Posts Tagged ‘global warming’
I subscribe to the Teche News, a truly enjoyable weekly newspaper from St. Martinville, where I grew up, and this week there was an amazingly interesting letter to the editor in it, complete with graphs. The author, M. L. Broussard, pointed out that these periods of global warming are cyclical, with rapid rises and slower falls, as demonstrated in Antarctic and Greenland ice cores. People used those same ice cores to measure CO2 levels in tiny bubbles trapped inside the ice, giving us a good idea of past warming periods…and greenhouse gases.
The interesting thing is that rising CO2 levels FOLLOWED global warming periods by more than two hundred years…some calculate about a thousand, and his conclusion is that the warming is cyclical and unrelated to that much maligned gas. You see, when it gets hot and the oceans heat up, they release CO2 because it’s much less soluble in warming sea water. That scenario makes sense to me, but the last time Earth warmed, there were a LOT fewer people…and NO internal combustion engines. SURELY, they add to the problem, maybe not the primary cause, but at least an aggravant.
Up to then, I thought it was all CO2, but these concepts have broadened my perspective. I still firmly believe we should try to produce less of it, even if it’s only to MITIGATE the extent and duration of global warming, which I suspect is based on the sun’s activity or some other cosmic factor, but to assume we CAUSED it all may be taking a little too much credit. Earth’s climate history has been one of endless swings, from warm and lush to frigid and spare, tropical alternating with ice ages, but we should really think about what we KNOW about some of those warm periods. That’s the part I’m stuck on…and those poor dinosaurs.
They lived in one of the tropical, warm periods and were most likely done in by an asteroid hitting what is now the Yucatan, Chicxulub. That’s all very interesting, but I can’t help thinking about the central part of North America, what is today the great plains. They were UNDERWATER in what’s always described as a shallow…but vast…inland sea in those days, at least partly the reason they’re so fertile today.
Think about it…water all the way from the Gulf of Mexico, which was a much larger ocean then, to Canada. God knows how many people live on land that was sea floor when dinosaurs did their thing, and what about costal cities? All of ours would be underwater, including New York City…yes, it’s a costal city, too. Of course, the rise would be gradual, and at first, I bet people put up one humongous battle to keep the salt water out. But in the end, people now enjoying our seashores will have to move inland…or drown.
You see, whether this is cyclical and part of nature’s pattern or man-made…or both, it pretty much looks like it’s ACTUALLY happening. I think the tree-huggers, among which I number myself, are wrong, and this is actually part of a pattern. True, we may be aggravating it, accellerating it, as it were, but I believe even if we didn’t produce ONE MOLECULE of CO2, it would still keep on happening. It’s where we are on the geologic curve of climate history that’s the real thorn in our collective paw.
Mr. Broussard made another interesting point. He thinks WATER VAPOR is the ultimate greenhouse gas, not CO2, and he used a sort of thought experiment to make his point…deserts. Desert days are, of course, hellishly hot, but the nights are really COLD. I remember that first-hand from my military time in El Paso; it was FREEZING at night. Why? If CO2 is the demon it’s been made out to be, nights should be warm in desert areas because the concentration doesn’t change at night. We should all be cloaked in our immense greenhouse, still sweating.
But we’re not, and the author is right; the only possible variable you can point to is water vapor, which is almost non-existent in desert areas. The sun warms the place up during the day, and at night, with no warming sun and no water vapor to wrap us in warmth, the temperature plummets…while the CO2 level doesn’t change a whit from night to day. I’m not saying it doesn’t participate; I’m saying…to me, at least…it just doesn’t seem like the major player we’ve been led to believe it is.
The hardest thing in life is dealing with a situation over which you have NO CONTROL…powerless to change what’s going on. I know; believe me…been there lots of times myself when I practiced medicine…incredibly frustrating, but the funny thing is you don’t just stand there and say, “Oh, my God! I can’t do ANYTHING!” Instead, you work your ass off, trying one thing after another, innovating, thinking outside the box, expending every ounce of energy you possess. It’s a DO SOMETHING moment.
At times like those, a lot of people IGNORE the consuming problem, focusing instead on something they actually CAN change…even if it’s irrelevant, and to be honest, I think a lot of that’s going on these days in global warming discussions and projected doomsday scenarios. I don’t laugh at those people…like I said…been there too often myself to do anything that vacuuous. I listen and sometimes even go along with them, particularly if what they’re proposing seems reasonable, and that’s pretty much how I feel about our “carbon footprint.”
