's the problem.

CO2 cycling is also a major key to biological processes on Earth (see: Tyler Volk, "Gaia's Body").
posted by troutfishing at 7:54 PM on December 14, 2002


Tommasz - this is an untenable position. In the Earth's coupled biological/atmospheric system, human activities are a significant input. We ARE contributing (on the scale of a "geologic" force) to the evolution of the Earth's climate system, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

You can view this process, by satellite photography, from space through NASA's "NASA earth observatory" website. The worldwide yearly burning of biomass is very impressive. (the most intensive burning is in the equatorial region of Africa)

The Earth's temperature and CO2 levels track quite closely together. And we are driving CO2 levels fantastically high (in terms of recent Earth history).
posted by troutfishing at 8:06 PM on December 14, 2002


You can't spend years putting energy into (which is effectively what putting greenhouse gasses into the environment is) a dynamic and nonlinear system and NOT expect some wildly fluctuating behavior in the system.

The real danger is that a greehouse effect may in fact quickly (like in less than a decade) trigger the beginning of the next Ice Age. Think todays global civilization can survive the onset of an Ice Age? I don't.
posted by geekhorde at 9:15 PM on December 14, 2002


troutfishing --

That's a fine collection of links. Thanks.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:02 PM on December 14, 2002


I find it amazing that global warming may result in a little ice age (The New Ice Age). The melting of the polar caps and the disruption of the Atlantic current, really the global current, is terribly fascinating and worth popularizing. I had no idea until very recently that Northern Europe was kept as warm as it is chiefly because of the Atlantic current. I had no idea that there even was a global conveyor circulating the Earth's oceans. I also didn't know how finely balanced the system which drives the entire process is. The more I learn about the situation, the more fascinating and captivating it becomes.

"But now we have received data showing that the [Atlantic] current has decreased by 20 per cent since 1950." - (New Scientist)
Regardless of the cause, the current trends seem to point at this current becoming disrupted, altered, or stopped. And even if it doesn't come about, the processes involved in maintaining this global current is definitely worth learning more about.


posted by YohonTheLarge at 10:15 PM on December 14, 2002


20 years from now? It's already happening.

Exactly,

Record flooding racks Europe and a series of bizarre weather anomalies take place across America including record droughts in Minnesota and record highs for rain in Texas, all during this summer.

I'm not saying its the apocalypse, but things are changing and they're changing now.
posted by eateneye at 10:18 PM on December 14, 2002


Trout- in all seriousness, in regard to your beginning statement "why didn't I do more?"

Sometimes I sure as heck don't know what else to do. Besides the usual driving small vehicles, recycling, using efficient appliances, turning off water etc.. I write GW, my senators, and congressmen letters asking them to put into law more stringent emission controls.
In return I receive letters from the whitehouse, on how hard the president is working to reduce pollutants. He believes his voluntary clean up and control of greenhouse gasses by industry plan is just so much better than the Kyoto protocol.
I hardly think industry is going to be so responsible.
posted by redhead at 10:40 PM on December 14, 2002


This morning, when I was in the auto shop, I was watching that Aussie guy who does stuff with animals in a really patronizing way. Is the show Animal Planet? Anyhow, they were talking about how certain whales will be lost, and up to 1/3 of marine species will be lost due to global cooling. Glad to hear that isn't a problem anyhow. But can we make up our mind on what the big climatic threat is? Is it global cooling, or global warming? Geeez.
posted by jmccorm at 11:42 PM on December 14, 2002


Is it global cooling, or global warming?

It's global idiocy, which knows no bounds.

