April 06, 2006

Melting, Melting ...

And let's just hope that phrase doesn't finish with '... gone,' because it will mean thirsty days for land critters. First, note that warming has been going on since the early industrial era, albeit slowly. Next, that warming has been dramatically accelerating, that is, if (the tendency of people to question this always torques me off) melting ice can still be considered a sign of rising temperatures:

... In the 1850s, according to WGMS data presented at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) annual meeting in Vienna, nearly 4,474 sq km of the Alps were glaciated.

By the 1970s, the area covered had fallen to just under 2,903 sq km, and in 2000, it was down to 2,272 sq km.

"From 1850 to the 1970s, there is an average loss of 2.9% per decade," WGMC's Michael Zemp told EGU delegates.

"From the 1970s until 2000 it is 8.2% per decade, and we see most of that increase since 1985," he said.

... As temperatures rise, the minimum altitude at which glaciers form also rises. ...

As the article explains, glaciers store the water that comes flowing gently down over the land in summer, when precipitation is lower and a critter could get to feeling parched. Or when a farmer might want to irrigate a crop. Or when a city might be thinking that their reservoir could use a top off. Deglaciation is happening all over the world, which is to say that the entire mass of the world's population that drinks from a glacier melt fed watershed or aquifer is having their water supply put in in jeopardy.

And this, dear friends, is why Bjorn Lomborg is still probably the most miserable excuse for an academic, one of the climate change denial crowd's most idiotic useful morons, and an utter scumbag.* Lefty-basher Jay Ambrose isn't in on this yet, and defends Lomborg thusly:

... Other scientists who, in one way or another, have paid a price for following evidence to the best of their ability instead of following a political agenda include Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician who reported that the world's environment was getting better in virtually any direction you looked. He even had the temerity to point out that the Kyoto agreement would do nothing more than slow down warming by six years or so over the next 100. ...

Some of Lomborg's idiocy should be obvious even from this brief synopsis. Like, you may be thinking, why does a statistician think he knows more about the state of the environment than virtually every major scientist not working for Big Pollution? Or you may be wondering, why does anyone think Lomborg is clever for pointing out an inadequacy in the Kyoto agreement that the environmental community itself has lamented, while still feeling that it's better to get consensus on the fact of the problem and at least some progress?

But it should also be noted that in 2002, Lomborg declared that the very cleverest thing of all would be to forget about fixing all this global warming stuff because it costs too much and focus on a real humanitarian priority that was reasonably priced: getting clean water to the entire world population.

That's a fine goal, of course. Everybody who reads about third world conditions eventually runs across descriptions of communities that rely on overpriced carboys of water brought in by truck if they're lucky, or walking several miles a day and carrying back whatever they can if they're not. But the discerning reader may already be wondering how it is that governments would be able to increase the availability of fresh water while ignoring a situation which will spawn a global water crisis. Hmmm ....

Now the behavior that Jay Rosen Ambrose was trying to excuse by waving a bloody Lomborg is the Bush administration's squelching of global climate warming data from government scientists. Steven D makes (at least) two points about why keeping the full import of this data from the public is not only bad, but as he says, criminally insane:

3) That the failure to act will result in the deaths of millions of people (at a minimum) from its effects, and the mass extinction of many of the species of plants and animals on this planet.

4) That, left unchecked, man made global warming even risks the future survival of the human race itself.

You know all those superhero stories about saving the world from serious peril against long odds and powerful villains? This is like that. Global warming is every bit as detrimental to the survival of humanity as Glory, Magneto or H.G. Wells' martian menaces were imagined to be by their creators. It will be less fashionable, less verbose and definitely lower tech, but very, very dangerous.

In the face of this threat, which it must be granted seems slower than the Blob and the Sleestaks facing off at a leisurely game of Risk, President Bush and his fossil fuel industry bedfellows are stalling and stonewalling. They're disseminating false impressions and outright misinformation. As if, to further strain this metaphor, the Blob isn't really going to eat you when it catches you, because something so slow can't possibly be a threat.

Yet the ice clock started ticking in the 1850s. It's been speeding up since the 1970s. The birds know it. The insects know it. Even the sightless, brainless, nerveless, no-government-research-having plants know it. Yet the president of the United States isn't sure yet. So he does nothing as he sits at the helm of the country that produces almost a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases. Truly, a waste of good germ plasm.

* All thanks to Keith Olbermann tonight for pointing out the origins of the term scumbag (slang for a used prophylactic sheath), because in this case I can add it with both confidence and relish.

Posted by natasha at April 6, 2006 10:52 PM | Environment | Technorati links |

"Now the behavior that Jay Rosen was trying to excuse by waving a bloody Lomborg is the Bush administration's squelching of global climate warming data from government scientists."

What am I doing in this piece?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 7, 2006 06:14 AM

Making a mistaken appearance? Sorry about that, I was referring to the Jay Ambrose mentioned earlier in the post. Bad blogger, bad, bad.

Posted by: natasha at April 7, 2006 02:33 PM

Ah, no problem. Kind of makes you wonder: is all publicity good publicity? If so, I made an error by complaining. Cheers.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 7, 2006 11:09 PM