You gotta understand. To me living in a Cajun cabin with a garden out back, a couple of cows, a chicken coop, a trusty dog, a good woman, a stone hearth, natural ventilation, candles at night, and maybe gumbo once a week made with chickens you’re raised is just about as close to Heaven as you could get…but I know it’s completely impossible. This Cajun lives in the twenty-first century and sees his dream existance only in museums or crumbling in two-hundred year old houses in out-of-the-way places on seldom traveled dirt roads. I’ve GOT to face this…no other choice, so I’m doing it.
Reducing emissions that HELP the sun and Mother Earth in their clock-like cycle of warming and cooling is a GOOD IDEA, no matter how you look at it, but in my heart, I think we’re only chipping away at a tiny part of what’s trying to consume us. Cosmic forces are going to have their way because NONE of us is big enough to deter any of them. I know it makes us feel better to try, so I say, “Go for it”…but I’m afraid we’re only whistling past the graveyard this time.
If Mr. Broussard is right…and we’ll never know, will we? We’ll all be dead and buried LONG before the answer is known. Actually, I don’t plan to be buried but incinerated and scattered somewhere so plants can use me; I believe in recycling…but if he’s right, our world is about to change incredibly…whatever we do. The oceans will rise, and maybe…just maybe…a new sea will begin to form over Iowa, Nebraska, and all points between Houston and the high ground in Canada.
The weather will become much more capricious and deadly…actually, I think we’re ALREADY seeing that…and summers hotter…sound familiar?…and winters colder. It’s all tied up in haloclines. Google it if you’re interested, or check the links page. Things are going to change, and while we’re ENDLESSLY trying to reduce our carbon emissions, we better start planning where we’re going to put all those people sloshing in from the heartland…and our seashores.
The way I see it, we have three warring camps, geologists and oil people on one side discounting the contribution of CO2, environmentalists on another passionately devoted to the concept, and naysayers on still another denying that anything at all is happening. I don’t think we can do anything about the third group until they realize they’re wrong, but shouldn’t the others be allies rather than adversaries, working together instead of calling each other names? It’s time for us to look at this problem comprehensively, whatever the driving engine of global warming.
The problem is HUGE, and under way now, as I see it; there HAS to be a spot for everyone in figuring out what’s going on and hopefully, dealing with it successfully. Yelling at one another and choosing sides is pointless. Both groups make sense…and maybe the reality is some where in between, as it usually is in situations like this. I think it’s time to shave a little off our egos, pool our resources, hunker down, and work together like enlightened human beings. All you climate guys on both sides are smart; we know that, but fighting with each other while our world bakes and starts to drown is STUPID!
We don’t need stupid. We have too much of that already…most of it in Washington.
When you live in south Louisiana these days, you find less charm in spring. You go through the motions, planting gardens and flower beds and enjoying the warm days and cool nights, but too many things remind you. Hurricane season is around the corner, and almost automatically, you begin checking out your supply of batteries, your water jerrycans, and your supplies, most particularly the fuel container and oil for the generator.
I know a lot of you are STILL not convinced, but after Katrina, Rita, and the horror we tried so hard to avoid in Alexandria, I AM! With global temperature slowly creeping up, I can’t help remembering what all the experts have predicted. Sure, warmer days and nights, but the weather…the WEATHER…is expected to become much more unpredictable and severe…and to us down here, it means more of those horrific storms.
Not to those north of us…I’m confident they watch the weather news with concern and empathy when we’re in the crosshairs, but they’re in global warming’s crosshairs, too. What the hell do you think those tornadoes are all about…so many and so strong? Consistent, erratic, and increasingly severe weather…that’s what they said, and deep in my bones I just can’t help thinking it has begun. I think Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Texas would tend to agree.
Things are changing in such peculiar ways. I keep thinking about Manon Lescault, a beautiful Italian opera. In the last act, Manon and Des Grieux are lost “near New Orleans”. Des Grieux sings, “WATER, we must find water!” Whenever that plays in New Orleans, it never fails to produce an audience-wide laugh. New Orleans is SURROUNDED by water. More likely, they’d have drowned before dying of thirst.
The story is Puccini drew a line on a map between New Orleans and his part of the world, found it about on the level of the great Sahara Desert, and quite naturally decided we were a desert area, too…hence that line in the opera…but these days I’m beginning to think he was ahead of his time. Things are getting really strange here…in the WORST drought we have ever seen. There was a beautiful fire ring outside the cabin we rented at Toledo Bend, but we couldn’t use it. The danger of wildfires was just too great.
