Sunday, May 14, 2006

Rant: Global Warning

So, you ask yourself - what can I do about Global Warming?

Well, you can stop calling it Global Warming. At least around me.

That's not to say I'm in denial about the fact that the planet is getting warmer. It is, and at a rate clear to anyone who is not getting their paychecks from the current adminstration or its cronies. However, it is part of a larger framework that is Climate Change, which deals with the fact that, as the supreme species on this planet, what we do has an effect on our environment.

Global Warming is one of those phrases that, like "Theory of Evolution" brings out the stupid in some people. They remember that heavy snow back in February or those cool days in May and use that fact as a refutation - since it is obviously not hot every day of the year, therefore this Global Warming thing must be a bust.

Well, sadly, no. While you can have a few cold days, on the average, its been getting hotter. Think of each day as a single game in a baseball season. You're going to have games where your team makes great plays and wins handily. And you're going to have games where they stink up the field. And if you are a supporter, you tend to remember the exceptional good games more than the really bad games. Its only over time that you realize that you team is losing more games than it is winning, and your team may not be very good. But by that time you're up to your ankles in seawater and realize you've been rooting for the Pittsburgh Pirates (12 games out and its only May).

And indeed, with Climate Change, some places may actually get more rain or "better" climate. I'm not talking about Albertan rainforests or beachfront condos in Greenland. Of course the changed climate may prove to be pretty bad for the plants and creatures that are already used to the original format. And you can bet that corporations with the money to throw around are trying to refine the science on this, if for no other reason than to find the best place to put the new company HQ.

Now, the latest refuge for those in denial is the old/new concept of Global Dimming, which I seem to remember from some disaster book I read in the 70s (which ends with a glacier collapsing the west wing of the White House). In short, the idea is that more particulate pollution in the atmosphere causes more sunlight to bounce back into space. Less sunlight means it should get cooler. And in fact, in the days following 9/11, when no planes flew in the US except for those to get the Osama clan out of the country, the days were hotter than normal . Fewer jet contrails to block the sun. Global Dimming makes things cooler. Global Warming makes things warmer. Should balance out, right?

Wrong. What is ignored is that the NIGHTS following 9/11 were colder than normal as well. Folk who live in the normally cloud-covered territories of the Pacific Northwest know that a clear day usually means a cold night, because there are fewer clouds to trap the heat. So we have narrower swings of temperature as a result of Glboal Dimming. Further, as a result of these reduced temperature swings and cloudier days, we're messing with weather patterns elsewhere. It is a cyberpunk-chaos-butterfly. We kick out too many particulants from a wasteburning plant in Ohio, and the monsoon fails in Somalia.

So Global Dimming is a manmade modfication to the climate. And so is Global Warming. Both of these (and other things we're mucking about with) contribute to the entire prospect of Global Climate Change, which is the large-scale challenge that we and our descendents are going to have to address.

Everyone complains about the weather, said Twain, but no one does anything about it. Turns out we have been doing something about it for more than the past century - we just haven't been paying attention to what we've been up to. And now we're at the stage of seeing dramatic results in Climate Change.

In the meantime, Go Pirates!

More later,