6 12 2006

Don’t think that just because we’re having a cold fall here in the eastern US that all this talk of global warming is hot air. The rest of the world is getting very, very warm. Researchers first announced that Europe is having its warmest Autumn in five hundred years—then they did the tree ring thing a little deeper and came back with no, it’s the warmest autumn in twelve hundred years. At least.

And Europe isn’t the only part of the world that’s getting warmer. The oceans are getting warmer, and when they get warmer, the phytoplankton that are the major source of oxygen on the planet die off in massive numbers. Parts of the Pacific ocean saw a fifty percent drop. Fifty percent. Phytoplankton take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, use the carbon to make their shells, and exhale oxygen back into the atmosphere. Fewer of them means less carbon dioxide getting taken out means it gets warmer means there are even fewer phytoplankton. And less and less oxygen. Catch my drift? Can you catch your breath? Still? Enjoy it while you can—it could get stuffy around here in a few decades if this keeps up. To quote from an article in USA Today (don’t you love my esoteric, hard to find sources!),

“What you’re looking at is almost an avalanche of each individual effect,” said Stanford University biological sciences professor Stephen Schneider. “As it gets warmer and as we measure more things, the evidence accumulates.”

If USA Today is willing to call it “almost an avalanche,” you can bet it’s worse than they’re letting on—indeed, a comprehensive UN study is due out soon and is likely to confirm that things are worse than we thought.

And meanwhile Congress is back and it looks like all the Democrats’ election-year rhetoric is subsiding. Impeachment is off the table. Immediate withdrawal from Iraq is off the table. Unindicted Iran-Contra conspirator Robert Gates got a free pass. When the ecological rhetoric bumps up against the reality of offending big business’s short-term profits, we will probably smell burning rubber as the Dems back away from doing anything significant about that, either. And things will just get worse, until climate change picks the whole country up by the scruff of the neck, just as it did to New Orleans, and gives us a good shake. That will not be pleasant. Y’all have a nice holiday!

James McMurtry, “Holiday




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