When we hiked in the woods, everything we stepped on was dry and crackly…waiting for a random spark to produce an inferno. Of course, we were cautious, but Mother Nature makes LIGHTNING…and that starts fires, too. My lady and I began to play a sort of game as we drove along. Some lawns were brown and dusty, others luxuriant and green…and usually had lawn sprinklers going full blast.
I had the brown ones and she the green…and I WON! Neither of us said the words…we didn’t have to. This part of the world is trying to become the desert Puccini was so certain of. Of course, deserts don’t appear all of a sudden. I’m sure people on the edge of the Sahara worked like hell, watering their crops…and their lawns…before they finally gave up, bought a camel and tents, and decided they couldn’t win.
Right now our water deficits are so huge even a half-dozen hurricanes couldn’t correct it. My lady has ALWAYS wanted to turn our lush, green front yard with all its trees, bushes, and plants into a rock garden with cactus, sand, and lizards. She’s from Texas; she likes that kind of thing, but I’m from Louisiana. I like watery things like slow-moving bayous and the sound of thunder with lines of black, pregnant clouds crowding the horizon. I can’t help it; I’m Cajun.
She’s gonna miss it, too…in Louisiana much too long even though she doesn’t completely realize it yet. She fell in love with our bayous, our exuberant waterlines, our swamps, our trees, our garden-fresh vegetables, our GREEN things a long time ago. She’s hooked, but I wonder how she’ll deal with dry, stiff, brown things all the time…and sand…and watching stuff she’s learned to love slowly wither.
To me, lately It feels like Puccini was right, and Mother Nature is hell-bent on making us a desert. Okay…I’m a Cajun but also a realist…like the rest of us; over the years, we’ve collectively learned that much, at least. After all we’ve been through, we’ve learned to adapt pretty well, and it feels like it’s about time to now. So? Anybody know where I can buy a camel? I can always swap ‘em a bass boat if they want to haggle, but surely, camels can’t be THAT expensive.
I watched the evening news tonight: drenching rains, failing dams, floods, scorching heat advisories in umpteen states, a fizzled tropical storm with another one in the wings, and the hottest June and July in history. Almost the entire country has had some sort of disturbing problem lately…amazing stuff…and all weather-related.
You think something’s going on? I do. When you live in the crosshairs like we do, you tend to be more sensitive to changing weather patterns, and we’ve been diligent, checking out our supply of batteries, disaster food–both human and canine, drinking water containers, storm lamps, battery-powered fans, and dynamo-capable radios. Everything’s ready.
We’re used to it, but yesterday when I went to the supermarket to buy a turkey breast, I ran into a woman puffing behind a cart piled about a foot over the brim. “There’s a hurricane coming,” she declared breathlessly. A newbie! I didn’t have the heart to tell her Bonnie had died an unlamented death…and anyway, the stuff she was hauling around would be completely useless when her power went. Almost all of it would spoil.
I bet she doesn’t even have a generator…or a camp stove, probably doesn’t even know what they are. Camp stoves are neat little gadgets you use when nothing in your kitchen works. Our house has a gas stove; usually we can heat things up after a storm, but she looked like the all-electric-kitchen type to me. I bet she hasn’t even had her trees trimmed. Anyway, hysteria seems like more fun than preparing…at least to her.
Another newbie down the street had all his trees cut down, not trimmed, CUT DOWN…every last one! He had a lovely home on a beautifully shaded lot, but now it looks kind of sad…and very naked. He’s going to doubt his wisdom on those scorching August days when you can fry an egg on the sidewalk and his air conditioning is running full blast 24-7. I can just see the little pointers on his electric meter spinning.
They’ll learn pretty quickly, because we’re going to have a lot more storms and hot weather…and it’s going to get worse. Global temperature has risen eight-tenths of one degree and already things are changing dramatically. I understand a rise of two degrees would result in world-wide disaster, with horrific, sea-spawned weather roaring inland and rising water reclaming costal land…but some people are in for a HUGE surprise.
A lot of people who don’t consider themselves costal really are…like New York City. It pumps millions of gallons of seeping water out of its subways every day, and few there realize how easily the system could be overwhelmed. I hope they’ve bought their own camp stoves and a lot of dehydrated meals because they’re gonna need ‘em! EVERYTHING’S underground up there, sewer systems, fresh water, electricity, communication, transportation…you name it.
Lafayette’s high. When most of south Louisiana flooded in 1927, we were a refugee center, and I think we’d make a creditable seaside town. Cajuns are cagey opportunists…we’ve had to be, and I can see sand trucked in, beach cabanas dotting the shoreline, and little huts selling boudin, dirty rice, and crawfish etouffee in the shadow of spiffy new resort hotels.
