Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Run for your lives!!!

Was it Pink Floyd who said "there's nowhere to run to baby" It looks like the latest IPCC report will induce even more anxiety.

19 comments:

Sam said...

Obviously Americans have underestimated the potential effects of global climate change. The excert from Reuters even leaves out some of the more direct effects. Most important perhaps is the damage to large ice sheets in Greenland and Antartica as discussed here: http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/01/29/climate.report.ap/index.html

Of course the Bush administration has downplayed any discussion of global warming until recently. It looks like they might pay for it: http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/30/congress.climate.ap/index.html

Sam said...

The above links were cut, but go to cnn.com and search "global warming" as they are the first two articles listed.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what some of these projections are based on. They seem more related to Malthus' An Essay then to reality. Hopefully, they do not repeat Malthus mistakes of undervaluing the importance of technology.
I am specially concerned with the food starvation projections. Are they really considering all the facts? For instance, it occurs to me that as land is lost in the lower regios of the world due to floods, higher regions (that were not previously employed) become profitable.
All of this is not to say that the issues they are talking about are not grave once. But if they blow the forcasts out of proportion, they will lose any credibility, ultimetly hurting the cause more then helping it. Adolfo

Brynn said...

My grandmother calls me about once a week to rant and rave about the Bush administration and global warming. Last week her only questions was "Brynn, how are we going to save the polar bears?" I told her that if all we lose are the polar bears then we should probably consider ourselves lucky. As insensitive to the polar bears as that may be, I believe its true. Unfortunately, when the polar bears are gone it means bad things all over the world. I agree with Adolfo that losing low lying lands may force us to use lands at higher altitudes more efficiently. But you have to consider this statement is not so simple. Millions of people live in low lying lands like Sri Lanka. When these people are displaced where will they go? Who will take them and what kind of infrastructure will be in place to make sure these people maintain a decent quality of life. Furthermore, as more people are pushed into higher regions, there will be less land for agriculture. These are only a few of many problems that will have to be addressed. In many places global warming has altered climate patterns in a way that already has significantly changed peoples lives. I agree that reports like the IPCC shouldn't blow forecasts our of proportion...but I believe its even more important for them to make the general public realize that global warming is a serious issue of our time.

Anonymous said...

Exactly! Brynn hits precisely on the problem.
There are so many questions that the problem of global warming addresses and to which we have no answer. What scientists are doing is predict human solutions to these problems based on past trends and current technologies. Any change to their assumption leads to a totally different answer. This is precisely the problem with all forecasts (regardless of the industry). And remember, the assumption we are making here is that we are "slow" to react.
My point is that the issue of global warming will only be solved by creating global awareness (which inturn becomes political awareness). So, unless these scientists are certain of their forecast, having those predictions on world headlines will only hurt the environmental movement as people will once again reject this movement for a bunch of extremist.
In the case they are confident; I would propose a change in strategy. They can take their incredible gift of forecasting to Wall Street and make enough money to solve the problems themselves. As chapter 9 says in the first page, “the only certainty is uncertainty”. Adolfo

Wesley said...

The report is really damn frightening, especially due to the fact that will likely happen in our lifetime. However, I was perplexed by this line, Dr. Graeme says that “the projections in the report that comes out this week are based on the assumption that we are slow to respond and that things continue more-or-less as they have in the past.” While it seems obvious that we are indeed very late in starting to address the issue, I question the decison to base this report on the idea that current trends will continue for the next 100 year. Trends never continue for that long, especially when people realize that they are nearing "the bottom of the bucket". Humans have proven incredibly resillient to forces that challenge their very existence, and I think we will find a way to incredibly reduce our carbon output at some point in the next 20 years due to the dire situation we find ourself in now.

