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The Northwest Passage
November 23, 2008 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Scientists are now revising earlier projections about the speed at which global warming will impact the arctic ice sheet. By 2013 it could very well disappear in the summer months, opening up new sea lanes for commerce and, potentially, "a quarter of the earths oil and natural gas resources". Several arctic countries are thinking ahead, while it appears others have been for quite some time.
posted by Glibpaxman (47 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
We're so fucked.
posted by rtha at 9:31 PM on November 23, 2008


Have you been incubating this post since 2007?
posted by nasreddin at 9:36 PM on November 23, 2008


i saw this in The Atlantic and suddenly everything made sense.

"yo america, why ignore global warming?!? its gonna kill everyone!!"
"because its going to make me ridiculously wealthy and cut china out of the picture."
posted by Glibpaxman at 9:43 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


We're so fucked.

. . . but we'll have great toys!
posted by D.C. at 10:06 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


That BBC article is dated April, 2007. It is, shall we say, obsolete.

It turns out that the Arctic ice this autumn has been freezing and growing at a much faster rate than expected, for the coming winter. It also turns out that the earth has been cooling since 1997, and data to the contrary is turning out to be faked.
posted by Class Goat at 10:45 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Now this is science we can believe in.
posted by fatllama at 11:00 PM on November 23, 2008


the BBC article was meant to be old news. the new information is here, in the atlantic. I do admit that my link to NASA is a bit old, but heres a newer one thats better anyways.

As for cooling since 1997 you are incorrect. the earth had been warming significantly until too much newly melted freshwater from the Greenland ice sheet and Antarctica disrupted the jetstreams and currents, severely impacting climates worldwide. In fact, thanks for your comment. The link above is a ny times article claiming we dont need to worry about climate change because we hadn't seen rapid chilling effects yet.
posted by Glibpaxman at 11:02 PM on November 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Class Goat for the Troll!!!

To save people the time of picking apart the Telegraph's malicious, crappy reporting...

Every month, the GISS releases their data for the last month so that anyone who is interested can inspect it. This is good old scientific transparency. The GISS doesn't make *any* monthly announcement regarding trends in their climate change data. You can check their website (http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/) to confirm, or do like I did and spend some time searching the tubes for copies of a press release that might have been removed (didn't find any...). What GISS does is release their data from the last month for analysis and interpretation by whoever is interested. There is a whole culture concerned with looking into GISS and other climate data, kinda like amateur/independent astronomy except with a strong contingent of politically motivated groups. So, what happened is that the data was released for inspection, the obvious inconsistency was spotted, and GIS now has egg on their face for not recognizing that something was wrong with the data.

The nice thing about this kind of transparency is that when the GISS releases its yearly report, which does contain statements of actual trends seen in the data, the bad data will have been replaced by the correct numbers (which were recorded and kept, but not transmitted because of a software glitch). All of the people who are crying foul and wondering what else the GISS might be fudging, or insisting that the GIS is committing scientific fraud, are not recognizing that the groups and individuals that spotted this error have been investigating every iota of released data just as stringently for years now. This mistake and a few others have been acknowledged and corrected by the GISS. Personally, I'd rather see the GISS and the rest of NASA funded adequately (yay space elevator!) so that mistakes are not made and real progress is, but I can't complain about outside watchdogs that improve the end product. The way the groups benefiting from the GISS's transparency manipulate that openness is sickening and infuriating.

The Telegraph story also claims that GISS made things more confusing “because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new "hotspot" in the Arctic.” That bothered me, so I went to the GISS data archives and started looking at their global temperature maps. The initial release of the October 2008 data was missing a large portion of the data for the Arctic region above Canada. A revised release showed that data, and a newer revised release no longer does. If you look at previous years, data for that region is always available, and it is apparent that the temperature fluctuation is considerable – a hot spot does not seem remarkable in that area. I guess if all you do is look at the initial release of the data and the first revision and don't bother to check whether the initial release was a complete set or what the previous behavior was, you come up with the idea that GISS conveniently came up with a new hot spot when the one over Russia turned out to be bad data.

Science! slays troll, news at 11.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:09 PM on November 23, 2008 [10 favorites]


For the first time in human history, the North Pole can be circumnavigated. However the likelihood of Titanic-like disasters is probably high. The Beluga Group mentioned in the Article is an innovative Heavy Lift Project Cargo Shipping Company who have pioneered Skysails.
posted by adamvasco at 11:19 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Science! slays troll

Of course, that situation you described is more like Trolls Point Out Mistake, Help Advance Science, Science Gets Snippy.

