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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Global Warming, or a natural variation in climate? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Global Warming, or a natural variation in climate?
Silkie
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What do YOU think is going on with the climate, and the apparent increased melting of polar ice and Glaciers?

quote:
Greenland Glaciers Dumping More Ice
By Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News

Feb. 16, 2006 — It's no longer just one or two coastal glaciers in Greenland that are receding and dumping vastly more ice into the sea; it's now dozens of glaciers and could someday be the whole shebang, according to a new study.

Greenland-wide satellite surveys of all the glaciers that reach the sea show that there is a northward-moving trend of glaciers suddenly and rapidly dropping back from the sea and disgorging huge amounts of ice. These same glaciers are effectively the drain plugs of the entire Greenland ice cap.

In the last five years alone the wave of glacier changes has moved north about 300 miles.

"We don't think these are just bursts," said Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology. "We haven't seen any of these glaciers coming back to normal."

Rignot and Kanagaratnum, of the University of Kansas Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, announced their discovery on Thursday at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in St. Louis. Their full report appears in the Feb. 17 issue of Science.

~ Continued ~


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twinky
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What do you think, Silkie? I don't think I've ever seen you start a thread with a post that didn't consist mostly or almost entirely of material quoted from elsewhere. It makes me think that you start these threads more as FYIs than anything else. Since I keep tabs on current events in the media through various sources, I heard about this last week. I don't need to be informed as far as the broad strokes are concerned, that's not what I come here for. What I come here for is the interpretations of and opinions on the events, not basic overviews of the events that I've already read elsewhere.

As to my own opinion, I've been very concerned about this for some time, and learning about new developments only makes me more so. I also think it's well past time to shift the focus from attempting to prevent global warming to how we're going to deal with the reality of it. While an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it's much too late for that now. The world runs on fossil fuels and that isn't going to change anytime soon, so how do we deal with a warmer planet and higher sea levels? I'm not sure.

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Artemisia Tridentata
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Well for starters, I could line anyone intrested up with some nice building lots in central Nevada.
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Rakeesh
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Personally I am very concerned, but remain unconvinced that this is necessarily something man-made. I am unconvinced because we only have really accurate weather data for the past...what, fifty years? And that's a bit generous, really.

I am opposed to loosening pollution restrictions for other reasons, generally, than global-warming which I think is often used as a scare-tactic.

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Artemisia Tridentata
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Twinky's point is well taken. It dosen't matter if the problem is man-made, natural and cyclical, or a combination of causes. It is measurable and progressive. We can make preprations and react or we can wait and react. But, the world economy will be affected within the life span of many persons on this forum.

EDIT: And locating important systems away from low lying coastal reagons is a good place to start. New Orleans should probably be remembered fondly and not rebuild.

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King of Men
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Unfortunately, the reasons for building on coastlines are still good and cogent reasons. To wit, shipping remains, even in this age of trains, highways, and aircraft, the most economical way to transport bulk goods. If you build inland, you're going to have to feed that city by means of land transport, which uses fuel that's only going to become more expensive as time goes by, not to mention the pollution.
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Artemisia Tridentata
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Yes. But, we need to start looking at building port facilities that can adapt to the rising sea levels and the changing ocean current patterns. A major port facility serving the purpose of New Orleans needs to be somewhere near the mouth of the Mississippi. But, to build docks, pumps, refineries, tanks, werehouses, rail yards, and a major metropolatan area all below grade is foolish in 2006.

[ February 24, 2006, 01:14 PM: Message edited by: Artemisia Tridentata ]

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Artemisia Tridentata
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MORE
Actually, that is why I am here. The most cost effective location for the ammunition magazine for the Pacific Fleet is in Central Nevada. Also,Rail Road track is cheaper to build, maintain, move and modify than dikes. And, compaired to everything other than bulk water shipment, is cost/fuel effective.

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Farmgirl
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quote:
Personally I am very concerned, but remain unconvinced that this is necessarily something man-made.
Especially now that NASA has also confirmed that global warming is occuring on planets other than this one...

FG

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Jon Boy
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Really? I hadn't heard that. Do you know where I can read about it?
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Farmgirl
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NASA has had several articles that were released to national press at different times that I read.

One place to start would be Here but I also know they recorded it on Pluto as well, and I would have to search for that article.

