Oh god, a couple of hours trawling the web and I’m losing the will to live. What is it that makes global warming so difficult to comprehend for so many people? Let’s face it, many of them believe implicitly in gods for which there is zero evidence – hell, you can see the effects of climate change for yourself, so what’s the problem? And don’t forget, it only takes a few degrees C to have a massive impact – we’re not talking huge temperature changes here, they’re not needed to completely fubar the planet.
It’s not that hard to grasp – the planet is warming terrifyingly fast, the ice-caps are vanishing at an enormous rate, and yet people deny it’s happening at all. It’s all happened before, they shriek (oh yes they do, you should have heard the buggers on Radio 2 the other day!), it’s all perfectly natural. This is closely followed by We’re emerging from an ice-age, what do you expect? Both points of view illustrating perfectly that a little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing – it makes those who are hard of thinking terribly smug.
Emerging from an ice age? Nope, we’re not – strictly speaking this is an interglacial period, throughout which there have been great shifts in temperature, but the ice-age is still alive and well, and will be while ice remains in the higher latitudes. This ice age emergence idea is closely linked to the “it’s all happened before so it’s perfectly natural” theory of denial.
Yes, indeed, it has all happened before, many times (oh, by the way, ignore people who use the fact that Antarctica used to be tropical to support this idea – at that time Antarctica was on the equator!), this does not mean that what’s happening now is natural. One thing makes it extremely unnatural and also potentially lethal – the sheer speed at which glaciation world-wide is retreating.
Note: melting of the northern polar ice cap will have almost zero effect on sea level (the ice is floating – oh, you look it up, I can’t do everything for you; start with Archimedes.), but terrestrial ice, if that melts, will see us living on a much smaller island, maybe even an archipelago. Hell, even the Greenland icecap has the capacity to raise ocean levels by over 7 metres, and that pales into insignificance when compared to Antarctica, where the ice is up to 4,500 metres thick, not a great deal thicker than Greenland, but it covers a much greater area.
Events that would normally take millennia are happening in decades – the person with the most closed of minds surely can’t look at what’s currently happening with the Polar sea ice – it’s more dramatic in the Antarctic, as the ice shelves collapse into an ever-warming ocean, but the floating ice-cap in the Arctic is a mere shadow of its former self and, as was gleefully announced recently (gleefully? Shit!), the legendary Northwest Passage is now a reality – or it was then, the winter ice may have closed in by now.
At the bottom of the world, penguins are in crisis because their habitat is diminishing, and rising sea temperatures are trashing the food chain and at the top polar bears are facing starvation because the lack of ice means fewer chances to hunt seals. No doubt, too, seals are having their own problems, as some species give birth on the pack ice.
Perversely, this warming could render Britain very much colder – it’s only the Gulf Stream that prevents us having much the same extremely cold weather as Canada or Russia, and if the Labrador Current, which flows from the polar regions south-east between Canada and Greenland becomes sufficiently cold it will effectively “turn off” the Gulf Stream by causing it to become chilled and sink before it reaches us, probably somewhere around the Azores (it cools and sinks now, quite naturally, but not until we’ve benefited from it).
All these events, except the cooling of the Gulf Stream, have happened since the turn of the century – they should take – when they happen at all – many thousands of years. Climate change at this speed is not natural, it hasn’t happened before, and it bodes ill – very ill – for future generations not too far down the line.
Don’t believe in climate change or global warming, call it what you will, if that’s what you want, but here’s an experiment. Stand in the middle of the road, and try not believing in that bus 100 yards away and bearing down on you – it’ll be just as futile as denying climate change and, ultimately, the result will be much the same. Just, for you, faster…
Footnote: None of this is simply my opinion – except the last para! The facts are out there for those with the will to see.