The results as-is were published and resulted in the "hottest month evar!" headlines that you should be writing 3 paragraphs correcting, as well.
posted by FuManchu at 12:39 AM on November 24, 2008


FuManChu:

Nothing was published in the journalistic sense and nothing was claimed - rough data was made available. Someone using that rough data to claim that the GISS announced October as the hottest month on record is flat out lying by purposefully misrepresenting how this sort of data review process works. I think Science has a right to get snippy when the people benefiting from an open process start manipulating it for purely political ends. If the group that spotted this had referred the error to GISS and waited on a response, that would be something entirely different. Instead, an attack campaign was mounted making a number of false or misinformed claims. There was no attempt at an open, scientific dialog by the people who discovered the mistake. This is not how good, productive science works.

So now the vast echo chamber of libertarian and climate change denial blogs is endlessly repeating these falsehoods, making informed discourse harder for everyone. I hardly had to think while writing those three lengthy paragraphs; I've had this argument with every one of my libertarian friends in the past few weeks. It gets old.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 1:03 AM on November 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


That BBC article is dated April, 2007. It is, shall we say, obsolete.

It is also, shall we say, highlighting the words "earlier projections". That should, shall we say, give you an idea what the article refers to. There are also, shall we say, other links in the FPP.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:45 AM on November 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Actually I agree that the whole Political Chick Tract thing is tiresome. I think I would be on your side if I had more friends like yours. I currently hear more of the Gore-inspired catastrophe predictions from people just as ignorant as any denier.
posted by FuManchu at 3:03 AM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hope the bird flu gets us before we manage to completely disrupt the biosphere, but it may already be too late.

/cathartic pessimism
posted by asok at 4:15 AM on November 24, 2008


I think Class Goat is referring to information such as mentioned on the Register here (also). The Register also has an article about the October figures here.

Its also curious how this global warming may well have happened in the 1730s. And earlier last century:

"The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from Consul Ifft, at Bergen, Norway. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds."
US Weather Bureau in 1922.

It certainly is an intriguing debate. But it strikes me that those that do believe in global warming are much fiercer* at defending their beliefs than those who deny global warming is our fault.

* which is probably the main reason I fall into the deny camp. Also I like Jeramy Clarkson.
posted by 13twelve at 4:59 AM on November 24, 2008


I think Class Goat is referring to information such as mentioned on the Register

And I think Class Goat was refering to the BBC link. I base this assumption entirely on him posting "That BBC article is ... obsolete".

It certainly is an intriguing debate. But it strikes me that those that do believe in global warming are much fiercer* at defending their beliefs than those who deny global warming is our fault.

* which is probably the main reason I fall into the deny camp. Also I like Jeramy Clarkson.


What does this prove, one way or the other? Because you don't like people "fiercely" arguing their beliefs, this is the "main reason" you fall into the deny camp? Fierceness? What?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:05 AM on November 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Its also curious how this global warming may well have happened in the 1730s. And earlier last century:

I don't understand why this is relevant at all. The point isn't whether global warming is occurring, it's how much and how fast. And you might want to bone up on your history: industry and population growth were already at high levels by 1922.
posted by nasreddin at 5:50 AM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


What does this prove, one way or the other? Because you don't like people "fiercely" arguing their beliefs, this is the "main reason" you fall into the deny camp? Fierceness? What?

Seconded. Heaven forbid someone tackle disinformation on an important subject "fiercely"!

And on the subject of the FPP -- it boggles the mind, but perhaps doesn't surprise, that the melting of the ice caps are seen not as a sign that maybe we should stop heat-sealing our atmosphere, but instead as an opportunity to pig-headedly continue doing so, and on an even grander scale. Oh, and to have another world-wide battle while we're at it. Because those are always fun.
posted by Drexen at 6:10 AM on November 24, 2008


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, nasreddin, Drexen - why are you so adament that you are right? Why are you so prepared to believe this and not believe there was weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Comically, you all further my point on how you defend your beliefs; insults, sarcasm and the assumption moral high ground.

Such eager vitriol - I imagine its how western Europeons felt towards their religious beliefs a few hundred years ago.
posted by 13twelve at 7:25 AM on November 24, 2008


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, nasreddin, Drexen - why are you so adament that you are right? Why are you so prepared to believe this and not believe there was weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Comically, you all further my point on how you defend your beliefs; insults, sarcasm and the assumption moral high ground.

Eh. I think it's everyone's responsibility to defend their beliefs with whatever tools they have available. In my experience, whenever someone plays the shrinking violet and starts complaining about how mean people are, it's because they can't argue on a more substantive level. The fact that you appear to disbelieve in global warming because people are just so gosh darned adamant that it's true suggests to me that you're worthy of being mocked, not seriously engaged with.
posted by nasreddin at 7:43 AM on November 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


So the correct way to defend what you believe is to ridicule others who do not share your beliefs?

"I'm right therefore everyone else is a jackass."