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camus
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I too am unconvinced that this is necessarily man-made. If it is true that man-made effects are having virtually no impact on global warming, then that means that pollution controls and other regulations are going to be largely irrelevant for this issue. I think the only option that remains is to try to predict the possible consequences of natural global warming and try to plan accordingly. I don't think we should try to stop or reverse the process, because that would require some very substantial changes in the environment, and I'm not confident that we have enough knowledge of the earth's environment and weather patterns to be able to control them in a predictable manner.
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Tristan
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Eh, nobody is disputing that the climate changes over time and goes through natural variations. The question is, and has always been, to what extent human activity contributes to the observable trends. And, since a) the mechanism of the "greenhouse effect" is well understood, b) the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere from burning fossile fuel is measurable and c) the rapidity of the warming in recent years is, as far as the scientists can tell, unprecedented, it really is quite logical than man is having an effect on global warming.
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Rakeesh
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That has not always been the only question, Tristan. Furthermore, "as far as the scientists can tell" doesn't actually mean very much. That makes it a guess. And therefore not so "logical" at all. There are much better arguments in support of man-made global warming than the one you're making, which is hardly an argument at all.
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Tristan
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To put the conversation in the context I saw it:

quote:
Rakeesh: Personally I am very concerned, but remain unconvinced that this is necessarily something man-made.
quote:
Farmgirl: Especially now that NASA has also confirmed that global warming is occuring on planets other than this one...
quote:
Tristan: Eh, nobody is disputing that the climate changes over time and goes through natural variations. The question is, and has always been, to what extent human activity contributes to the observable trends.
quote:
Rakeesh: That has not always been the only question, Tristan.
As far as I know, knowledge of e.g. the existence of ice age(s) -- and thus the insight that the climate has not always been what it is today and goes through natural changes -- predates the global warming debate. Mankind's influence on these natural trends may not be the "only" question, but it IS "the" question as far as it concerns global warming. And since we already knew that the climate changes naturally on earth, Firmgirl's observation (well, NASA's) that the same mechanisms operate on other planets should neither strengthen nor weaken your conviction as to what extent mankind contribute to the current warming trend.

By "as far as scientists can tell" I meant the conclusion scientists reach using the best available current and historical data, measuring techniques and modelling programs. The exact level of certainty achieved I am not qualified to judge, but it is certainly better than a "guess".

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Rakeesh
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An educated guess is still a guess.
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Tristan
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Now you sound like those people who claims that evolution is "just" a theory, Rakeesh.

Edit: And I mean this in the nicest possible way!

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Farmgirl
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quote:
Firmgirl's observation (well, NASA's)
Wow! He called me "Firm" ! That makes me feel so young and spry! [Wink] [Big Grin]
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camus
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quote:
b) the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere from burning fossile fuel is measurable
Yes, it is measurable, but the impact could very well be negligible, especially when comparing the effects of CO2 with H2O.

quote:
c) the rapidity of the warming in recent years is, as far as the scientists can tell, unprecedented, it really is quite logical than man is having an effect on global warming.
There are actually many scientists that believe just the opposite. I'll try to dig up some links.

For starters: Global Warming Petition which states:
"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."
(not exactly a scientific study, but it's a start)

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Mankind's influence on these natural trends may not be the "only" question, but it IS "the" question as far as it concerns global warming.
It seems to me that there are two important questions -- 1) how are we affecting climate change? and 2) how do we want to affect climate change?
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Tristan
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Farmgirl, I am happy on every occasion to offer those little delicate compliments which are always acceptable to the ladies; and although I sometime amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments which may be suitable to a particular situation, I must confess that this one was entirely spontaneous, not to say accidental.

----------------

quote:
There are actually many scientists that believe just the opposite. I'll try to dig up some links
You do that, Camus. Be careful that the research isn't sponsored by the oil industry, though.

[Smile]

Edit: A link to counter-act your link, Camus.

http://www.scottchurchimages.com/enviro/ccgwpp.asp

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camus
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I feel I should mention that I am not against being concerned about the environment and our impact on it. In fact, I believe we should be more concerned about it and that we should try to better control the impact that we are having on the earth. At the same time, I worry that the general population will feel that by merely regulating our pollution and emissions we are preventing some natural disaster from occurring and gradually become less concerned about the very real effects that the natural global warming cycle is going to have on our civilization.
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camus
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quote:
Edit: A link to counter-act your link, Camus.

http://www.scottchurchimages.com/enviro/ccgwpp.asp


If we cared to spend the time I'm sure both of us can come up with a long list of links that either defend or accuse the Global Warming Petition. My reason for mentioning it was to merely point out that the science community is not even close to agreeing about the process of global warming.

If my memory serves me correctly, there was a long list of scientists that supposedly signed something to signify their agreeing that humans are significantly affecting Global Warming. I think the rebuttals to that list were quite similar to the arguments made in your link.

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ClaudiaTherese
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*waits for The Rabbit, hopefully*
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Tristan
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Camus, the difference is that there is very nearly a consensus between climatologists, i.e. people who are doing the actual research, that man-made global warming is a reality. See e.g. the IPCC assessment report here.

Seriously, this whole issue has many similarities with the evolution debate. Those against very rarely have any credentials in a relevant field and often a clearly identifiable agenda (if you bother to look). Since these people tend to be very loud and since the press has a tendency to give equal weight to opposing view-points (which is sometimes good, but often can be misleading), an image of controversy is created which very poorly reflect the actual state of the science. Find me a peer-reviewed study made in the last five years that seriously question that humans have had an impact on global warming and I will listen. This pseudo-science is only obfuscating the issue.