Just put on a jacket, or swelter in a singlet. You'll be fine.
posted by hama7 at 5:14 AM on December 15, 2002


Just put on a jacket, or swelter in a singlet. You'll be fine.

thank god for you, hama7. for a second there, all these high fallutin' "experts" with their "fancy book learnin'" and "facts" were beginning to rock my fragile frame with waves of anxiety and depression. there's no telling what I may have done had you not compelled me to reach for my izod lacoste sooner.

in other news, does anyone else think it's completely ridiculous that this has been turned into a partisan issue (does anyone else remember seeing Falwell on Crossfire, preaching about how he doesn't believe in global warming?) and thinks that as punishment, mankind should be made to freeze/burn?
posted by mcsweetie at 7:55 AM on December 15, 2002



think wisley.

Did anyone else notice that?!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:30 AM on December 15, 2002


When global weather patterns change, some areas that were hot before will be cooler, and some areas that were cool will be hotter. However, over all, the world is getting hotter. Does that clarify anything, hama7?
posted by Hildago at 8:46 AM on December 15, 2002


And Cananda must be pretty damn excited at the prospects of global warming.

Yep, well, I thought I did, the last couple years in Alberta say that while we get "milder" winters, we also get no precipitation... There was a nasty drought last summer, and seeing as we've had little or no snow yet, next summer is going to be far far worse.
posted by jkaczor at 9:37 AM on December 15, 2002


When global weather patterns change, some areas that were hot before will be cooler, and some areas that were cool will be hotter. However, over all, the world is getting hotter.

Hildago, that's not what I read at all. As troutfishing has pointed out, in welcome and abundant detail, the climate is only a metastable system - picture one of those old butterfly graphics of attraction basins, with multiple "wings". We've (as in everybody on the planet since the Little Ice Age) been enjoying a nice, comfortable region of possibility space, but when some final precipitating event toggles us over into the other "wings," we will neither be able to predict before hand where we'll wind up or, in all likelihood, be able to do much to alter it.

And from that moment onward, we'll inhabit not merely new weather but a new *climate*. That's big news, by anybody's definition, and my money says it'll happen in our lifetimes, artificially hastened if not triggered by the consequences of our shortsightedness as a species. Not that I'm looking forward to it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:35 PM on December 15, 2002


Adamgreenfield - my Metafilter index says stock in "Global Warming Awareness" futures are rising...but the gap between what needs to be done and and what is currently being done about the problem (very little, almost nothing at all) is still huge. So - sudden climate change may very well happen in the next 5-50 years. We could even precipitate it ourselves through some silly Edward Telleresque attempted techno-solution to Global Warming (iron seeding to promote algal growth, for example) which accidentally triggers the system shift to a different climate state.

RedHead - why not shout like hell? - to the general public. Bring out the issue in your local church/temple/synagogue. Bring out the issue in any possible public forum. Arm, yourself with lots of facts and go off to do righteous battle. Why not?

YohonThelarge - Weird, huh? Death by freezing from warming? No wierder than anything else in life though. It just takes a bit of adjustment to get used to the idea. Chaos theory is odd stuff. Counterintuitive.

But think of it this way: take a big 1960's American "muscle" car - a car with a huge (and rebuilt) engine and (old, loose) bad steering, and drive it as fast as it will go on the highway. At a certain point, due to the slop in the steering, the car may begin to oscillate. Soon afterwards it will swerve out of control. This is an illustration of a simple chaotic equation with a delicate threshold between different behavioral states. In this case, the "high speed out of control" state = death for the car's passengers.

SonnyJim - Thanks. My Apologies for not having updated it in a while.
posted by troutfishing at 8:33 PM on December 15, 2002


Where i'm sitting at the moment, 50,000 years ago (a bloody short time in planetary history), there was solid ice one kilometer thick. It's called a natural cycle people, and there's nothing we can do about it. And to think that us puny little humans have anything to do with it whatsoever is naive and utterly self-important.
posted by derbs at 3:58 AM on December 16, 2002


Sorry, derbs, you're wrong. We can make it worse.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:44 AM on December 16, 2002


Whoops, did I just disprove this entire global warming theory? Oh, sorry, it wasn't me, it was a NASA rocket scientist.