This situation kind of reminds me of Paul Ehrlich and his book "The Population Bomb" written in 1968 where he said In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now", which was based on current trends continuing in a linear fashion.
He thought many of them would die in India, where he said that it was "a fantasy" that India would "ever" feed itself.
However, in response to the growing problem in India, Norman Borlaug was to invent the strain of the "dwarf wheat" that could be grown more compactly and wouldn't fall over itself like normal wheat,in time allowing India to become a wheat exporter.
Sorry for the long post, just wanted to show what I thought was a little strange about that quote.

Jon said...

To continue my series of off topic but pseudo relevant posts: I found an article talking about how Wal-Mart (in addition to trying to become a bank) has created its own power company in Texas in order to sell itself power for its stores.

For some reason this comes off sinister to me, probably because its wal-mart. I think they simply want to avoid an upcoming cost increase in power that they see coming from current power companies perhaps. But as Prof. Casey would argue- is there anything wrong with trying to be profitable? Article at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/
dws/bus/stories/012807dnbuswalmart.14c8bed.html

Laura said...

While my comment lacks a certain amount of sophistication, my main response to this article is frustration. Yes, it may or may not be graver than previous reports, but haven't a large group of us expected this along the way? And yes, this report is scary, but a lot of things about global warming are scary. While scientific reports and predictions have their place, I think we have exhausted them and their potential utility in this topic. Ultimately, things are getting worse and will continue to get worse, so let's stop predicting how much worse and start writing reports on ways to alleviate some of the predicted hardships. Why aren't dramatic actions against global warming taking the place of dramatic emotions against it in the news? Isn't about time for that to be the case?

Hartley said...

When I first read the article I was amazed that it talked about a food crisis for so many people. It got my attention before I really thought about it. Then I read Adolfo's comment and I agree that it is a little out of proportion. But as I am clearly easily influenced, I agree with Brynn. It is important that people fighting for out environment and effects of the harm we are causing it tell others the grave realities that may occur. I believe that these people are more focused on grabbing other's attentions. Of course whatever they say must have some creditability but I'm not saying that they don't. Many articles that I have read about global warming and the effects pull similarly striking statistics that I grab my attention. Now that they have my attention, I believe what they say. As is the case for this article. After seeing the affects of Katrina, I know that a rise in water levels can really be detrimental to all residents in the area. Although water is no longer in some of the low lying parts of Louisiana, many people are fighting to keep residents out of areas that are below a certain depth. They think that because these areas are so low no one should live there anymore. As New Orleans grew as a city, more citizens moved to these low lying areas because it was cheaper. Many have managed to make great livings from these areas and I do not think it would be beneficial to displace these citizens. This is the same idea with global warming mentioned in the article. As the water rises, more and more people living in coastal and low lying areas will be displaced, disrupting their entire infrastructure and earnings, not to mention their lives. So, I do agree with the article when they say that rising water is a problem for citizens in these areas. I believe this may ultimately lead to a food crisis in many areas.

Tom said...

Before this class I was a little skeptical that global warming existed. I have now been swayed more in the direction of accepting the reality of global climate change, but I still feel like this report, namely the reuters portion, makes some assertions which lack substantive backing. For instance, how can Reuters conclude "rising temperatures will leave millions more people hungry by 2080?" 2080 is over 70 years away. There is ample room for technological innovation in the next 70 years. Maybe one could argue that people could starve in 70+ years due to climate change if all else was left equal, but clearly all else will not be equal. We are moving in the direction of change.

This may seem shortsighted, but speaking of change and the uncertainties of the effects of global warming, doesn't it seem more practical to put money towards objectives which have more clear and predictable effects? For instance, if one is worried about the people of the world starving, why not put money towards feeding them? Feeding the poor, although sometimes inefficient, at least has a more certain result than trying to impliment a policy to curb global climate change. Don't get me wrong, I still believe that cutting back carbon emissions and such would be beneficial, but at the same time I think that there are more certain ways to improve the world than to invest massive amounts of time and money into the uncertainties of global warming.

-Andrew Sims

kirk jones said...