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xxsockeh
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I know that global warming would be bad, but last year's winter was so bitter, and this year's was just far warmer...I'm kind of glad about this change. =/
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camus
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quote:
Find me a peer-reviewed study made in the last five years that seriously question that humans have had an impact on global warming and I will listen.
Well, the weekend starts for me in about five minutes and I typically do not spend much or any time on Hatrack during that time. If I have time during the weekend I will try to find some links, otherwise I will work on this on Monday.
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The Rabbit
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First off, I will point out that we are talking about "Global Climate Change" not "Global Warming". The scientific theories which predict a rise in the global mean temperatures do not predict that the temperature will go up everywhere all the time. If it were simply an issue of everywhere being 1 or two degrees warmer everyday, it would not be a big deal. What the models predict is that climates will change over substantial portions of the world as a result of the rise in global mean temperatures. Over the short term what we can expect is more extreme weather events. More major storms, more droughts, more floods, more bitter winters and more heat waves. Over the long term, there are many possible scenarios but none of them are good.

Second, those who believe that we can dismiss global climate change theory because some scientists disagree, don't understand the nature of science. Nothing in science is a certain. Scientists are supposed to question everything. We are supposed to test and retest theories in ways that question their validity. But the difference between the sciences and the humanities is that we have a well developed methodology for resolving questions. A scientific theory isn't an opinion. It is the best exisisting explanation of natural phenomena as determined by rigorous experimental observations. As a result of the scientific method, the hypothesis that burning fossil fuels and other human activities which increase the concentration of green house gases in the atmosphere could radically change the earth's climate have gone from being highly speculative hypothesis, to broadly accepted theories.

Twenty years ago, global climate change theory was moderately controversial within the scientific community. Today it isn't. The overwhelming majority of scientists who have expertise in the area are convinced of the validity of the theory. Every major scientic society that has experts in the field has released an official statement to this effect. This change has occurred because decades of experimental exploration have disproven virtually every major objection to these theories.

Scientist will of course continue to find new possible wholes in the theories -- that is the nature of science. When they do, other scientists will design experiments to determine whether these objections require wholesale rejection of the theory or only minor revisions. But that process does not indicate in anyway that the current theory is controversial or speculative. The best explanation science has right now for the melting of the greenland ice sheet is greenhouse warming due to burning fossil fuels.

Let me give you a few points about what is known and what remains controversial.

1. The concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases has been going up steadily for the past century and the rate of increase is going up. There are no credible scientists who dispute this fact.

2. The most plausible explanation for this change in our atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels. Calculations have demonstrated conclusively that fossil fuel burning can explain changes of the observed levels. Measurements of the changes in the isotopes are consistent with a fossil fuel source. No other remotely plausible explanation of the increasing CO2 levels has been suggested.

3. Increasing the level of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will reduce the radiant heat loss from the earth unless there are other compensating trends.

4. Over the past 100,000+ years, global mean temperatures have been very strongly correlated to the level of CO2 and CH4 in the atmosphere confirming that green house effects have played a significant role in the past climate changes.

5. Over the past century, there has been a significant increase in the earth's surface temperature. Night time temperatures have risen more than day time temperatures and surface temperatures have risen while tempertures in the upper atmosphere have dropped. These trends are all consistent with what theories predict for greenhouse warming.

6. Geological and historic records indicate that the earth has undergone very significant changes in global climate in the past. We know some but not all of the factors which have caused these changes such changes in volcanic activity or solar intensity. We can't explain all of the climate changes that have happened in earth's past so there are clearly processes we do not yet understand.

7. Of the process which we know can effect the global climate, the greenhouse effect is the only one which we can verify is happening now. It is the only one which can explain the trends we are observing. While there is still the possibility that some other unknown process is at work, the greenhouse theory is the best explanation we've got.

8. There is no evidence in the geological records that the composition of the earth's atmosphere has ever changed as fast as it is currently changing. During the ~300,000 years (with the exception of the past century) that humans have lived on the planet, the CO2 levels have been dramatically lower than they are right now. What we are doing to are atmosphere is unpresidented in human or geologic history. As a result, there are many unknowns about the future effects.

9. Because what is happening in our atmosphere right now is so different from what exists in the geologic records, there are many many difficulties in predicting how these changes will influence the earth. Climate is extraordinarily complex. There are many things about ocean currents, ice caps, forests, clouds, and particles that we are still struggling to understand. As a result, the models which predict the results of greenhouse warming have huge uncertainties. Despite this, the overwhelming majority of these models predict changes that will greatly increase human suffering. To ignore these prediction is recklessly irresponsible.

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The Rabbit
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camus, before you go searching the internet for the odd ball papers that question the validity of climate change theory, I recommend you read through the information at this site.

