"This was not a boat accident! And it wasn't any propeller; and it wasn't any coral reef; and it wasn't Jack the Ripper! It was a shark."
As I continue to work my way through the list of "movies I should have seen by now", I recently took in Steven Spielberg's classic "Jaws". Typically, I am annoyed by those who constantly see allegories within art, but as the film progressed, I couldn't help but notice something in the storyline. An urgent threat arrives from the natural world directly endangering people's lives. A scientist is assigned to investigate, confirms the danger and demands immediate action. Despite the advice and evidence presented, the politician aggressively downplays the threat and takes no action out of fear of possible economic repercussions. Hmm. Something about this series of events sounded familiar.
New government figures for the global climate show that 2010 was the wettest year in the historical record, and it tied 2005 as the hottest year since record-keeping began in 1880. The new figures confirm that 2010 will go down as one of the more remarkable years in the annals of climatology. It featured prodigious snowstorms that broke seasonal records in the United States and Europe; a record-shattering summer heat wave that scorched Russia; strong floods that drove people from their homes in places like Pakistan, Australia, California and Tennessee; a severe die-off of coral reefs; and a continuation in the global trend of a warming climate. It was the 34th year running that global temperatures have been above the 20th-century average; the last below-average year was 1976. The new figures show that 9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of 2001. The carbon dioxide level has increased about 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution. - New York Times
There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.
there is nothing remotely identified in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change:
(i) The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.
(ii) Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
(iii) Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth's climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.
(iv) Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.
(v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.
Much more can be, and has been, said by the world's scientific societies, national academies, and individuals, but these conclusions should be enough to indicate why scientists are concerned about what future generations will face from business- as-usual practices. We urge our policymakers and the public to move forward immediately to address the causes of climate change, including the burning of fossil fuels. Open letter from 255 members of NAS
Anthropogenic changes to the Earth’s climate, land, oceans and biosphere are now so great and so rapid that the concept of a new geological epoch defined by the action of humans, the Anthropocene, is widely and seriously debated. Questions of the scale, magnitude and significance of this environmental change, particularly in the context of the Earth’s geological history, provide the basis for this Theme Issue. The Anthropocene, on current evidence, seems to show global change consistent with the suggestion that an epoch-scale boundary has been crossed within the last two centuries. - The Royal Society
And then the response...
All 31 Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee declined on Tuesday to vote in favor of a series of amendments acknowledging the scientific consensus around climate change. The three amendments were attached to a bill aiming to curb the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate greenhouse gasses. They posited that "Congress accepts the scientific finding ... that 'warming of the climate system is unequivocal'"; that the scientific evidence regarding climate change "is compelling"; and that "human-caused climate change is a threat to public health and welfare." CBS
Regrettably, politics trumps science among House Republicans, who recently voted to zero out this country’s extremely modest $2.3 million annual commitment to the IPCC. The bill also slashes spending on a half-dozen domestic programs that study the causes and effects of climate change. The budget for the Energy Information Agency — which gathers information on energy production, consumption and pollution — would be cut by one-sixth. Small but vital Interior Department programs that measure the impact of climate change on animal, plant and fish species and their habitat were reduced and in some cases nearly wiped out. Mr. Obama asked for $400 million for the World Bank’s clean technology fund, $95 million for the bank’s program to prevent deforestation and $90 million for its program to help at-risk nations cope with the effects of a warming planet by, for instance, developing drought-resistant crops. The House’s answer in all three cases: zero. - New York Times
Congressional leaders, however, know better. One member accuses "nefarious" scientists of "whipping up a global frenzy." Oklahoma's Sen. Jim Inhofe warns of "the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on America." Rep. Joe Barton from Texas reasons that carbon dioxide cannot possibly be a pollutant, because "humans expel it when they breathe." NOLA
Speaking before a House Energy Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing in March 2009, Shimkus quoted Chapter 8, Verse 22 of the Book of Genesis. He said: 'As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.' The Illinois Republican continued: 'I believe that is the infallible word of God, and that's the way it is going to be for his creation. The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth.' Daiky Mail UK
Yes, you read that last one correctly. John Shimkus, now Chairman of the House Energy Subcommittee on Environment and Economy, downplayed the fears and the effects of climate change citing an ancient biblical story that claims God promised "no more global floods" to a man after he obediently gathered two of every species of animal on Earth onto an ark he built ! ? ! ? I worry that all too soon we'll be forced into a similar task, but it won't be animals we'll be gathering - it will be environmental refugees forced to flee homelands made inhabitable by climate change.
You're gonna need a bigger boat.