When these official reports on global climate change are completely released it will be very interesting to see how much attention they garner from governments concerning future political policies. A project as large and important as this should gain the respect of governments and their political leaders in future environmental decisions.

Thomas Gift said...

By all accounts, the evidence seems incontrovertible that climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed before the full wrath of its consequences befall us. That said, some of the predictions made in this new quasi-doomsday report still seem (to the lay observer at least) like slight exaggerations. Consequently, I hope that the scientists behind this report - who are in an understandable rush to alert people of the gravity of the situation - are not letting their agenda drive their evidential interpretations, rather letting their evidential interpretations drive their agenda. Although it is beneficial to have a worst-case scenario in mind, making even the occassional hyperbole often does more harm than good to those who are seriously concerned with environmental protectionism. It has a tendency to disenchant people and make them justifiably skeptical of even legitimate arguments they may hear in the future.

elizabeth garson said...

I think the primary reason for making the reports so jaw dropping is to scare more people into wanting to do something about global warming. The scientists who come up with the reports know/hope the world will prpobably not be in the condition they speak of (they give the upper side of things), but their idea is that there will be a greater inclination to push this issue towards the front if their reports attract a lot of attention. I think that if their predictions appeared to be less grave, some people might disregard it. Along with discussing the facts, the scientists also have to make sure people will be interested in reading their report. I am not suggesting exaggeration; however something needs to get our attention.

Mackenzie Hutton said...

I think what struck me the most about this article is the fact that it showed the serious consequences of global climate change that would be realized in the near future. The terrors that are being predicted seem as though they will have a large effect on our lives, and if not, definitely the lives of our children. We don't have time to wait on reducing emissions that cause global climate change. The issue needs to be addressed immediately before we run out of time.

bruce said...

The effects of golbal warming stated in this article are certainly frightening and merit a great deal of attention, but how are we to know exactly how much impact human activity has had on the changing temperatures. It is obvious that our careless disregard for the environment does have implications, but couldnt some of this global climate change be a part of a natural warming trend?

Susan said...

These new reports will probably garner the public's attention, as they should. But these scientific reports are just the latest in disastrous predictions made for the global future.

When are things going to actively be done to fix it? It is difficult for individual actions to have a global impact. What we need are the concerned citizens pushing for policy change to reduce emissions and hopefully slow down global warming.

Kelly Hishta said...

I would just like to point out to everyone that the IPCC has been around since 1988. This is its 4th report. To say that they were rushing to get things together and trying to sensationalize their science is really quite absurd. To publish a credible report it has to be peer reviewed multiple times. Many of the numbers they are getting come from complex climate modal algorithms which are run with more scenarios than we can probably think of. No numbers are perfect, but they dont have to be to get the idea across.

sarah tilbor said...

A random comment on Australia:
While I was there, I found out that there are huge issues with droughts. They get the opposite effects of ENSO. And, therefore, some parts have been in a drought for 10 years. Now, Australia is holding an excessive amount of people. And the resources that are available are diminishing rapidly. A huge issue in Queensland (a couple of months ago), for example, was whether to start using "grey water". This means recycling water that is not completely polluted, but not totally fresh.
Another huge issue: in Western Australia, they are creating the first commercial desaliation plant. Although this is very innovative and interesting, I don't think that they have thought of all of the reprecussions. There will be huge density issues in Perth harbor because of all the excess salt being replaced. And the biological diversity will suffer.

Kris Brake said...

To me the report seems to indicate that doomsday is nearly upon us. Someone needs to make sure that this type of information is more widely distributed to the public. If people are not educated as to waht may happen, the elites will have trouble enacting policy. Regardless of whether these numbers are exactly right, there is a problem that needs to be dealt with. Even if humans only play a role in this trend rather than being the only cause, we can do something about it by changing our behavior. So what if this is part of a natural trend. Does this mean that we are not responsible for the damages we are causing, because we are only speeding up the process. This is poor logic at best.