A little over a month ago, I wrote a blog called Having Faith in Science
. In it, I described how some people don't "believe" in global warming or climate change, as if their beliefs could somehow negate the facts and evidence. My takeaway quote was "Certainty in the absence of evidence is faith, and faith is not science". There is an abundance of evidence that our planet began warming at a very fast rate with the onset of the industrial age. To say we are not the cause despite all the evidence to the contrary is to wish away reality. One may choose to believe the sun will not rise tomorrow, but the sun doesn't care and rises anyway. Selfishness and foolishness are childish responses to an uncomfortable reality: we are using up the planet (at least the part on which we live - the surface).
The sun has been shining on us for billions of years. So much of that energy was stored in carbon lifeforms, sealed away below the surface. Once we began extracting it (in the form of coal and oil), what did we think was going to happen when we released all of that sun's stored energy upon the earth in addition to
the energy we continue to receive. The warming was inevitable. The only way to slow it down is to stop releasing the stored sun's energy, and start using that energy that rains down upon us in a golden torrent every day.
Global warming is a reality. Climate change is a reality. The big question is: is it too late? Unfortunately, we really can't say "no" at this point.
The melting ice at the North Pole has been the one that's captured our attention. Despite the cliche photos of polar bears adrift on a chunk of ice as its habitat disappears, it was predicted that the melting ice would disrupt weather patterns and ocean currents. We've seen that occur the last few years. The "polar vortex" unraveling from a tight spiral into a large wobbly mess brought us a particularly brutal winter as cold polar air was unleashed and flowed freely southward.
There has also been the prediction of rising sea levels. Small islands around the planet are disappearing
as ocean levels rise. Those are simple people on the other side of the world though. Westerners shake their heads sadly, and then return to their unsustainable consumption. It is, however, affecting us here and now. Water is actually seeping up from the ground in Miami at high tide
The sunny-day flooding was happening again. During high tide one recent afternoon, Eliseo Toussaint looked out the window of his Alton Road laundromat and watched bottle-green saltwater seep from the gutters, fill the street and block the entrance to his front door.
“This never used to happen,” Mr. Toussaint said. “I've owned this place eight years, and now it’s all the time.”
Down the block at an electronics store it is even worse. Jankel Aleman, a salesman, keeps plastic bags and rubber bands handy to wrap around his feet when he trudges from his car to the store through ever-rising waters.
The national climate report found that although rapidly melting Arctic ice is threatening the entire American coastline, Miami is exceptionally vulnerable because of its unique geology. The city is built on top of porous limestone, which is already allowing the rising seas to soak into the city’s foundation, bubble up through pipes and drains, encroach on fresh water supplies and saturate infrastructure. County governments estimate that the damages could rise to billions or even trillions of dollars.
This is not "storm surge", or the beach disappearing. This is seawater seeping up through the ground at high tide. This is what is known as "the canary in the coal mine". Where Miami beach is now, so too will the rest the coastline follow.
The rise from the melting ice at the north pole is bad. What is happening in Antarctica, however, is catastrophic. The western ice shelf is collapsing, and it appears to be irreversible
"Today we present observational evidence that a large sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into irreversible retreat," Dr. Rignot said in the NASA news conference. "It has passed the point of no return."
Those six glaciers alone could cause the ocean to rise four feet as they disappear, Dr. Rignot said, possibly within a couple of centuries. He added that their disappearance will most likely destabilize other sectors of the ice sheet, so the ultimate rise could be triple that.
Most people don't really have a good idea just how big Antarctica and its ice sheet are, nor how much water is stored in it. Take a look:
Part of what's aggravating about this is that it was predicted 35 years ago
Mercer, who died in 1987, first presented the idea that climate change could cause the collapse of large parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet in the journal Nature under the title "West Antarctic ice sheet and CO2 greenhouse effect: A threat of disaster." He predicted that the "rapid deglaciation" of West Antarctica could lead to 16-foot rise in sea level.
Mercer's views were "assailed at the time," The New York Times wrote, "but in recent years scientists have been watching with growing concern as events have unfolded in much the way Dr. Mercer predicted."
Even 35 years ago, the nay-sayers and I-know-better-than-scientists types were dismissing anything that got in the way of oil company profits. We are consuming our environment at an increasing rate
, like a cancer upon the body of Mother Nature. Nature is responding by making it more difficult for this cancer to survive. This is a battle we cannot win, so we must surely do what we can to make peace with our planet, and try to heal the damage done. Otherwise, those dystopian movies that seem so far-fetched may end up being prophetic.
Time is running out. Tick-tock-tick-tock...