Saturday, February 11, 2006

We’ve passed the tipping point

According to a report by The Independent (UK), global warming has now passed the point of no return, by exceeding the “tipping point” of 400 parts per million (ppm) “equivalent concentration of CO2” (which includes concentrations of other warming gases such as methane and nitrous oxide), a figure arrived at by a UK government conference on “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change” held in 2005. A leading expert on climate change, Dr. Keith Shine, when asked recently to calculate current equivalent CO2 concentration based upon data from 2004, arrived at a figure of 425 ppm (379 ppm CO2, plus an equivalent of 40 ppm from methane, and 6 ppm from nitrous oxide).

Does this mean that global warming is truly “unstoppable,” as suggested by the scientists attending the UK conference? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, James Lovelock (of “The Gaia Hypothesis”) wrote last month in a piece that comes mournfully close to being his eulogy for the planet, that “as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees Centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics” and if that doesn’t sound like a lot to you Fahrenheit folks, it is a 14.4°F increase in our neighborhood, and it will wreak havoc on all climate systems; on that the climate scientists are agreed.

I do not pretend to be a climate expert. I have not critically evaluated the data supporting global warming, but I do pay close attention to the sources of my information. In this, I give by far the most credence to scientists who have spent their working lives focused on research and data evaluation and who have published their work in mainstream peer-reviewed scientific journals. When the vast majority of working scientists present a collective opinion about how the world works, I pay attention.

Sometimes, though, my wishful thinking takes over, and I just hope that George Bush and his 20-something non-credentialed appointees are the ones who will be proved correct in their persistent contention that global warming is a myth. It would also be nice to find a humongous gold nugget among the dirty laundry as I’m sorting it into lights and darks, but I don’t plan my life around that as being a highly likely event...

Then again, maybe none of this will matter....

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