Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thoughts on Global Warming, August 2010

Despite a few hours of rain last night, Cape Cod continues to boil under a scorching hot sun again today. It’s foot gear required at the beach this summer for anyone who hopes to reach the shore without burning his/her feet. Hot, hot, hot. The words are on everyone’s lips. How can the weather be so warm? When is this heat wave going to subside? Is this a glimpse of worst-yet-to-come and evidence of global warming?

Last night I finished the book I was reading and highly recommend it: The Great Warming by Brian Fagan. Here are two excerpts, page 232 and 240, respectively:

“When the novelist George Orwell, of 1984 fame, was a police officer in Burma in the 1930s, he was confronted with a berserk elephant in a bazaar. In the distance, ‘peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow.’ But the beast had killed a man and ‘a mad elephant had to be killed like a mad dog.’ Orwell was struck by the violent contrast in his by now seemingly placid prey. And so it is with drought. As my research progressed away from Europe, I realized that drought was the hidden villain of the Medieval Warm Period. Prolonged aridity was the silent elephant in the climate room, and the unpredictable swings of the Southern Oscillation were what brought the beast through the door.”

“Our travels have taken us down the highways and seaways of a nascent global economy, through a world where interconnectedness and interdependency were beginning to become sustained political realities. We traveled through a time when, on the whole, people lived conservatively, with a good weather eye for risk. We now confront a future in which most of us live in large and rapidly growing cities, many of them adjacent to rising oceans and waters where category 5 hurricanes or massive El Ninos can cause billions of dollars of damage within a few hours. We are now at the point where there are too many of us to evacuate, where the costs of vulnerability are almost beyond the capacity of even the wealthiest governments to handle. The sheer scale of industrial societies renders them far more vulnerable to such long-term changes as climate temperatures and rising sea levels.

This is the immediate crisis of global warming in human terms and it requires not a short-term response but massive interventions on a truly international, and long-term scale.”

As I look south to Washington from a Cape Cod beach, reading material in hand, I can only scratch my head at the inaction that characterizes the current Congress. They are paid to look out for the citizens of this country, and since the USA is a super-power, by extension, of the world. How can supposedly intelligent people (Senate Republicans) continue to deny global warming? How can supposedly intelligent people (Senate Democrats) give up on a strong climate change bill? How can supposedly intelligent people (USA populace) allow the Senate to get away with such behavior?