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Worse Than We Thought

September 25, 2009

Every new global warming study seems to paint a worse picture, with yesterday’s downside scenario as today’s baseline. Now it seems we might have passed the tipping point:

“Climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the world’s leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges, a much faster and broader scale of change than forecast just two years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program.

…The increase is nearly double what scientists and world policymakers have identified as the upper limit of warming the world can afford in order to avert catastrophic climate change.”

Remember, it is the low-income countries that will suffer most, from famine, from rising sea levels. Keep that in mind as the American right continues to insist on its God-given right to consume what it wishes, to drive what it wishes, evening opposing the most miniscule attempts at capping emissions. This is one of the gravest moral issues of our time.

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10 Comments
  1. Mark Gordon permalink
    September 25, 2009 11:42 am

    If this new report is true and we have passed the tipping point (and I have no reason to doubt that it is true), the real question isn’t how badly we’ve screwed things up, but what our response should be now. For a long time the most interesting debate has been between among those who favor steps to prevent warming at this scale, those who advocate planned adaptation in order to ameliorate the effects of warming at this scale, and those who advocate a mix of both prevention and adaptation (I’m leaving out of the discussion those who deny climate change altogether, and thus counsel doing nothing).

    It seems to me that if we’ve crossed the tipping point the weight of the debate has shifted to the side advocating adaptation rather than prevention. And this makes sense. If we can no longer prevent catastrophic impacts from warming, we had better put all our energy and genius into adaptation.

  2. awakaman permalink
    September 25, 2009 12:39 pm

    I know this is an over used quote but I still like it. I get tired of the “Chicken Little” mentality of environmentalists.

    It reminds me of when I was younger and all you heard was Lake Erie is DEAD, DEAD, DEAD and nothing we can do will ever bring it back to life. It didn’t take it that long to be resurrected.

    “You think man can destroy the planet? What intoxicating vanity. Let me tell you about our planet. Earth is four-and-a-half-billion-years-old. There’s been life on it for nearly that long, 3.8 billion years. Bacteria first; later the first multicellular life, then the first complex creatures in the sea, on the land. Then finally the great sweeping ages of animals, the amphibians, the dinosaurs, at last the mammals, each one enduring millions on millions of years, great dynasties of creatures rising, flourishing, dying away — all this against a background of continuous and violent upheaval. Mountain ranges thrust up, eroded away, cometary impacts, volcano eruptions, oceans rising and falling, whole continents moving, an endless, constant, violent change, colliding, buckling to make mountains over millions of years. Earth has survived everything in its time. It will certainly survive us. If all the nuclear weapons in the world went off at once and all the plants, all the animals died and the earth was sizzling hot for a hundred thousand years, life would survive, somewhere: under the soil, frozen in Arctic ice. Sooner or later, when the planet was no longer inhospitable, life would spread again. The evolutionary process would begin again. It might take a few billion years for life to regain its present variety. Of course, it would be very different from what it is now, but the earth would survive our folly, only we would not. If the ozone layer gets thinner, ultraviolet radiation sears the earth, so what? Ultraviolet radiation is good for life. It’s powerful energy. It promotes mutation, change. Many forms of life will thrive with more UV radiation. Many others will die out. Do you think this is the first time that’s happened? Think about oxygen. Necessary for life now, but oxygen is actually a metabolic poison, a corrosive glass, like fluorine. When oxygen was first produced as a waste product by certain plant cells some three billion years ago, it created a crisis for all other life on earth. Those plants were polluting the environment, exhaling a lethal gas. Earth eventually had an atmosphere incompatible with life. Nevertheless, life on earth took care of itself. In the thinking of the human being a hundred years is a long time. A hundred years ago we didn’t have cars, airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a whole different world, but to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try. We’ve been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we’re gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us. “

    – Michael Chrichton – Jurasic Park

  3. Mark Gordon permalink
    September 25, 2009 2:34 pm

    Right. It is NOT the planet that is threatened. The planet will be fine no matter what we do because it is resilient enough to absorb almost unlimited shocks. We, however, are not quite so resilient. Or, the conditions necessary for sustaining 6 billion of us are not quite so resilient.

    The planet isn’t threatened. We are.

  4. September 25, 2009 3:12 pm

    Why is Michael Crichton being quoted as an expert?

  5. September 25, 2009 3:29 pm

    The idea that the earth is indestructible is astonishingly naive and anthropologically ahistorical.

    • September 25, 2009 4:14 pm

      Michael

      I would also add doctrinally unsound. It’s quite clear human relationship with the earth affects the earth by our sins.

  6. September 25, 2009 5:00 pm

    Good point! All of creation groans…

  7. Mark Gordon permalink
    September 25, 2009 5:03 pm

    The idea that the earth is indestructible is astonishingly naive and anthropologically ahistorical.

    How could there possibly be an anthropological dimension to the question of whether the earth – not humanity, but the earth – is destructible? When in the history of life of man has the question been answered, one way or another?

    As a physical system, the earth is certainly not indestructible, and no one has claimed that it is. The claim is that human beings don’t have the capacity to destroy the planet, per se. We do, however, have the capacity to destroy the uniquely balanced ecosystem upon which we depend for survival.

  8. awakaman permalink
    September 26, 2009 6:36 pm

    “Why is Michael Chrichton being cited as an expert?”

    Why is Al Gore cited as an expert on the same subject? At least Chrichton had a medical degree which at least showed he had some expertise in the area of science.

    The main point dealt with the resiliance of the earth – despite what the chicken littes say. Again, four decades ago people were saying that Lake Erie was lost forever. Just a few dacades later it is well on its way to normal.

  9. September 26, 2009 11:56 pm

    How could there possibly be an anthropological dimension to the question of whether the earth – not humanity, but the earth – is destructible?

    Poorly worded, I admit, but I assumed you would know that I meant the idea of the earth being destroyed by human beings. Others seemed to know what I was talking about. So obviously there is an anthropological dimension. Your claim that humans cannot destroy the earth does not seem to take into account the increasingly severe capacities human beings have with regard to the planet, which is why I said “ahistorical.”

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