Spencer Weart has compiled the best history of the science behind global climate change. By looking at his work, you can see how the science has evolved. You will also find that many of the so called "controversies" in the field have been well refuted scientifically years ago. Many of the controveries which were prevalent 2 or 3 years ago, are now convincingly resolved.

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ClaudiaTherese
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Thank you, Rabbit, for the time and the expertise.
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Silkie
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quote:
Originally posted by twinky
What do you think, Silkie? I don't think I've ever seen you start a thread with a post that didn't consist mostly or almost entirely of material quoted from elsewhere. It makes me think that you start these threads more as FYIs than anything else. Since I keep tabs on current events in the media through various sources, I heard about this last week. I don't need to be informed as far as the broad strokes are concerned, that's not what I come here for. What I come here for is the interpretations of and opinions on the events, not basic overviews of the events that I've already read elsewhere.

As to my own opinion, I've been very concerned about this for some time, and learning about new developments only makes me more so. I also think it's well past time to shift the focus from attempting to prevent global warming to how we're going to deal with the reality of it. While an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it's much too late for that now. The world runs on fossil fuels and that isn't going to change anytime soon, so how do we deal with a warmer planet and higher sea levels? I'm not sure.

I wanted to gather my thoughts a bit more before I wrote, twinky. My post was an FYI in the sense that I hoped to introduce current news about the subject to anyone who doesn't follow it, like you and me.

I've been 'very concerned about this issue' for some time, too. I watch the PBS program ' NOW ' every week. That link is to their pages about Global Warming. There should be a Podcast of the program on their site, if you are interested in seeing the broadcast. Last week I watched a lecture on Global Warming on a different PBS station. I've watched PBS programs about the subject, and read about the subject it some on the internet. (I am a bit of a Science News junkie!)

I've considered the opinion that says this is naural variation. While it is certainly POSSIBLE that our climate is going through a natural variation, I think that if that is true, then that natural variation has been greatly increased by the industrial age's contribution of greenhouse gases.

Almost all Environmental Scientists agree that Global Warming is happening, and that we humans are a big part of what is going on.

I agree that the Oil companies are funding research designed to cloud the issue of Global Warming. The Pew Institute has an excellent non-partisan multi-national site which has a compilation of the facts about Global Warming, versus the Myths in the speech at that link.

Camus, Scientists now have long term information about past weather patterns that goes back 420,000 years, through Ice Cores. Like tree rings, they vary in size and composition. The amount of snowfall, CO2 levels, ancient Atmospheric Gases and much more can be determined through examining the layers in these Ice cores.

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Silkie
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quote:
Originally posted by Artemisia Tridentata:
Yes. But, we need to start looking at building port facilities that can adapt to the rising sea levels and the changing ocean current patterns. A major port facility serving the purpose of New Orleans needs to be somewhere near the mouth of the Mississippi. But, to build docks, pumps, refineries, tanks, werehouses, rail yards, and a major metropolatan area all below grade is foolish in 2006.

I have to admit a bias on the subject of rebuilding New Orleans. I was born there and lived most of my life there. It's 'my hometown.'

The Port of New Orleans infrastructure was mostly undamaged, and the Port of New Orleans reopened rather quickly. The original New Orleans - the French Quarter - was built on the riverfront and on a ridge, and that area didn't flood. The greatest difficulty in the Port has been getting and housing workers. There is so much damaged housing and still a lack of infrastructure in so many living areas.

Rebuilding New Orleans is going to happen, foolish or not. Whether it's done by the citizens who went back there - one house at a time - or with substantial help, it's already begun. I doubt that New Orleans will ever be the same as it was. Unless there is substantial federal investment in long term flood planning with wetlands restoration, then rebuilding efforts will be futile. And if the current predictions about the rise of sea level are right, much of New Orleans will eventually be underwater.

Rising ocean levels are not just a danger to New Orleans. It will cause widespread changes around the world. We probably don't know how different our world will be ... yet.

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Lyrhawn
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My opinion on this subject has changed someone over the last year. I used to be a diehard environmentalist, well, in the sense that I believed climate change was mostly or partially the fault of man, and that we needed, for the sake of the planet, to stop what we were doing and changed the ways we lived our lives. While at my core, that hasn't really changed, that argument rarely gets me anywhere with anyone not already on my side.

I think a lot of people feel more comfortable believing it's a natural phenomenon, so they are quicker to believe that they have no role in it, it absolves them of guilt, and relieves the pressure of actually having to sacrifice anything personally to solve the problem.

Something else, that hasn't be mentioned yet that I saw is the role that large forests play as carbon sinks to reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and the rampant deforestation that has taken place in the last couple hundred years, and the last century especially has radically destroyed these carbon sinks around the world, reducing the planet's ability to handle large amounts of greenhouse gases.

