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December 2, 2005

Fire or Ice - Which Will It Be?

By: Rowan Wolf

The headline reads "Scientists Say Slower Atlantic Currents Could Mean a Colder Europe. The currents in the Atlantic are slowing significantly, which means that the warm waters of the Gulf Stream won't be moving north. That means the colder waters stay trapped in the North which is bad news for Europe, but could also be bad news for everyone else. I am not a climatologist, or an oceanographer, but it seems that if the currents stop moving everything stalls. The hot waters don't get cooled; the cold waters don't get warmed; the global circulation gets "stuck." By deduction, that would indicate extreme, and unpredictable weather. This year's hurricane records could look mild with a worse season that lasts most of the year. Or something else entirely could happen.

While some scientists are arguing that the cooling of Europe would be consistent with global warming, others might argue that the stopping of the Gulf Stream could tip us over into an ice age. In fact, that is what David Stapp reported in CLIMATE COLLAPSE - The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare. That was a revealing article on the Pentagon's plans estimate of the possible outcomes of the current global warming. In fact, they expect that we could slip into a mid-strength ice age lasting 500-1500 years. There projections of the social implications of such an event seemed most conservative to me, and so I wrote Environmental collapse - sooner not later. The movie "The Day After Tomorrow" works on a similar set of premises as the Pentagon's climate sage (Andrew Marshall) and others.

It is not at all surprising that Mark Lynas wrote an open letter to the delegates at the Montreal Environmental Summit. They know full well that the Kyoto Protocol is not enough, and that they need to look beyond 2012.

I get very frustrated with the arguments about cutting greenhouse gases. Arguments that human impact is minimal and we are not contributing "that much" to the normal cycle. Arguments about negative economic impacts, and "rights to develop." All of it seems like fiddling while Rome burns. Even if the human contribution to global warming was relatively small - say accelerating the process by only 5 or 10% (though I think it is much higher), then we should all be working diligently to remove our contribution. The problems of fossil fuel use go far beyond global warming and addressing one problem would address others such as toxic pollution with its related health and ecological effects, and exhaustion of fossil fuels.

For the United States to argue that cutting greenhouse gas emissions would hurt it economically, or China to argue that their right to develop would be hampered, it nothing in terms of overall economic costs to global warming and other effect of massive use of hydrocarbons - particularly petroleum. Or to the resource wars that are already occurring over oil, gas, and water. Any "gains" made from the path we are on do not even figure into the costs of that path. How much will the costs be of China's two most recent industrial explosions that released hundreds of tons into rivers and water supplies? How much has the U.S. already paid in the lingering destruction of Cancer Alley in Louisiana?

The reports continue to pile up on the global warming, and there is no doubt it is happening, Despite this, the signs that we see that are likely attributed to global warming, heat waves, a record breaking hurricane season, tornados in the US during November that made it one of the most active tornado seasons on record; are explained away as exceptions, or cycles. Hello? Is anyone out there?

With the release of information that the Atlantic current is significantly slowing, we are raising the question of fire or ice? Are the impacts of global warming going to throw part of the planet into an ice age while the other part burns and floods? Are we facing fire or ice? Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be a scenario - even by the nay sayers - that everything will stay the same. That should tell us something.

Posted by Rowan at December 2, 2005 6:42 AM Category: Global Warming