Two Views on the Effects of Global Warming


One assumes that a cover story from the Atlantic will be an intelligent, well-reasoned argument; not this month. Gregg Easterbrook, fresh from his cheap drive-by shooting of Al Gore in the New York Times, writes Global Warming: Who Loses-and Who Wins? One first has to discard any moral compass to think that someone actually wins when others are dying before looking at the tissue of conjecture and fantasy that this article is. He distorts everything, even the map, saying "to consider the big picture, examine a Mercator projection of our planet and observe how the Earth's landmasses spread from the equator to the Poles" when a Mercator projection distorts so much that Greenland looks as big as Africa. It is a silly little thing to gripe about, but he didn't pick that map because he liked the name, he did it because it distorts.

The premise of the article can be summed up in the quote: "It may sound odd to ask of global warming, What's in it for me? ." Assuming relatively even warming through out, Easterbrook looks at humankind's "adaptive response"- move or drown in some parts of the world, enjoy wealth, comfort and fine Quebec wines in others.

Then there is the coming glory of a warm Russia. "Beneath Siberia's snow may lie geologic formations that hold vast deposits of fossil fuels, as well as mineral resources" as if they didn't have drills that get through ice and like Canada, prefer to work on ice than on mud.

And Canada, the "Saudi Arabia of roaring water" where "for 30 years environmentalists and some Cree activists have opposed plans to construct a grand hydropower complex that would dam all rivers flowing into James and Hudson Bay." Referring here to engineer Tom Kieran's Grand Canal plan to build a dam across James Bay, raise the water level enough to generate electricity (and flood out huge swathes of Ontario) and then build a giant pipeline to the Great Lakes to solve America's water problems. It is a geo-engineering fantasy on a scale comparable to sunscreens in space from a single old nutbar- (lovely website here) Are there no editors at the Atlantic to separate facts from cranks? Do they not care that the only quoted source of his research is a six month old article in the Wall Street Journal about Greenland's growing season?

Many Global Warming deniers, seeing which way the wind is blowing, are falling back on the Emily Litella defense, (Gilda Radner: "what's all this fuss about endangered feces?") or as a commenter at Grist called it, the "Little Miss Sunshine Defense" which thinks that warm winters in Buffalo and beachfront property in Iqaluit are fine things, so lets just speed it along and pump out more carbon. Easterbrook disagrees, saying "Maybe a warming world would favour the United states more, this is certainly a possibility. But when the global order already places America at No.1, why would we want to run the run the risk of climate change that alters that order?" translated: "It really is all about me." Such appalling selfishness and self-centered narcissism. James Russell Lowell is spinning in his grave. ::Atlantic Monthly
On Nature

Far more worthwhile reading is Douglas Hunter's "Temperature Rising" in On Nature Magazine where the author actually talks to scientists, quotes live people and reads actual research. It looks at what is happening in the Great Lakes area and Ontario as the temperature changes. He notes (and Easterbrook ignores) that changes in the North are more dramatic and extreme as the ice cover retreats.

"The Arctic is warming at almost twice the rate as the rest of the world, and in the next 100 years, the permafrost line could retreat 300 kilometres north. Sea ice is undergoing a pronounced retreat. Summer ice breakup on western Hudson's Bay now occurs two weeks earlier than it did 20 years ago, and killer whales have moved their hunting into the bay. Hudson Bay polar bears could be extirpated by 2050. Plant life in the far north has begun to change. Deciduous shrubs like dwarf birch and green alder are displacing ground cover such as lichen and moss. The spread of shrubby vegetation could affect threatened herds of caribou that feed on lichen. The red fox will probably expand its range by outcompeting the less adaptable Arctic fox."

Forests and animals can adapt to change; the Carolinian forest has been moving north at 20 feet per year for a long time. Now scientists see it moving as fast as a kilometer per year and may soon be racing along at five klicks per annum, faster than trees and animals can adapt. The result:

"[When] trees are in the wrong climate, they're stressed, and that makes them more susceptible to pests and disease," says Malcolm. Pests and disease migrate much more quickly than trees do — their ranges expand in kilometres, rather than metres, per year. Stressed trees will be extremely vulnerable to being overrun by hordes of pests and diseases. Forests, trying to grow where they no longer belong, may simply collapse, along with dependent plant and animal species. Malcolm's study concludes that, in addition to such massive reductions in biomass, decreases in "species richness, and consequent changes to ecological processes" could occur.

Before you take Easterbrook's advice and buy land in Ontario, read ::Temperature Rising


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