But I've stopped using the "Save the planet" argument because those set in their ways just don't seem to be swayed by it. It won't affect them, giant waves aren't going to come washing over their homes a la "Day After Tomorrow" so they'd rather just wait and take their chances, or pass it off to the next generation. But when you give them more imediate concerns, they tend to be a bit more malleable.

The health advantages of getting toxins out of the air are staggering. The top ten US cities with the most smog are where the grand majority of lung cancer cases and new asthma cases are. Children living in big cities with smog are much more likely to get a lung disease or develop asthma as a result. Reducing these health concerns and for that matter reducing health care costs is a benefit to the health and fiscal health of the nation.

There are national defense and security arguments too. Becoming independent of foriegn imports of oil make us a more stable and safe nation. No one can dictate to us by threatening to cut off our supply of oil. A global economy doesn't mean that we shouldn't be self sufficient.

There are huge economic advantages to renewable energy too. As a new industry it will take thousands of workers to get a renewable energy infrastructure up and going, and to keep it running permanantly. Further, we could export renewable energy technologies to green friendly Europe and to developing nations so they can take better advantage of their land, and skip the terrible fossil fuel stage to become self sufficient themselves. It'd earn us a lot of goodwill around the world, a lot, a LOT, of money at home, and would leave us self sufficient.

I fear, that if multifaceted arguments like that aren't used, people will still bury their heads in the sand until coney island and new orleans and other places are under water. People need to be afraid of this before they will get behind solving it immediately.

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Tristan
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Hey, knowledgeable and articulate people who express my views better than I could! Thanks Rabbit and Lyrhawn. Now I can go back lurking on this thread with a clear conscience.

If only someone would acknowledge my channeling mr. Collins above, my life would be complete.

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AvidReader
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A quick point about New Orleans. Having been built in the delta, the land is the result of sediment deposits. Old sediment runs down the continental slope into the Gulf where it provides nutrients to the deep ocean. Without those nutrients, the deep ocean goes hungry.

Normally, new sediment would flow down the river into the delta to replace the sediment running off into the ocean. However, New Orleans had its sediment flow disrupted by the Army Corps of Engineers back in the day to keep it from piling up on the city. Now sediment sinks without being replaced. Regardless of global ocean levels, New Orleans will be underwater, or the rest of the Gulf will suffer.

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Silkie
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:

A quick point about New Orleans. Having been built in the delta, the land is the result of sediment deposits. Old sediment runs down the continental slope into the Gulf where it provides nutrients to the deep ocean. Without those nutrients, the deep ocean goes hungry.

Normally, new sediment would flow down the river into the delta to replace the sediment running off into the ocean. However, New Orleans had its sediment flow disrupted by the Army Corps of Engineers back in the day to keep it from piling up on the city. Now sediment sinks without being replaced. Regardless of global ocean levels, New Orleans will be underwater, or the rest of the Gulf will suffer.

True AvidReader, but there is more to it than that. Building was done in the lowland 'suburbs' (away from the French Quarter) when that old quarter land was fully utilized, and that certainly caused the problem of the 'bowl' effect through subsidence. This 'moving to the suburbs' began in the 1700s. Much of New Orleans is under Sea Level. That's partly because of the effect you described, but some of this land was already under sea level when people built on it. That land was filled to a higher level, and refilled again and again over the years.

Restoration of the Wetlands would at least mitigate the flood situation. The Wetlands acted as a buffer zone when Hurricanes passed through the region. The energy of a Hurricane is spent quickly when it hits land. Updating the turn of the century pumping stations in New Orleans and the COE flood control projects, combined with land filling and raised homes, would at least prolong New Orleans' life.

--- BUT ---

I have to admit that I think that in the long term a lot of New Orleans should not be rebuilt. The fact that the Ninth Ward and most of those areas that flooded are below Sea Level is a reality that cannot be overlooked in our rebuilding. Those areas should not have been developed in the first place.

The painful part is that the majority of people who have lost their homes in those areas will probably never be able to return. Here is a current article about the situation.

Six Months after Katrina: Who Was Left Behind - Then and Now

quote:
Who ended up in shelters? Over 270,000 evacuees started out in shelters. The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health surveyed 680 randomly selected adult evacuees in Houston shelters on September 10-12, 2005. The results of that survey illustrate who ended up in shelters:

  • 64% were renters
  • 55% did not have a car or a way to evacuate
  • 22% had to care for someone who was physically unable to leave
  • 72% had no insurance
  • 68% had neither money in the bank nor a useable credit card
  • 57% had total household incomes of less than $20,000 in prior year
  • 76% had children under 18 with them in the shelter
  • 77% had a high school education or less
  • 93% were black
  • 67% were employed full or part-time before the hurricane
  • 52% had no health insurance
  • 54% received their healthcare at the big public Charity Hospital

Many of the people who were dispersed to various states after Katrina will probably end up staying where they were resettled. They are people who had a marginal existance before the storm. They don't have the resources to rebuild, and many of them have nothing TO rebuild since they were renters.

