Thursday, October 15, 2009

Global Climate Change: Don't just act -- THINK!

Today is Blog Action Day 2009 and I registered for the event this time because this year's topic is near and dear to my heart... Global Climate Change.

Note we don't call it "global warming" any more because, whatever may the case in some localities, and particularly at the poles, the Earth isn't warming uniformly. Today marks the 18th day in a row of below average temperatures in Chicago -- following one of the coolest summers on record.

Now, don't get excited: I'm not one of those skeptics come to scoff. Climate change has been happening on Earth for billions of years. Climate change will continue on Earth for billions of years more, regardless of the fate of our own species, until Sol swells to a red giant and Earth is either swallowed whole or the last remnants of our atmosphere are scattered to the cosmos and only a floating cinder remains.

At least at one point, according to some scientists, Earth was frozen almost solid (the "Snowball Earth" hypothesis). At other points, scientists believe, Earth has apparently had tropical climates at its poles. Now that's climate change.

But how like humans, having finally figured out that Earth's climate is not static, to forget about the rhythms of Nature and believe instead that they -- we! -- are the cause of Earth's changing. Industry is to be blamed! Carbon dioxide!

Yet, livestock were grazed in Greenland -- never as verdant a land as the Vikings' sales brochures suggested, but far more hospitable then than of late. Then the ice returned... and the European colony died out. Climate change.

The Sahara Desert was -- not long ago on a planetary time scale -- a lush green paradise, with exotic animals. Australia, now entering a dry cycle, was also once far more lush. Climate change. Nobody believed the Aborigines when the Aborigines said so -- but their cultural memory, going back tens of thousands of years, is being confirmed with each new scientific discovery. Climate change again.

And in none of these incidents were humans to blame.

The Mayas of Mexico and Central America may have lost their empire due to climate change. Or to political upheaval caused by climate change, which is much the same thing. The Cahokia Mound Builders, here in the American Midwest, were masters of water and wood and nature... until they were wiped out. Was it climate change there too? Or ecological disaster directly attributable to human construction? Was it some combination of factors? The American Southwest may be entering an entirely predictable dry cycle. Climate change, surely -- but has it been prompted or retarded by our building up of Las Vegas and Phoenix, or by our draining of the Colorado? Or is all of our activity irrelevant to Nature's pattern?

In my lifetime, the science of meteorology has grown by leaps and bounds. Satellites getting a truly global picture of weather patterns have enabled scientists to see dust clouds crossing from the Americas to Africa... and give us a better than even chance of knowing whether it will rain at this weekend's picnic.

But the science is young, and the predictive models are incomplete. If we can't tell, on Thursday, whether it will be sunny by kickoff on Sunday, how can we accept, as gospel, dire predictions that all coastal cities will be inundated in 50 years' time? Ocean levels have risen and fallen before -- climate change -- and they will rise and fall again. But when? Why?

All the greenhouse gases produced in mankind's industrial present can be dwarfed in an instant by the release of carbon dioxide buried in Siberia... or released in the next (and largely unpredictable) volcanic eruption.

Does all this sound too much like resignation? That I advocate sitting idly by and drowning, if that be our fate?

No. That's not what I think.

I think that the climatologists and meteorologists should join hands with paleontologists and archeologists and anthropologists and historians and start to figure things out together... using all the evidence... and not just that unique to their disciplines. We must keep studying... and learning... and evaluating the evidence with open minds.

Let's seriously explore alternatives to fossil fuels -- but not because this will Save The World. Eliminating the need for gasoline may not -- when all the evidence is in -- have any measurable effect on climate change. It is, however, the right thing to do from the standpoint of responsible stewardship of the planet -- and it will enhance western security by taking the Petrodollars from the Wahhabis' pockets, thereby stifling the growth of Islamic extremism.

In the meantime, don't talk to me about carbon credits. Recycle your paper. Recycle aluminum. Use CFL's instead of incandescent bulbs. If you live in a water-poor area, redouble your conservation efforts. Stop using so many plastic bottles. These small actions, multiplied over a multitude, will make a positive difference. Just maybe not to climate change.

And that's OK.


Amy said...

I am not sure if we have any effect on global warming but I think we still need to be energy efficient and help the environment.

The Curmudgeon said...

Amy, you have my point exactly... only ever so much more succinctly.

Sarge Charlie said...

Well said my friend.

edwin sanchez said...

Once the deep mystery of “climate change” has been solved
And “What’s green and causes CC?” is no longer a popular riddle,
The legacy of the era most likely will be:
“Never in recorded history have so many made so much over so little”.
(With apologies to the late, great Winston Churchill).

Amazing Gracie said...

A very thoughtful post. I totally agree with the Wahhabis being cutoff!

I read your last two posts and really wish you could get a column in your newspaper. We have a local guy, Herb Benham (The Bakersfield Californian) who writes about everyday "stuff." I'd certainly read you everyday!

Jeni said...

I really appreciated your words in this post today -very down-to-earth, common sense approach. Good ideas in it!
And I agree too with Amazing Gracie about you writing a column. Who do we contact to nominate your for said position?