CLIMATE: BAD NEWS/GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS

8 12 2005

More disquieting news on the global warming story came from Greenland this month, as a study revealed that the subcontinent’s glaciers are thinning and melting into the sea at an increasing rate. This is desalinizing the Arctic Ocean, and has had the net result of slowing the Gulf Stream down significantly. The Gulf Stream’s flow brings warmer water and warmer temperatures to northern Europe, but its flow has decreased by almost a third in the last twelve years, which has cooled northern Europe by about one degree centigrade. While this has slowed down the warming of northern Europe (which is still losing its glaciers at an alarming rate), the effect of being a cool spot on a warming globe will merely set up the likelihood of more unstable weather.

For example, a late November blizzard came on so suddenly in southern England that thousands of people were stranded on roads, in schools, and just wherever they happened to be when the storm hit. Kinda like the movie, “The Day After Tomorrow.”

As the Gulf Stream sucks less heat out of the tropics, more heat builds up in the southern oceans, helping fuel larger hurricanes. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, I said, “watch out—category six storms are gonna be happening.” Lo and behold, not long after Katrina came Wilma, whose winds topped out at 175 miles an hour—just one mile per hour short of what would be a category six storm, extrapolating out from the Saffir-Simpson scale, in which hurricane categories change with about every twenty miles an hour of increase in wind speed.

Oh, there’s some good news in the Greenland story. The average temperature there is up by 5 degrees C, and for the first time since the Vikings originally colonized it a thousand years ago (during a natural global warming spell) it’s warm enough to grow potatoes in Greenland.

Meanwhile, in Asia, the glaciers that feed all that continent’s major river systems—the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Irriwaddy, the Yangtze, and the Yellow River—are in retreat, cutting the flow of water into those rivers and threatening to dry out some of the most densely populated places on earth.

We in the Green movement have been sounding an alarm about the course of civilization for over thirty years now, and have always been brushed off with catch phrases like uneconomical, impractical, anti-progress, anti-technology, unAmerican, and the like. It is becoming increasingly obvious where the road we have taken instead is leading us—it’s a hot place, a dry place, and there ain’t much mercy there. How ’bout it, Christians, does it sound familiar?

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