Shakey ground that, nasreddin.
posted by 13twelve at 7:57 AM on November 24, 2008


Shakey ground that, nasreddin.

That's just, like, your opinion, man.

Do you find "Everyone else is a jackass, therefore they're wrong" any firmer?
posted by nasreddin at 8:03 AM on November 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Comically, you all further my point on how you defend your beliefs; insults, sarcasm and the assumption moral high ground.

So let me see if I understand you correctly: you basically admit siding with global warming deniers because you find that some of those who believe in global warming are "more fierce" than the deniers - that this is the main reason you are in the deniers camp. In other words, with no foundation in science or facts; you just don't like some of the people who argue global warming exists. But we're assuming the moral high ground?

Yeah, forgive me if sarcasm comes into play here. But come on.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:05 AM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well that depends on whether everyone else is indeed, a jackass, or not :-)
posted by 13twelve at 8:06 AM on November 24, 2008


Well that depends on whether everyone else is indeed, a jackass, or not :-)

Jeremy Clarkson certainly is. And I say that with the most restrained fierceness.

"No one's ever driven to the top of this mountain before! Let's hop in this SUV and be the first."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:15 AM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know who else was a jackass???
posted by garlic at 8:17 AM on November 24, 2008


I would love it if any further discussion of who is and is not a jackass could go somewhere else, folks. Like, on the double.
posted by cortex at 8:19 AM on November 24, 2008


So the correct way to defend what you believe is to ridicule others who do not share your beliefs?

Global warming is not a matter of belief, it is a matter of accepting multiple lines of evidence that the earth is warming, and that human activity is responsible for a great part of that warming. If there is data that contradicts those multiple lines of evidence then there can be a scientific debate. If, however, that data turns out to repeatedly be ignorant assertions that have been thoroughly debunked many times over then we're left with scientists playing "whack-a-mole" with obstructionists.

As Gavin Schmidt says in a current thread on RealClimate, "There is nothing wrong with talking about real uncertainty (aerosol microphysics and the indirect effect, tropical convection, the impacts of ocean eddies) and I’d be happy to. But this continued elevation of nonsense over thought is tiresome."

If you go to the American Geophysical Union meeting in a couple of weeks you'll likely see fierce arguments about the real uncertainties that Schmidt mentions as scientists try to tease out the intricacies of how the climate system operates and how to design experiments to reduce the uncertainties. What you won't see is anyone repeatedly saying "The world stopped warming in 1998" and then offering no evidence each time that claim is debunked.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:20 AM on November 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


I was commenting on the nature of the debate between those who do belief and those who deny.

From my observations people who deny quote or link to information/disinformation in a very matter of fact fashion - such as Class Goat earlier in this comment string.

Where as quickly and without provocation people who belief in mans influence on global warming turn to insults - such as articulate flaming being directed towards me.



Also, you really should both look up who Jeramy Clarkson is, if you havent come accross any MeFi posts on him. You'll *really* like him :-)
posted by 13twelve at 8:20 AM on November 24, 2008


(rats believe not belief in my third sentace)
posted by 13twelve at 8:23 AM on November 24, 2008


The OFA says we're in for global cooling.

If it was good enough for great-grampa Moses Balrog it's good enough for me!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:51 AM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I always believed that so-called 'climate change' was a communist conspiracy designed to deprive us of our rightful gas. But now you say it will open up access to a quarter of the world's oil reserves? Maybe there's something in it after all...
posted by Phanx at 8:54 AM on November 24, 2008


From my observations people who deny quote or link to information/disinformation in a very matter of fact fashion - such as Class Goat earlier in this comment string.

Where as quickly and without provocation people who belief in mans influence on global warming turn to insults - such as articulate flaming being directed towards me.


I notice something similar when people spout the same tired Moon-landing hoax arguments over and over again. Maybe that just means believers of anthropogenic Moon-landing are tired of debunking the same crap over and over again, and not that the Moon landing was a hoax.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:08 AM on November 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Man, this thread is pretty much a summary of america in a nutshell. Maybe the rest of the world too, but I'm less equipped to comment.

We are so epically fucked it's not even funny. And global climate change is likely the least of our problems.
posted by stet at 10:06 AM on November 24, 2008


well gee, i wanted to discuss how crazy it was that Alaska, Canada, and Russia would soon control all of humankind's commerce and trade and what that would mean for all of us. when will we come to a consensus on the fact that 2+2 does in fact equal 4?
posted by Glibpaxman at 10:36 AM on November 24, 2008


when will we come to a consensus on the fact that 2+2 does in fact equal 4

Probably when rappers tell us so.
posted by 13twelve at 10:55 AM on November 24, 2008


OMFG I cannot resist responding to 13twelve's blithe comment.

