Autumn, Greenland & political "science"

October 15, 2012
School parking lot, Sunnyvale, CA in August 2012

I took this photo the last week of August–can you see the leaves already changing color at the left side of the tree? As I left school, I noticed a little chill in the air, which surprised me. I looked around and sure enough, a few of the trees were donning their fall colors. But then,  out of nowhere, a heat wave. Fall is back, though, as always. But then: a heat wave is forecast for this week. Go figure.

Whether we’re ready or not, nature does its job, moving us into a new season even as we may not feel ready for the current one to end. Sometimes, nature doesn’t feel like it, either.

Life’s a little like that too, isn’t it?  We age, whether we’re ready to or not. Things happen in life that change our status in some way.

It’s the natural order of things, I think.

But some unnatural changes are going on in nature, too. Things we CAN do something about.

It seems that finally, after years of denying and politicizing science, even “conservatives” admit climate change is real.  And I’ve been reading a little bit about the Arctic.* The two topics are related in a startling manner.

Back in 1993, researchers cored out two miles of ice in Greenland that made very clear the rapid pace of climate change.  Yes, 20 years. ago.  Twenty years in which progress was impeded by stupid talking heads.

 And then take a look at this:


The media continue to be complicit in this denial of climate change. Notice that media coverage for 2011 fell drastically from highs–42 percent fall from 2009 and 20 percent from 2010.

What’s been going on in those time periods?  Crazy weather extremes of all kinds.

Now, arguments are made that climate change today is part of a natural cycle that the earth has been going through since it began.  Climate’s changed before, naturally, and it should be expected to change again, naturally.

But here’s something:

There are a number of different forces which can influence the Earth’s climate. When the sun gets brighter, the planet receives more energy and warms. When volcanoes erupt, they emit particles into the atmosphere which reflect sunlight, and the planet cools. When there are more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the planet warms. These effects are referred to as external forcings because by changing the planet’s energy balance, they force climate to change.*

So, naturally occurring greenhouse gases influence Earth’s climate. Therefore, it’s logical to assume that our industrial society’s emissions can also influence climate.

It is obviously true that past climate change was caused by natural forcings. However, to argue that this means we can’t cause climate change is like arguing that humans can’t start bushfires because in the past they’ve happened naturally. Greenhouse gas increases have caused climate change many times in Earth’s history, and we are now adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at a increasingly rapid rate.*

And then, let’s talk pollution.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the people who live farthest from pollutants are the ones most affected…a leading public health expert has said in the 1990s many Greenlanders were so toxic they would have qualified as hazardous waste.**

It turns out that the marine food chain passes some of the worst and deadliest pollutants north. The toxins are stored in fat. The diets of indigenous people are fat-rich. So what’s the result?

Twice as many girls as boys were born in some parts of Greenland and eastern Russia. That’s because endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the food chain have been the catalyst for changes in the gender of unborn children in the first few weeks of gestation.

Think about that for a minute.

No matter what politicians say, and it shocks me how much science is twisted in the name of politics and religion, it seems like “political science” has a new definition…

Anyway, here’s my point: it’s indisputable that what we do affects the planet. It’s time ALL of our leaders stopped making up “science” and started paying attention to the real thing.

And to all of you who want to say that both sides of the aisle are guilty: no, this does not happen on both sides. It just doesn’t. As much as you’d like to believe that it does.

* From THIS interesting website
**The book is The Magnetic North; Notes from the Arctic Circle, by Sara Wheeler

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