[ February 25, 2006, 11:25 AM: Message edited by: Silkie ]

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A Rat Named Dog
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Here's the issue I see with this problem.

If global warming is occurring, and is caused by human industry, then is there an amount by which we can reduce our emissions and solve the problem without crippling human civilization's ability to support a population in the billions?

Personally, I doubt it very much. We're already to the point where we can only support a fraction of the world's population at the level that westerners consider comfortable. I suspect (without evidence, but if someone has it either way, please provide it) that were we to drop the greenhouse gas output of our industry by a large enough amount that we stopped global warming in its tracks, then that would reduce the entire world to subsisting at third-world levels.

Now, I'm quite passionate about finding ways to reduce the cost and consumption of western civilization so that humanity can afford to offer that standard of living to everyone in the world without blasting through all our resources in a few short years.

But what I don't see happening is our civilization surviving the vast restructuring that it would take to halt the output of greenhouse gases, and actually bring their proportions down.

So ... if I'm right about this, what should be done about global warming? If it is a natural consequence of having an advanced society that can feed billions and maintain a high standard of living, then ... should we accept it as a consequence of something we aren't prepared to abandon?

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Rakeesh
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Tristan,

Oh, give me a break. No, you didn't mean that in the nicest possible way. That was a statement of eye-rolling contempt on your part.

But I'm not angry. Not even mildly annoyed except at your disingenuousness. Feel free to dish it out, because I can take it.

Humanity has not always known of past ice ages, Tristan. You'll recall that I took issue with your use of the word 'always', remember?

As for good historical weather data, we don't have that beyond maybe two to ten decades ago, tops. Oh, we can find evidence of past meteorological (sp?) catastrophes, but not the fine print, so to speak. We cannot, for example, measure or do anything but guess at the levels of greenhouse gasses in the Earth's atmosphere one thousand years ago, or thirty thousand years ago.

Oh no! Not the oil industry! Those guys are evil! Any scientists contracted by them to study anything must be lying, if the results turn out to be favorable to an oil company somewhere! Good Heavens!

Of course the same thing doesn't apply when other organizations with axes to grind sponsor scientific studies, now does it? Just oil. Only your opposition is a bunch of liars, right?

Please.

I have said that I am not convinced, not that I think we should freaking dismiss it. I swear, every single time this comes up and I say I'm not convinced, it's like I've said the planet rides on the back of a giant turtle or something.

And I'm for tighter restrictions on pollution and greater penalties for violators anyway, for a bunch of other reasons that there isn't any argument about!

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Noemon
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Rabbit, your input into the discussions of this that crop up occasionally is invaluable. Thanks for taking the time to post all of that.

Geoff, you raise a very good point, and one which is a already a topic of discussion in the scientific community. Research is going on into various methods of CO2 sequestering for this very reason. Methods like pumping it into tapped out oil wells, absorbing it in chemical ponds, and stimulating algal growth could all be methods of sequestering CO2, though all of them have potential risks, with that last one having enormous problems*. I've also read (although I cant find links at the moment) about plans to sequester CO2 in artificial limestone.


*I wonder, though--if we were to stimulate local algae blooms and immediately harvest the excess algae, hauling it back to land for use in fertilizer or something, would the blooms that we could successfully harvest be large enough to have any impact on atmospheric CO2 levels? Assuming that it would, can anybody think of particular risks that would be associated with this plan?

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Tristan
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Rakeesh,

I really did intend my little snark in the nicest possible way. I like you and enjoy reading your posts, so while I did find your dismissal of what amounts to +50 years of scientific studies as an "educated guess" to be reminiscient of anti-evolutionist arguments, I did not mean my analogy to extend beyond the immediate context. Hence my failed attempt at humour. In general, I have great respect for your opinion and I regret my comment insofar as it seems to have led you to assume that I am far more dogmatic on this topic than is actually the case.

quote:
Humanity has not always known of past ice ages, Tristan. You'll recall that I took issue with your use of the word 'always', remember?
I never said humanity has always known of past ice ages. I defended my contention that the extent which mankind contributed to global warming had always been the focus of the global warming research by alleging that knowledge of natural climate changes -- and I exemplified with ice ages -- predated that kind of research into modern global warming that we are discussing here. I still think this is true, although I learned by following Rabbit's link that the greenhouse effect theory was conceived much earlier than I'd thought. And by a Swede, no less. [Wink]

quote:
We cannot, for example, measure or do anything but guess at the levels of greenhouse gasses in the Earth's atmosphere one thousand years ago, or thirty thousand years ago.
It was my understanding that scientists were doing exactly that, using geological data and ice cores, etc. It is what the Rabbit refers to in the point eight of her post above. I don't know to what level of exactness this is possible, but again, it isn't exactly "guessing".

quote:
Of course the same thing doesn't apply when other organizations with axes to grind sponsor scientific studies, now does it? Just oil. Only your opposition is a bunch of liars, right?
Possible bias should always be taken into account, whether doing so supports your position or not. You get no argument from me here. Since Camus was looking for studies that discredit (man made) global warming and since the oil-industry is an actor with great incentive to support such a conclusion, he would do well to check from whence the research is coming. It would save me having to do it later. [Wink]

quote:
I have said that I am not convinced, not that I think we should freaking dismiss it.
Duly noted. And I never implied (I hope) that you were in favour of dismissing the issue.

quote:
And I'm for tighter restrictions on pollution and greater penalties for violators anyway, for a bunch of other reasons that there isn't any argument about!
Good.

