Sunday, May 12, 2013

400 And Beyond...

In 2006 (such an innocent time) I saw Al Gore's global warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth", a brilliant film. As he walked through the science and then through changes that were happening and what it meant to the long term climate, he came up with a series of proposals, none of them overwhelming that, added together, would slow the growth of CO2 emissions enough to avoid disaster.

 I came away flooded with knowledge. I had heard about global warming here and there, but for the most part the seasons felt the same, winter still kicked our butts and July still roasted us. But now I saw that global temperatures were creeping steadily higher, and the only reason we didn't feel it yet was because the oceans absorb 2/3 of the heat, and release it much more slowly. The real brake on global warming is that 2/3 of the planet is ocean.

 I dove into internet research, found a web site called, which is still there today, and which is maintained by mainstream climate scientists themselves.

 Then I joined a yahoo discussion group dedicated to global warming, where I intended to discuss what adaptive measures to take, when and with what level of disruption. To my utter shock I found that not to be what the debate was about. No, the debate was about whether or not the planet was truly warming, and if man had anything to do with it. In other words, there was an entire, well-entrenched camp that considered "An Inconvenient Truth" to be fiction, or worse, deliberate distortions.

 A popular buzz-word back then was "certainty." People like Rush Limbaugh pounded their fists, went red in the face and said "There is no such thing as scientific certainty!"

 From there the right began an all out assault on the IPCC, a commission established to pool the knowledge and discoveries of climate scientists, every several years, to determine what was happening and what was being done to cause it or correct it.

 These reports were declared to be clearly partisan and agenda-driven, when in fact there were so may layers of peer review, only a massive conspiracy could have made such a charge plausible.

 And so the "skeptics" decided to do their own studies and issue their own reports. Those studies were in fact heavily biased and agenda-driven. A popular technique was to re-discover some long known climate factoid, and declare that scientists had overlooked or deliberately hidden its true impact on climate.

The right had essentially declared an "everything at once" strategy for defeating climate change legislation and regulation.

The left was little better, taking every opportunity to hype a new climate science "discovery" as "urgent" and requiring immediate disruptive change.

Over two years, my eyes widened as I discovered how deep and wide this "contra-science" ideology went, and I saw with my own eyes seemingly sane, rational people refuse to look at climate science in any such way. No, models are not very good, but when enough different ways of crunching the data assemble over a line that goes generally up, and up more sharply over time, you can at least consider that scenario plausible.

And so there was in fact a middle ground, the one proposed by Gore: focus on several manageable things, and the combined impact on CO2 emissions would be positive. But of course the true enemy of climate science in this debate was the ticking clock. The right knew early on that a tie was a win; the left needed to win, in order for true social change to occur. The right wanted no such shift; they had oil to sell and they were going to damn well keep selling it. Nevermind that they could instead have raced to the top to see who would come up with the technology which would become the industry standard for clean energy. Nevermind they are "energy" companies and thus assure their longevity by finding cheaper, cleaner, more efficient ways to deliver energy.

Nevermind there were all sorts of ways to make money while leading this effort.

Nevermind we weren't going to stop using fossil fuels anytime soon anyway. There was time to allow this trend to unfold.

Nevermind any of that; nevermind that compromise didn't have to hurt anyone. The right would not come to the table in any way to come up with new guidelines, new targets, new requirements. The energy companies would not come and discuss the future of energy.

They even tried to stop the government from phasing out incandescent light bulbs, a 19th century invention that had long since been proved to be far less efficient at producing light from energy (heating a filiment til it glowed), and far more wasteful of its energy than newer alternatives. The argument was that incandescent bulbs had softer light and were less expensive to buy. NEVERMIND that they give off enough heat to cause severe burns or to start a fire; NEVERMIND that the long-term cost of flourescents was less costly than incandescents.

NEVERMIND any of that. It's energy. It's change. Change is bad.

And so today it should shock no one that What Al Gore said we could avoid with those simple changes, 400 ppm of CO2 well mixed in the atmosphere, is now upon us. It should shock no one.
I knew in 2008 that the debate was over. Some still haven't accepted that fact. Most of the warming is still in the oceans, but the oceans are warming rapidly, melting ice along the way, liftng sea levels and feeding super storms. None of this is in dispute, other than by those who represent biased agendas, or the willfully uninformed.

We succeeded in handing this disaster to our children and their children. And the only advice we can give is, "Prepare for large, sudden changes in your living conditions."