Kanye West and other artists tell us that 2 + 2 does indeed equal 4. You are a brave soul to stand against the combined weight of science and pop culture.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:09 AM on November 24, 2008


13twelve it would raise the discourse here if you would like to make some valid arguments. You know; a bit loftier than being a fanboy for that car man who makes trollish statements with no substance to back them up. Why do you think the melt in the Artic is greater than ever before?
posted by adamvasco at 11:33 AM on November 24, 2008




Derive the Hamiltonian of... - science perhaps. Pop culture, ah, your right. Global warming is happening its all our fault. I feel terrible :-)



Truthfully I'm totally unsure what to believe. The same people that tell me the world is getting warmer tell me all sorts of other questionable things that I am expected to believe also, such as the earlier mentioned weapons of mass destruction.

Though denying it, is a bit like saying "smoking doesn't cause cancer". Just because you cannot definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt prove it either way; yet all the evidence points to one irrefutable conclusion.

But I can offer hyphothetical scenarios (one of these will just be salacious):
- The mean output of the sun has slightly altered. It doesnt seem unreasonable to me that a fraction of a percent change in the output of the sun could cause large consequences here on Earth.
- The radius of our orbit from the has shrunk by some small amount. So now a parsec is less than it was. And so the increase of energy per square foot on our planet has increased. The orbit could have changed as part of a larger chain of gravitational pulls, or perhaps the Earth performs some sort of work on an interstella body much as the moon does on our oceans, and so lost some of its kinetic energy.
- The deforestation of the planet, the rise of industry and the immensely wasteful cultures of the world have changed the environment in such a way that more heat gets trapped in.
- Some how the laws of physics have changed.
- Too many eager lefty nerds talking to much sh*t


The first 2 do not seem un reasonable to me.
The 3rd is obviously fiction :-p
The fourth, unless one of us is like Q, seems unlikely.
The fifth, because I couldnt resist.
posted by 13twelve at 12:26 PM on November 24, 2008


The first two would easily be detected by modern astronomy.
The fourth appears to be occurring. It would be vastly entertaining to see someone try to link this to climate change.

The people who told you about WMDs were at the same time downplaying the certainty and impact of climate change by altering reports from government scientists.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 12:51 PM on November 24, 2008


I'm still baffled as to how WMDs (???) and rappers (?!?) have managed to make their way into a perfectly rational and intellectually stimulating Jeramy Clarkson-bashing thread.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:58 PM on November 24, 2008


He's a real charmer, that's for sure. I loved that bit he did on identity theft. Such a hoot.

Oh yeah, global warming. Believe it.
posted by fartknocker at 1:24 PM on November 24, 2008


Homunculus link about the Tibetan glaciers is an interesting read, including this tidbit:

But when the team analyzed samples of glacier, what they found stunned them. Glaciers around the planet are usually dated by looking for two pulses of radioactivity buried in the ice. These are the leftovers from American and Russian atomic bomb testing in the 1950's and 1960's.

I had no idea that's how they dated them... a little scary that the radiation is that pervasive.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 1:54 PM on November 24, 2008


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing...:

A serious answer. The global and regional system of centralized power and wealth that drives environmental degradation is also responsible for the social and economic injustice reflected in rap and other art forms. As much as rap has been co-opted by suburban teenagers and transformed into part of the consumerist collective, it still has strong roots in real issues of social, economic, and environmental injustice. I find myself listening to Burial and other dubstep artists when reading or writing on environmental issues because the music, to me, perfectly recreates the feel/discontents of modern urbanity (cities are my environmental focus of choice). It's all intertwined.

Glibpaxman, I'm really sorry about the complete derailing of your thread, and I apologize for my part in it. Epic fail.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 1:54 PM on November 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


if we didnt have to fight an old war about "is global warming real?!? lolz." then i say epic interesting. i didnt know about the rappers, homonculus' link was added some depth, and so did adamvasco. almost everyone raised good points but i think the defining issue is being missed.

I don't think arguing about whether or not this is a real phenomenon is worth the time or effort anymore. And even though i work in the non-profit environmental field, I dont think its possible to stop. The major powers of the industrialized north want the icecaps to melt and they are the ones producing all the CO2 to make it happen.

The real question is what to do once there is unprecedented access to the north and south poles and how to deal with the global mess it will leave behind.
posted by Glibpaxman at 5:35 PM on November 24, 2008


A solid guide to help understand what informed skeptics think is the book A Skeptical Layman's Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming. It's available there as a free 84 page pdf download.

It's also worth noting for skeptics that there are a lot of scientists who doubt global warming as this list shows.

It's also worth looking at the UAH, GISS and HADCRUT temperature data. The data indicates that things have warmed at about 0.16 K per decade over the past 20-30 years.
posted by sien at 11:51 PM on November 24, 2008


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