[Smile]

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Lyrhawn
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Geoff, I don't think it's that extreme.

Even a cut of 50% across the board would give us a lot more time to come up with a solution. Ending deforestation and creating a massive replanting effort to increase carbon sinks would help suck up some of what is up there.

Pumping it into tapped out oil wells and limestone deposits is something to be considered as well, though the trapping and transporting of those gases I imagine would be a huge logistical challenge.

Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and other automotive solutions in the next decade are going to drastically reduce the amount of emissions coming from automobiles, but they require government help if we want the switchover to take place in a decade, and not a half century.

Nuclear energy can help reduce the massive emissions made by the coal fired energy production base of the nation, but again, it requires large government assistance, and now, if it is to make a dent soon.

Free market forces will make all these changeovers happen, but if time is really an issue, and it is, then it needs financial assistance from the governments of the world to kick it into high gear. But the governments of the world would rather debate the issue to death and waste time while things get worse.

The actual debate of whether or not we CAN do it doesn't matter. So long as the major powerhouses of the world refuse to even state that we should do it, this will never become more than an academic debate.

Fact of the matter is, using current technologies, no, we probably couldn't solve the problem, but we could make a HUGE dent, and why not start now, rather than waiting for some magical super technology to get us out of this jam?

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camus
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quote:
Since Camus was looking for studies that discredit (man made) global warming
Well, I wasn't exactly trying to discredit it, rather, I was just trying to show that the extent of mankind's impact on the natural process is still largely being debated. In fact, based on what I remember reading about before, it seemed like the amount of CO2 that was added to the atmosphere paled in comparison to the amount that is naturally added each year. I think somewhere around 2% of all the CO2 added to the atmosphere is from human processes. And of course, CO2 is a relatively minor contributor to global warming when compared to the effects of H2O. (I haven't had the time to try to find any links)

Thus, my position is that even huge reductions in CO2 emissions may still only have a very negligible impact on the global warming issue.

I think the ideas pointed out by Lyrhawn above are all things that we should be doing. However, I don't think we should fool ourselves into thinking that doing those things will necessarily protect our society from the natural climate changes that are happening and which we are unable to prevent from happening.

As Rakeesh said above,
quote:
And I'm for tighter restrictions on pollution and greater penalties for violators anyway, for a bunch of other reasons that there isn't any argument about!


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Rakeesh
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Ending deforestation? People living in and near rain forests don't do it for fun, you know.
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Bokonon
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camus, how do answer The Rabbit's objections? Do you know how many of the scientists in the petition linked are active and published in environmental sciences. The Rabbit (an evironmental engineer PhD, I believe) cotends that among her peers, the issue has been settled (with details to be worked out).

-Bok

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
Ending deforestation? People living in and near rain forests don't do it for fun, you know.

I wasn't aware I'd claimed they did in fact do it for fun. If you could point out where I did, I'd be happy to explain it further, and explain to you why you're wrong.
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Rakeesh
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Then perhaps you could offer something more realistic than 'ending deforestation', and my response would not have been so whimsical. We First Worlders are all about ending deforestation. Not so much about replacing its utility for the people actually doing it, at all, really.
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AvidReader
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Silkie, I agree that the treatment of the people of New Orleans has been pathetic at best. However, I can't say I like the idea of a million people going back to a city that will only become more vulnerable over time. I can't think of why it would be a good thing for people who couldn't get out the first time to go back and be trapped again. Because another hurricane will come eventaully. And New Orleans will not be ready for it. Anyone who stays behind is at risk of death.

Please don't think I'm being flippant. I grew up an hour away from Tampa, the second most vulnerable city in the US. Old Tampa is an architectural treasure and should be preserved as best we can. But unless Tampa learns from New Orleans's mistakes, the same thing will happen when the big one hits there, too.

On a side note, does anyone know how accurate Wikipedia is? The article Silkie posted said busses stopped running Saturday, which would be after a state of emergency was declared. However, mandatory evacuation was not called for until Sunday after Katrina had upgraded to Cat 5. If we as a nation are not willing to declare flood plains uninhabitable, maybe we could declare manadtory evacuations for those areas on a differnt scale than the rest of the city. If people had been forced to leave while the busses were still running, who knows how much better it could have gone?

