Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Great Experiment

I want to blame the heat and drought this summer on global warming. But, in all good conscience, I can't. It's been this hot and dry here before. It will be again.

That said, it doesn't mean that global warming isn't occurring and that humans' release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere isn't a primary cause. But you can't look at the weather in any one location and conclude anything, one way or another. The concept is GLOBAL warming or CLIMATE change, not Kansas warming or weather change.

Naysayers point to local cold snaps and triumphantly screech, "See! There can't be any WARMING going on!" But that's no more valid than someone pointing to this summer's local heat and drought to prove that global warming is, indeed, occurring.

Can scientists predict exactly what's going to happen and when? No. The Earth is a very complex system that we, as humans, will probably never completely understand. Even powerful computers come up with different results, based on their programming and on the data fed into them.

As I understand it, though, there are some commonalities to all the models. The weather is going to become increasingly unpredictable compared to the recent historical record, swinging more wildly from highs to lows, tending towards drought or deluge, with little stable or moderate weather. Storms are predicted to be bigger. Droughts deeper. Floods more frequent. Some historically wet places will become dry. Some historically dry places may become wet. Ocean currents that have been stable for centuries may change course. Glaciers and ice caps will melt. Ocean levels will rise.

If the Gulf Stream ceases to flow (as some models have predicted), Europe will enter a deep freeze. Global warming will seem like The Big Freeze to folks there, if that occurs. This is GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE we're talking about, not local weather change.

Ice core samples from Greenland and other deep ice masses show that climate change, when it comes, is usually rapid. It's called "punctuated equilibrium": long periods of stability, interspersed with shot periods of rapid change.

Glaciers worldwide, as well as the polar ice caps, are melting. Now. Ice in the Arctic is at historic lows for this time of year...once again. The articles I've seen about this particular change tend to focus on the positive: better shipping channels to move goods around the world. The fabled "Northwest Passage" becoming reality. The polar bears, though, aren't having such a good time of it.

Do I have a crystal ball to predict the future? No. I just have probability based on trends from the past...and the current best understanding of about 95% of the scientific community. Those trends and that understanding tell me that we're performing a great big experiment on the only home we have...because it's too hard to voluntarily change our way of life.

So we'll wait until the Earth forces us to change it. And hope that we like what happens next.


dejavaboom said...

I've missed your blog posts! Not much since the burn, but now, glad to read your level-headed commentary and see your incredible photography.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Deja, thank you for the kind comments! I've missed blogging; ironically, it was such a good spring to be in the garden, that I just didn't take time to document anything.

I also spent a month, in 2 two-week segments, helping our daughter get ready to put her house on the market in San Antonio and then find a new home in Florida. She was able to sell her old home and has settled into a comfortable new one now, so life is slowing down a bit again. Thank goodness!

Even after they leave the nest, there are times that kids still need Mom and Dad! And you still have adolescence to get through: that period of development that insures the child will be ready to leave home and Mom & Dad will be ready to kick them out!

qkslvrwolf said...

Replace "like" with "individually survive", and I'll agree. I actually don't think there's any chance humans will be wiped out, but I personally wouldn't make any bets on any one person.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Actually, Qkslvr, I wouldn't put bets on humans surviving a lot longer, given the way we're treating our environmental support systems. We are fairly high up on the food chain and require long periods of time to grow and mature, as well as large amounts of energy just to exist.

I am quite sure that life, in general, will survive though. To me, environmentalism is simply trying to make sure that the Earth's biosphere is kept in good enough shape to keep us humans healthy and relatively happy.