Saturday, June 25, 2005

Global warming in a nutshell

To Alaskans and Alaskan tourists, global warming is obvious and visible:

“I’ve lived here 22 years, and the changes I’ve seen are tremendous,” said Mr. Page, the Seward kayaking guide. “The summers are much warmer and sunnier. We see things like white-sided dolphins, which don’t normally appear in these waters.”1

“At least four native villages in the far north may have to move inland or to higher ground to avoid being swept away by erosion from the sea…”1

“Alaska is changing by the hour. From the far north, where higher seas are swamping native villages, to the tundra around Fairbanks, where melting permafrost is forcing some roads and structures to buckle in what looks like a cartoon version of a hangover, to the rivers of ice receding from inlets, warmer temperatures are remaking the Last Frontier State.”1

“Out in the fjords, kayakers paddled into bays newly opened by other receding glaciers. They came to see the ice, a tour guide explained, to paddle around something that had been moving toward a tidewater destiny for thousands of years. And many of them were in a hurry. Glacial pace, in Alaska, no longer means slow.”1

To understand the state of environmental awareness among reigning politicians in America, consider the following:

“Senators Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, both Republicans, said mandatory emission limits should wait until scientists reach a consensus that human actions are the cause of the warming. But that consensus has already been reached by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Last December, Science reported that a database search of 928 peer-reviewed papers on climate change over the past decade found not a single author disputing this consensus.”2

“A team of 300 scientists completed a four-year Arctic Climate Impact Assessment last November documenting the changes, which, they concluded, were driven largely by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans. Alaska’s sole representative to Congress, Republican Don Young, immediately dismissed the report. ‘I don’t believe it is our fault,’ Young said, adding that his opinion is ‘as sound as any scientist’s.’2

What sheer, unadulterated hubris! What willful ignorance! What a breathtaking dismissal of scientific inquiry!

For Congressman Don Young, there can be no amount of scientific evidence that is sufficient to prove anything, because his own fact-free opinions carry equal or better weight, and there is no reason for us to believe that he limits this “philosophy” to only the science of global warming. This is just one more data point suggesting that the Enlightenment has come to an end, and we have returned to the Dark Ages when superstition and conjecture ruled all discourse, when truth was relative and scientists were agents of the devil. Now we have an administration that is disdainful of all who are “reality-based,” an administration that rewrites history the moment after it occurs, and elite government-run military schools that preach fire-and-brimstone in the course of the teaching day.

It really is enough to make my head spin. To paraphrase the song: “we won’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone” and God, but it’s going quickly.
1 “The Race to Alaska Before It Melts,” Timothy Egan, New York Times, June 26, 2005.
2 “Alaska’s Meltdown,” Charles Wohlforth, onearth, Summer 2005.


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