Ooooo, 1/20 th of a degree warmer. Time for me to get some stock in Air Conditioning companies!

You see, this is exactly why I don't listen to people like greenpeace, et al. I've had it with their crap. My car pollutes far worse during the summer because these same people who now complain about it's emissions made me install a FAR less effective air conditioner because they believe the marketing hype of a company whose patent was expiring that their product contained a chemical heavier than air which somehow could magically enter the atmosphere and destroy us from above.
posted by shepd at 6:02 AM on December 16, 2002


Shepd - Was this post about the claims of Greenpeace? I thought it was about the reports of the scientific mainstream. Try reading these books (if you have time, or at least the summaries, which are not too long) by the US National Academy of Science on Global Warming. These are the reports on tjhe subject prepared for the US Congress. I posted links to them halfway or so up this thread. Here they are again:

Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (2001) by the NAS Commission on Geosciences, Environment and Resources

Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises - Committee on Abrupt Climate Change, National Research Council (2002)

Also:

Wood's Hole Oceanagraphics Institute on Abrupt Climate Change (Woods Hole is generally considered to be the world's preeminent Oceanagraphic research institute)
posted by troutfishing at 6:49 AM on December 16, 2002


http://anima.freeshell.org/tab4/41carlin.shtml

this guy speaks sense
posted by derbs at 7:19 AM on December 16, 2002


Derbs - So...you derive your opinions on scientific matters from... a comic? You might as well throw in the opinions of the US Knitting Society too.

I like Carlin, but I think he's a bit ignorant on this one. My strategy is to read scientists' views first (as in reports linked above from by US National Acad. of Science) and THEN read the comics.

Sure, the Earth MAY heal itself (if humans manage to destroy themselves). There's also a small chance that it might not and, in any case, we will manage to wipe out, in the process, a considerable percentage of all currently living species.

...Carlin's opinions on this sound funny until you consider the implications of what he's saying. Then he sounds like something else.
posted by troutfishing at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2002


However, a far greater amount of CO2 is contributed to the atmosphere by human activities each year than by volcanic eruptions

My bad I forgot about all the colas and soda pops then you add your beers, as once you pop these tops, CO2 escapes.

CO2 in gas form is carbonation and in solid form dry ice. Never took that into conderation, the sales of carbonated drinks, just hairspray.

So who is willing to give up their carbonated drinks?
posted by thomcatspike at 9:18 AM on December 16, 2002


record highs for rain in Texas, all during this summer.

This has been going on for the last several years but 5 years back we had a draught too.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:22 AM on December 16, 2002


thomcatspike, even if that were true, it would only prove my point further. But it's not. Texas has not had record high rain. It's been record lows the past 5 years with a drought every summer. Besides part of what's so creepy about the record highs this year is that it happened in the wrong month. July is the Texas rain season, not June. This difference made the flooding in Houston deadly.
posted by eateneye at 11:10 AM on December 16, 2002


It sure has rained a lot lately in Dallas. Texas is a large state larger than the largest country in Europe, France. So the climate for me may not be yours too.

So here are some #'s for you to judge the cycle I speak of: Consecutive days without measurable rain. Then you have in 2001 ranked #10 in Greatest days ½" or More with rain.


But can we make up our mind on what the big climatic threat is? Is it global cooling, or global warming?

AVERAGE ANNUAL HIGH TEMPERATURE..... 75.4 -0.9 DEGREES
AVERAGE ANNUAL LOW TEMPERATURE...... 55.8 +1.2 DEGREES
AVERAGE ANNUAL TEMPERATURE.......... 65.6 +0.2 DEGREES
notice the change for high is down but up for the low, so yes a global warming added up this way

Now I would expect this with the earth growing old. Just do what you can do and like what was quoted earlier, think wisely.

But why would anyone just assume that we can't do anything about this?

