Monday, March 17, 2008

Frightening to say the least.

This article from The Guardian, a long-standing, independent news source in the UK, caught my eye today. Summary (in their words):

Global warming is doubling the rate of sea level rise around the world, but attempts to stop it by cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be futile, leading researchers will warn today...The oceans will rise nearly half a metre by the end of the century, forcing coastlines back by hundreds of metres, the researchers claim...The analysis showed that during the past 5,000 years, sea levels rose at a rate of around 1mm each year, caused largely by the residual melting of icesheets from the previous ice age. But in the past 150 years, data from tide gauges and satellites show sea levels are rising at 2mm a year.

More damning evidence comes from another study cited in the article:
In two further studies, also published in Science, a team of German researchers put figures on the extent to which the climate is warming compared with any time during the past 650,000 years. They report that levels of the most ubiquitous greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, are rising 200 times faster than could be caused by any natural process. Carbon dioxide levels are now 380 parts per million, some 27% higher and methane levels 130% higher than at any time over the period they analysed.

For me, that's worrisome.

The article goes beyond simply presenting the data and says there is really not a damn thing we can do about it. The sea level will rise, beach-front property will become submerged and the hippies that live a few blocks back will become millionaires. That, literally, could happen.

So why, of all people, do I sound so nonchalant about this disturbing news? First off, it is not surprising to me, it simply reinforces what I know to be, more or less, true. These are appearing in scientific journals, sources of information that are not biased in any direction (or, I should say, they are the least biased sources available). But, I can tell, I'm going to go off on a tangent and lose my original point.

Why isn't this scary? Because no one else gives a rat's ass so why should I? Let me explain..

In keeping up with this blog, I have taught myself a very important lesson about people: nothing gets done until it has to, for one reason or another. On the small scale, people stay in marriages that don't work for decades before finally giving up and wishing they had done so long ago. People waste away in jobs, letting their talent stagnate and atrophy until they feel like there is nothing else around them. Some people ignore growths, symptoms, and poor health until they collapse or reach a critical mass (no pun intended) and end up in the hospital.

On a larger scale, our industries pollute water sources and nature repeatedly until a sharp increase in some kind of mal effect appears and then they move on to a different spot. We're letting our economic situation get worse and worse and worse until... who knows what will swing it back around (*cough* Obama *cough*)? And we will continue down this path until 10K/100K/1mil/10mil/100mil people die or are displaced before massive action begins.

We're seeing the beginnings of very important changes (political leaders citing the environment as an issue [finally], people changing their buying behavior, a fantastic new green culture and community) but we're not going to see any preemptive changes that make a big difference. We will see a scrambling after something major happens and can be undeniably tied to human behavior. I'll be honest; I'm a little scared to think about what has to/might/will happen before this change occurs. I'm not an alarmist and I'm not an extremist but I think the direction we are going is ridiculous and irresponsible and I think that a huge population of people will pay the price - if that hasn't happened already.

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