Let the End Times Roll

class=img_thumbleft>There are two big problems with global warming. One, dire warnings on the subject have been around so long that the American public has become hopelessly blaise on the subject; a lot of folks are happy to keep barreling down the highway in their Escalades in the hopes that a few more greenhouse emissions gases might just take the bite out of winter. Two, for those who aren't so blithe, it is all too easy to become fatalistic on the subject. As anyone whose barbeque or softball game has been rained out knows, you can't do a damn thing about the weather. Right?

In her remarkable three part series, The Climate of Man, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert paints such a compelling and detailed portrait of the impending changes coming to the globe that you can't help but wonder whether the evangelists are right about the imminent End Times.

Kolbert's series, now availabe on-line (part 1, 2, 3) is a must read for anyone interested in the topic. While generally grim in her assessments, Kolbert is not entirely without hope that some steps can be done to mitigate the problem--at least, if our leaders ever decide to take the issue seriously. Alarm, though, remains the dominant theme. One of the more disturbing passages thoroughly debunks the oft-invoked theory that a little warming might not be so bad:

In the context of ordinary life, a warming of 4.9, or even of 7.7, degrees may not seem like much to worry about; in the course of a normal summer’s day, after all, air temperatures routinely rise by twenty degrees or more. Average global temperatures, however, have practically nothing to do with ordinary life. In the middle of the last glaciation, Manhattan, Boston, and Chicago were deep under ice, and sea levels were so low that Siberia and Alaska were connected by a land bridge nearly a thousand miles wide. At that point, average global temperatures were roughly ten degrees colder than they are today. Conversely, since our species evolved, average temperatures have never been much more than two or three degrees higher than they are right now.

Alas, the bad news keeps coming. Today's Washington Post reports that melting polar ice caps may spell doom for the arctic's top predator, the polar bear. Meanwhile, the Canadian Press relays the latest scientic findings showing that the average water temperatures in the North Atlantic hit record highs last year. It certainly would be nice, wouldn't it, if the country's richest, most polluting nation showed any inclination to do something about the looming crisis. That is, aside from funding research aimed at denying the problem.

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