I think everyone who participated in this thread does care. But our degree in caring is what seperates us. If more cared just a little it would help. And all of us here could see eye to eye better.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:27 PM on December 16, 2002


"The earth growing old"???!?

You lost me. "Old" is an entirely relative term, of course, and rather perplexing in this context, but I wouldn't consider the earth anything remotely like old unless and until its core went cold, solidified, stopped spinning...that kind of thing.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:24 PM on December 16, 2002


Thomcatspike - Whether warming or cooling is the real problem, here's the core of the matter: Known human civilization has emerged during the Holocene era (the last 10-12,000 years) and it isn't a mere coincidence that the Holocene has been noted for it's unusually mild, stable temperatures. The Holocene has been defined by the lack of the greatest of such climate "lurches", and climate scientists attribute it's stability with providing the conditions for the rise of current human civilization.

Meanwhile, it has just emerged that the Earth's climate is inherently unstable (or at least tristable, more accurately) and that it has the capacity to sudden lurch from one climate state to another.

So: the Holocene was the climatic "womb" of current human civilization. And we are pushing at the Holocene climate system with considerable force. Can it hold? Most climate scientists think not. (see US National Academy of Science "Sudden Climate Change" report linked to above)
posted by troutfishing at 7:30 PM on December 16, 2002


troutfishing: Thank you for this wonderful post. Korea has been a horrible place for the environment that has only recently begun to change. Now, pro-enviroment groups are gaining strength and purpose. I have shared these wonderful articles with friends in Korea to help bolster the effort.
posted by Baesen at 9:32 PM on December 16, 2002


Baesan - you're very welcome, and I'm shocked. My metafilter post is influencing the embryonic Korean environmental movement (?!) I guess I'll have to tack on an addendum later today with some more links - Gee, the arm of metafilter is long indeed...I guess I'll have to be especially carefull now! that's a heavy burden of responsibility. no more crass, sarcastic comments for me, I guess *sigh*
posted by troutfishing at 6:37 AM on December 17, 2002


Through the year I have read several references to climates of old similar to climates of today. I wish this post had been posted earlier(but it is about the end of 2002) when I had my facts straighter. I'll try to find and put my facts together in a more uniform pattern. The comments within this thread are triggering my memory, not the articles. Sorry to be so scattered brain.

What I'm referring too are the La Nina & El Nino weather patterns. I have read of similar patterns in history in various journals and books.

I did mention above about the earth growing wider around its waist, the equator. And that is a factor that will add and keep adding to the warming of the earth to which I agree with totally. Also the why's maybe about other things, like killer mosquitos, and fire ants moving further north. Then the killer bees you have a experiment gone a rye, yet they are moving north because of the climate. These are all just one aspect too. Basically I'm on the side that says be wise yet some of this can not be stopped.

I hope I don't sound anti-environmental. But some say, do this, do that, but then doing this won't help. Then what, sit still and do nothing because it may have a future effect that to me may happen w/out me? I guess in this day an age ethics are lost, think wisely too hard for some. So I can see the big campaign. Like don't burn plastic, not too hard of a thought as: why not?. But folks still do, I would think smell alone would tell them a no no.

But I do see cycles and take note, something I do as a noticer. But my age does not make me smarter to the above. I just have seen a pattern to the cycle to which I added too. I don't mind keeping the discussion going. But if I seem to be arguing with you let me know not my intention, as I feel this has been a good suttle discussion of a hot topic. I just wish I could devote enough ample time to straighten where I'm coming from.

But let me ask as this was the 2nd warmest year on record, what do you propose we do? worrying is not an option

I mean right now, you. It was also pointed out to me about volcanic CO2 compared to human released of CO2 something that the scientist change as I repeated a report I read 10 years back and it had to do with Mt. Saint Helena and some other volcanoes in South America during the 80's and 90's.

But I have yet to hear someone say I will not have a cola because of the carbonation, CO2 something I pointed out above. Or I will not use dry ice, a solid form of CO2, for Halloween either.

