Armageddon tired of this debate…


Our planet seen from beyond Neptune

That puts us in perspective, doesn’t it?

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar", every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam…

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds…

Those who are skeptical about carbon dioxide greenhouse warning might profitably note the massive greenhouse effect on Venus. No one proposes that Venus’s greenhouse effect derives from imprudent Venusians who burned too much coal, drove fuel-inefficient autos, and cut down their forests. My point is different. The climatological history of our planetary neighbor, an otherwise Earthlike planet on which the surface became hot enough to melt tin or lead, is worth considering — especially by those who say that the increasing greenhouse effect on Earth will be self-correcting, that we don’t really have to worry about it, or (you can see this in the publications of some groups that call themselves conservative) that the greenhouse effect is a "hoax"…

— Carl Sagan

And that might just do for today, aside from noting this odd news story: Drunk Russians drown escaping heatwave.

Dozens of Russians, many of them drunk, are drowning daily as they head to water to escape a heatwave, an emergencies ministry official said on Wednesday.

Vodka-drinking groups — some with small children — can be seen at lakes and ponds in and around the Russian capital where the current three-week heatwave may set a record of 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) this weekend…

Weather forecasters say the heatwave will last another week.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday the heat was a major problem for Russian agriculture, echoing concerns from Russia’s grain lobby, which said the country was undergoing the worst drought in 130 years of weather observations.

The government imposed a state of emergency in 16 regions where the heat destroyed grains in an area the size of Portugal…

While no single event can by itself be attributed confidently to global warming, what may validly be said is that the steady rise in average temperatures lifts the baseline so that such events may appear more likely.

Go and watch Gwynne Dyer on "Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats" and read Dyer’s Convincing Global-Warming Vision.

Until very recently, global warming never struck me as the great issue of the day. I avoided Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth" because it seemed too much like homework, and when I finally forced myself to watch it at home on DVD, I fell asleep. Then, last November, after e-mails were leaked from England’s University of East Anglia that made their scientist authors appear high-handed and disingenuous – which came to be known as "Climategate" – I figured maybe I didn’t need to wake up.

Still, the scientific evidence strikes me as largely convincing, and the critics of global-warming projections, like George W. Bush, considerably less so. It’s just that, as bad as they sounded, the awful environmental consequences of climate change always seemed less urgent than, say, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the growing gap between rich and poor.

However, a new book, "Climate Wars," by the London-based journalist Gwynne Dyer, has abruptly changed my mind. For if Dyer’s warnings are correct, the greatest dangers from global warming are the ones that most concern me in the present: more destructive wars with higher casualties and an even greater widening of the divide between rich and poor, with the former able to buy protection and the latter unable to do so. Certainly, America’s Wilsonian military ambitions (in the guise of a "war on terror") need to be reined in; and yes, Wall Street’s "free-trade" war against giving decent-paying jobs to the American working class needs to be stopped. But if we don’t get the climate under control, any one of Dyer’s eight imagined scenarios might well dwarf these more immediate calamities.

I don’t know the acceptable concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, now at 390 parts per million and heading up. I’ll leave to such scientists as James Hansen whether the target for reduction should be 350 parts per million – to keep the polar ice caps from melting – or if 450 ppm is a realistic aim. And I’m not qualified to respond to such respectable climate-change critics as Alexander Cockburn who exhibit seemingly reasoned skepticism about the human contribution to global warming.

But if even half of what Dyer describes actually happens, we’re in for social and economic Darwinism that will make the mindless U.S. military adventures in the Mideast look like humanitarian interventions and Wall Street’s larceny look like a social-welfare program…

2 thoughts on “Armageddon tired of this debate…

  1. As the Australians probably say, ‘in for a penny, in for a pound eh’?

    I see from your Russian story, heat waves are back to meaning ‘manmade global warming’, huh. Droughts mean man-made global warming too, I guess, since you bolded the sentence. Are the southern hemisphere’s frigid cold and massive ice buildup more examples of global warming caused by man in your world?

  2. Keep reading, Kevin, and note: “While no single event can by itself be attributed confidently to global warming, what may validly be said is that the steady rise in average temperatures lifts the baseline so that such events may appear more likely.”

    Or, as Sir David King, former UK Chief Scientist, put it: “Of late our climate has been warming, so this steady average line drawn through the spikes that mark out our annual temperature has been rising. That means that any upward spike that is otherwise a fairly ordinary departure from the average is now starting from a higher baseline. It peaks at a much higher temperature than it would otherwise have managed.” — The Hot Topic p. 51.

    Anyone who reads at all on this topic will be aware that global warming is not in fact even. “Are the southern hemisphere’s frigid cold and massive ice buildup more examples of global warming caused by man in your world?” Well, this bit of the Southern Hemisphere is not suffering from frigid cold, as our latest stats show. On Antarctica see (PDF)

    The more I go into it the more I see the climate change contrarians don’t have a leg to stand on. Where there is room for debate is in the area of what it means and what is best to do about it.

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