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Rakeesh
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Tristan,

Well...OK. I'm sorry I snapped at you because you did not mean it the way I heard it, but at the time it...I don't know, just read as dripping with sarcasm. It didn't help that there was in my mind a tacit though not actually stated assumption that I was advocating dismissing the issue altogether, just as anti-evolutionists have tried to do in the past.

Maybe that's just my reaction to smilies. I get my dander up when people tack on a smiley to what might be a sarcastic remark-probably because I have the bad habit of sticking them on intentionally sarcastic remarks for added insult. Anyway, I overreacted, and I accept your apology and offer mine in return. Thanks also for your kind words.

I have respect for educated guesses. Often they're all we have to go on. The problem with them is that...well, sometimes they're wrong. Sometimes they're very wrong. Sometimes they're so very wrong in such unexpected ways that people one-hundred years later wonder what in G-d's name those primitive idiots could possibly have been thinking.

Scientifice history is replete with this sort of thing. That is why when we've got incomplete historical data and we've only been studying it for two generations (2.5, maybe) in a serious and modern way with things like computers and satellites and good meteorological data, I'm not going to be inclined to agree with appeals to massively overhaul major segments of human life across the planet in acquiesence with these new scientific discoveries.

That's all I meant. I'm not saying the educated guess is wrong. Personally I'm inclined to believe that the idea that humanity is having a noticeable and worrisome impact on the Earth's climate through things such as greenhouse gasses is a good one and probably right. I just thing a higher standard of proof needs to be reached before making the kinds of changes global warming or climate change requires.

Fortunately, those same changes are required by a whole bunch of other issues which aren't as complicated as global warming.

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Lyrhawn
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Wood replacements abound, recycling wood has become a major industry and is making up a large component of the wood we use to build things and what not with. So far as construction goes, the best idea would be to use concrete. It saves on home heating bills, drastically reducing the cost of heating and cooling during the year, and makes the home much more sturdy and fire resistant. The only reason it isn't used more often is because not as many construction companies are used to using it in home construction, and it costs more. It's relatively new for home construction. But considering how much wood is used for the home construction industry, it would heavily reduce the amount of wood we use.

Double or triple, hell quintuple planting efforts. Make it a law that starting at a certain date, companies must use wood farms for all their wood. Well, maybe not ALL their wood, it would have to be something that is phased in, but wood farms should be the primary source of wood, not old growth forests. Many people don't understand the difference between getting wood from a tree replanted 30 years ago and a tree that was cut down from an old growth forest. Old growth forests take hundreds of years to regrow, and cutting them down destroys ecosystems and in many ecosystems can totally ruin the land through soil erosion, making it unusable even as farmland after it has been cut down.

Using wood purposefully planted for the use of construction and furniture making and not using old growth forest wood would do wonders for the environment, on many levels. It helps prevent mudslides, like the type that killed an entire village just recently I think in the Phillipines (or Indonesia?), will clean the air, protect endangered species, and in the case of rainforests, could save what might be a future cash crop for tourism, and what might hold potentially life saving medicines. Many of the world's rainforests are still unexplored, and at the rate we're going, they will be destroyed before we get the chance.

I'm not sure what you mean by "replacing its utility for the people actually doing it." Are you talking about the money they get from selling the wood? Wood is pretty cheap, and in the case of America, we have enough domestic wood to make imports really only good for the super rich in the case of exotic rare woods.

If you mean, what are third world countries going to do for things like construction if they don't have rainforests to cut down, then I'm not sure you understand the problem. The rate of rainforest loss doesn't correlate at all to the rate of home construction in countries like Brazil and others where the rainforest is being cut down. Much of what they are using that new land for is farming, but the soil erodes so badly they aren't getting anywhere near the productivity out of the soil that they could and should be. The wood is incidental, but their housing industry isn't anywhere near close to being able to use all that wood.

To solve that problem, I would suggest a domestic tax, not a tariff, as that doesn't really help solve the problem, on goods that come as a result of rainforest destruction. Coffee, some spices, rubber, etc. Put a special tax on these items, and then use the money to help purchase rainforest land and turn it into parks that cannot be destroyed, also use the money to help teach these farmers how to make their land more productive. Americans are the best agricultural producers in the world, and we don't produce most of what they are exporting anyway, so there's no harm to our economy by teaching them better methods of production, it can only help us.

It's realistic, but only if the government takes a serious stance on it, and realizes that to solve anything as big as the problem at hand will take a major commitment, and that ANY solution to the problem is going to be huge in scale.

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Nellie Bly
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quote:
On a side note, does anyone know how accurate Wikipedia is?
Wikipedia should never be used as a reliable source. Anyone can edit the information found there, whether it is accurate or not. So while it might be a good jumping off point for research, you should always double and triple check your Wikipedia facts.
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