By my GPS estimate, our house should be pretty close to the beach, and I’ll be able to take my dog for a walk in the surf. I know Angel. She’ll be zooming around, romping, barking, and snapping at incoming waves, but I’ll have to teach her to avoid the messy oil globs. It will be wonderful…but only for a while. Dogs don’t live very long compared to humans; Angel probably won’t be here, but I can see a day when even my lady and I have to pack up and head north.
They say if you put a frog into hot water, it’ll jump out quickly, but if you put it into cool water and slowly raise the temperature, it’ll stay there until it boils to death. Human beings are a lot like that. We respond almost instantly to sudden crises but let slowly developing ones slide right past us. Our instinctive response to sudden threat is chemical, adrenaline-based, but we have only our brains to protect us from creeping danger.
It’s hot as hell out there. Everybody I know is calling it the hottest July in history, and you can just bet August and September are going to top the charts, too. People on TV keep saying el nino kicked the jet stream north, but that tells us what’s going on, not why. They bend over backwards saying it’s not a big deal, but I think they know.
Either something new is happening or it’s not. I like binary decision trees, and I gotta tell you…on this one I’m on the something new side. A couple of years ago, I stacked a cord for the fireplace, but it rotted away unused. Now, I buy four or five logs at a time. That’s plenty, because the next day it’s usually too hot. Once I even went water skiing on Christmas afternoon, great fun, but the sun was merciless. Still, the water was nice and cool.
I’m sorry. I know it’s unpopular, but I’m going to risk it. A lot of people don’t even think it exists, but I chalk all this up to global warming. I used it in my novel, Dawn on Earth, the effect of rising world temperatures on our lives. Days were consistently in the mid ninties, but that wasn’t what made my characters miserable. It never really cooled off, even at night…sounds a lot like what’s been going on around here.
Of course, I had to write in a little conflict. Some people, the ELITE, were comfortably air-conditioned and avoided going outside as a life’s mantra, but you know me. I was all wrapped up in what was happening to the non-elite…the rest of us, and it was devastating to take my reasoning out that far.
With the entire planet challenged by something nobody could really control, I thought we’d probably unite as a single government, and in my novel it worked, providing everyone water and some sort of food, though it was usually only grain. I know, I know…maybe I was overly optomistic, considering how pitifully governments respond these days, but that’s the way I wrote it. It’s FICTION, for God’s sake!
The fun part of letting my imagination roam was describing topographic changes in my hot new world. Of course, sea levels rose tremendously, forcing people to migrate ever farther inland, but rising waters also restored the ancient, shallow sea over what is now the great plains, greatly reducing our food larder. It wasn’t hard to imagine; I was describing the world of the dinosaurs…almost exactly.
Global warming is peculiar territory. Costal storms become more severe, weather inland ferociously erratic, and some places actually get cold, but in the end relentless heat wins…a little like what happened on Venus. It began a lot like Earth, but a runaway greenhouse effect took it all the way to a surface temperature of eight hundred degrees. Water has boiled away completely, and the carbon dioxide atmosphere is heavy enough to crush a human being like a slug.
The arrow points only one way. Polar caps melt, reflecting less heat, fresh water dilutes the sea, killing well-established dynamic currents, and from that point on, everything accellerates. You know, we could be on the first step of a long slide. Nobody has said the words RUNAWAY GREENHOUSE EFFECT yet, but it happened on Venus. Why not here?
Look up at the evening star. It’s beautiful in the growing night, that disaster between us and the sun, but the view from a distance is notoriously deceptive. Some call her our pitiful “Sister Planet,” but I sure hope it doesn’t run in the family, that head-long dash to self-destruction.
Even if it were hell-bent on sharing the fate of its evil twin, our Earth would probably stay beautiful in space for a long time before slowly morphing to a brown and gray thing. Eventually, bright clouds would no longer fill our skies, aggregating instead into a hideous, dirty helmet, but it would still rain…not water, but corrosive acid. Don’t fret; we’d all be dead by then.
Stuff on this subject usually ends saying, “There’s still time,” but I didn’t…too trite and not really my style. I had the naive idea that by showing what could happen, I might change the way people look at things. Truth is, it has…for some, but there’s one significant diffenence they should remember. Venus’ destruction was natural, but what’s happening to us is self-inflicted…kind of a planetary suicide.
In my darker moments, I picture alien archaeologists shuffling around in cooled environmental suits, finding a torn copy of my book that hasn’t burst into flame, and reading it for their report. I can hear one of them saying, “He was right, that poor, dead son-of-a-bitch.” I guess I’ll have to live with that image. I can’t seem to get it out of my mind this summer.