Friday, December 15, 2006

Three Feet High and Rising*

More warning signs from the Earth's ecosystems [emphasis mine throughout]:

The world's oceans may rise up to 140 cms (4 ft 7 in) by 2100 due to global warming, a faster than expected increase that could threaten low-lying coasts from Florida to Bangladesh, a researcher said on Thursday. [...]

A rise of one meter might swamp low-lying Pacific islands such as Tuvalu, flood large areas of Bangladesh or Florida and threaten cities from New York to Buenos Aires.

On top of that, there is this obviously linked news, passed along by greenboy at Needlenose, that the polar ice caps are melting at a faster rate than expected - and this pace will continue absent some significant and fundamental changes in global energy policies:

The increasing rate of melting sea ice is contributing to a positive feedback system, which feeds global warming further because open ocean absorbs heat from the sun rather than reflects back into space as does ice.

Increasingly, we are uncovering evidence that the scientists who were derided as global warming scaremongerers over the past three decades were actually being conservative to a fault in their estimates. The implications cannot be overstated.

Despite the tragedy unfolding in Iraq, I predict that the historians that Bush is so preoccupied with these days will treat him much more harshly on this front in the long run. As bad a strategic blunder as the invasion of Iraq was, and as many negative repercussions as could emanate from that maelstrom, large scale environmental catastrophe of the magnitude described above would easily dwarf Iraq's parade of horribles.

The foreign policy/national security elite are rightly concerned with threats from an emerging China, regressing Russia and hostile non-state actors/terrorists - especially fear that the latter may acquire some sort of WMD that could wreak havoc on an American city like New York (my home).

But Ansar al-Carbon Dioxide could end up doing a much more effective job of it, rendering all those concerns, and many others, moot. There is no foreign policy if there is no planet after all, and business interests migh suffer a bit if Wall Street is made to resemble an octopus's garden. But concern about the environment lacks the exhiliration of military conflicts, and international power politics, and so it goes largely ignored. I am certainaly not without blame on this front, I acknowledge.

Maybe it would help if we called it the War on Global Warming?

In Bush's defense, unlike Iraq, he didn't create the current environmental crisis. But at a time when the world seemed to be finally taking notice, as manifested by movement toward adopting the Kyoto Protocol, Bush chose to hinder those plans by and block any similar effort at reaching an alternative that would have included the United States. For eight long, costly, vital years he fiddled - and the world suffered for our lack of leadership on this issue. Now we'll have to wait until 2008 and beyond, and hope that Bush's successor takes a more realistic approach - and that the environment will continue to indulge our fecklessness.

That is the truth, and it is well beyond inconvenient. Speaking of which, it was a bitter pill to swallow to see so many in the media relish the opportunity to relive their bizarre fixation with Al Gore's personality traits after his commendable effort to shake America out of its slumber on the issue of global warming. Instead of grappling with the important ideas presented in An Inconvenient Truth, we were treated to more complaints about Gore's "know it all" attitude. How dare he.

You'd think, by now, that Americans would be wondering whether we might prefer our leaders to possess a certain advanced level of knowledge, prudence, mastery of facts, expertise and the like. But no, it's still high school writ large - and everybody hates the nerds! So we continue to be plagued by a resurgent anti-intellectualism that, in part, brings to power leaders like the 'folksy' George Bush. While perhaps a better drinking buddy than Gore, Bush has let this country down time and again through his galling ignorance and the resulting inability to steer policy in his own administration.

Rather than Gore's empirism and dialectical approach to policy making and analysis, our environmental policies have been guided by Bush's "gut" and the influence of his fossil fuel industry patrons. The two do seem to agree with a remarkable level of consistency, don't they. The confluence of Bush's "gut" and energy industry interests, also, has been more than inconvenient. But hey, maybe me and Bush can split a six pack in my life boat as we float away from what used to be the island of Manhattan, shooting spitballs at all the Tri-Lams.

Wouldn't that be a blast.

(*will give credit for two different responses to the current installment of post title bingo)

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