Monthly Archives: February 2014

Except the Facts

An interesting play on words… I thought. After Wednesday’s program with Dr. Michael Mann, our latest guest for the Distinguished Lecturer Series here at Northwest Missouri State University, I have to say that I’ve gained a bit of a new perspective on things. I tried to convey in my last post that our attachment to “global warming” as a catch phrase, made it easy pickings for the naysayers. From my perspective, it’s an inadequate descriptor for our current global condition. It has fallen prey to our quick snippet information society. I’m sad to admit, but glad to understand that I failed to recognize and ACCEPT the science for what it is… scientific fact. So.. “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet” Juliet asked the right question; although about love, not science.

As a part of our information society, my skepticism about skepticism leaves me as short sighted sometimes as those deniers, naysayers, and revisionists that I’ve come to distrust over the years. Climate change is a major threat to our civilization as we know it, but rising global temperatures is the cause. OK, then why so warm? Utilizing science, as venerable as say that which brought us cutting edge technology like the thermometer, we know that changes in the combination or concentration of different gases in our seas and atmosphere can effect the effect of the sun’s effect on Earth’s temperature. (Three effects in one sentence…Outlandish! Irresponsible! An obvious attempt to perpetuate the myth of global warming!)

All humor aside, Dr. Mann and a vast number of leading of scientists (pretty vague and subjective for any true scientist) recognize that the thermometer doesn’t lie. The effects of this temperature increase¬†are being documented, and without our ability to use scientific methods to predict long-term outcomes, we will merely be the reporter to future humans of what they missed. If we plan on feeding 7 billion people, we had better predict and plan for the location of our planet’s next “Bread Basket”.

Check out Dr. Mann’s mystical “Hockey Stick” and see for yourself. I Google “climate hockey stick”, and just let the flood gates open. I appreciate the reference and the importance of a hockey stick to humankind, but maybe it would be more catchy if there was one of those cartoon exploding thermometers at the top right? Unfortunately I don’t think anyone would use a thermometer if they exploded after raising only 8 degrees.

There is no crystal ball to predict the future, but I’m pretty sure that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius (depending on elevation and a few other variables). Based on my extensive scientific background, I know that when I light the burner on my stove it transfers heat to the pot, which in turn passes that on to my water until it reaches the point that the water boils. As a civilization, what’s our burner? There is a correlation with the byproducts of fossil fuel use and the changing concentrations of naturally occurring gases in our air and water. Welcome to the Anthropocene. Another topic worth a Google or two.

Return

In the months since this last posted, very few things have changed on this planet of ours. Mother Nature still takes the upper hand when we least expect it; however, science is not completely oblivious when it comes to the frequency and severity of modern weather events. Somehow, in our catch phrase hungry society, someone thought that “global warming” was something people could get behind. If the science is good, or at least reasonable, then of course people will set aside their selfish needs as consumers and embrace a more ecologically sound approach to life. I guess that seems reasonable, but try to sell global warming to a commuter stuck for 20 hrs. in the ice and snow on the highway in Atlanta a couple weeks back… Nothing warm about that.

We hear now that “Climate Change is Real, just look around.” Interestingly, as the current “masters of our world”, we may have come up with a catch phrase that will stick. Unfortunately, we didn’t make that one up. The climate has been shifting since there has been a climate on Earth. Geological events, triggered by nature, are clearly recorded throughout the planet. Einstein said that “Time is an Illusion”. I think the illusion is that we believe we can grasp the vastness of geologic time. For my six year old, everything seemed to have happened “yesterday”, and like a child struggling to understand the concept of “next Tuesday”, humanity consistently views long-term in the framework of centuries and millennia.

Some scientists say that humans have upset the balance, and are responsible for changing our climate. Others, taking a page from the playbook of the tobacco use health risk denial team, point again to “questionable science” or at least the reasonable doubt raised about global warming during the coldest recorded January ever. The Reality Is… that we are the next force of nature. 6 billion humans, regardless of their actions, will impact our planet. For me the only questions are, how long will it take for nature to adapt and will the next climate have room for us?

Anthropocene. Look that one up. Its nothing mysterious, or even contentious.
Heard of “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert? I hadn’t either until last night’s Daily Show