PS, I do believe the earth will have an end, death just like it had at the beginning, birth. I also belive there was a time when the earth was incrusted with a wall of water like a bubble surrounding it. But this is another thread. So please don't think I'm baiting, just mhop.
Thanks
posted by thomcatspike at 6:19 PM on December 18, 2002


troutfishing rawks.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:56 PM on December 18, 2002


Derbs - I second AdamGreenfield. The idea is now just basic physics. It'sa called "Chaos Theory". In short: imagine a drunk walking down a narrow median in the middle of a busy highway/street in LA. Cars zoom by at high speeds whoosh...whoosh and the drunk is swaying back and forth, almost falling into traffic and then catching himself. one little tap from an outside agent, one wee shove, and he's dead. This is an example of a sudden transition, in a complex, nonlinear equation, (as described by the mathematics of Chaos Theory) from one stable state to a very different (and also stable) one. The transition zone is messy. In the case of the drunk, it' brains on the pavement.

Life/Death: there's often a narrow, ambiguous boundary. So with the Earth's climate. Read the National Academy of Science piece (links earlier in thread, in 2 places) on "Sudden Climate Change" - For more on Chaos Theory, "Chaos", by James Gleick, is great.

Thomcatspike - Well...the Earth has always had it's own semi-periodic, often chaotic climate cycles and events. The El Nino/La Nina cycles are a semi-periodic epiphenomenon. Meaning: semi-regular, short cycles. Longer term climate cycles are, for example, Ice Ages (144,000 year cycles, more or less). The Earth was, until recently, believed to be gradually moving out of the temperate Holocene era (the last 10,000 or so years) towards the next Ice Age. That is, until Global Warming.....

About the Volcanoes - they can have big effects on the atmosphere and on climate, but the human CO2 ouptut equals the eruption of one moderately big volcano every year: and we 'erupt' every year, year after year.

The Earth has a certain capacity for CO2 reuptake (taking CO2 out of the atmosphere) which is accomplished in the short term by plants, trees, algae and so on (photosynthesizers). In the long term the photosynthesizers die and are folded, by geologic processes, back into the earth's crust.

We humans are interfering with this process by digging up the dead photosynthesizers (from millions of years ago) and burning them (in the form of fossil fuels)...

What can we do? First of all. Dump lots of $ into alternative energy and conservation technology - this reduces US reliance on Mideast oil also. And help - with $ - the developing world build it's emerging economies with nonpolluting energy sources. And plan for the INEVITABLE climate changes which are already in the pipeline - as a result of our long term denial of the problem and refusal to do anything about it. So: planning for more extreme, more variable weather. And maybe for rapid climate change of some sort.

This means voting for politicians who have a clue...or more than a clue, even.

AdamGreenfield - Rawks? ...Sounds like a sound a Pterodactyl would make - " Rawk... rawk...rawk...SCREECH!" Maybe I AM a Pterodactyl You, for one, would do well to welcome your new Pterodactyl/reptilian overlord *slaps sense into head with repeated blows* rawk, rawk!

posted by troutfishing at 9:43 PM on December 19, 2002


One thing I have never understood is the unwillingness of countries to spend great amounts of money on developing alternative fuels and power sources. Yes, oil companies are powerful, but come on... It just seems like commonsense, no matter what political philosophy you agree with, that finding alternatives to oil is essential.

I guess it is just more of leaving it to the next generation to deal with. How annoying.
posted by Baesen at 9:58 PM on December 19, 2002


Baesen - here's an interesting group:

The Greenhouse network If you're interesting in doing any speaking on Global Warming, this group does training for that - it could esrve as a model. Also, I have a colection of speeches and sermons on the subject, if you are interested.

and here's a nice blog archive of environmental news stories (the author stopped last july for unknown reason)

I was archiving Greenhouse info until about a year ago on this page
posted by troutfishing at 8:48 AM on December 20, 2002


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