Monday, July 31, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I saw Al Gore's movie a couple of weeks ago, and I've been thinking about it a lot.

Many Central Floridians, along with all South Floridians and untold numbers around the world, can say their prayers, then kiss their patooties goodbye, if Al Gore is right. And experts say he is.

Between rising sea levels because of polar ice melting and more Category 5 hurricanes, there won’t be much left of the Florida Peninsula.

The cause is global warming, and we have about 10 years to turn the tide. Maybe.

Global warming is caused by the greenhouse effect — all the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning petroleum and coal products to run our power and manufacturing plants, vehicles and homes.

Carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere. Heat generated from the sun’s rays warming the Earth’s water and land can’t escape back into space, because it’s trapped by this layer of gas.

With the world population growing exponentially, expected to increase 42 percent from 2003 to 2050 — from 6.4 billion to 9.1 billion — and with Third World countries becoming greater consumers of power, there’s no way power consumption will go down.

The temperature of Earth and its oceans spirals upward. Sea levels rise. The snows of Mount Kilimanjaro and the ice of the Himalayas melt. Lakes and glaciers disappear.

Chunks of ice floating down from the North Pole actually cool waters where the Gulf Stream meets the North Atlantic waters, disrupting the return flow of the Gulf Stream, with disastrous results. Subtropical waters grow warmer, fueling more and more powerful hurricanes: more Katrinas.

In May, National Geographic News took a look at the former vice president’s predictions, with a view to debunking errors, but didn’t find them. See the article online at

Instead, scientists confirmed hurricanes and typhoons have become more powerful over the past 30 years — since greenhouse emissions started spiking.

Heat waves will become more frequent, and more deadly. National Geographic reported, “2005 was the hottest year on Earth since the late 19th century, when scientists began collecting temperature data. The past decade featured five of the warmest years ever recorded, with the second hottest year being 1998.”

Deaths from global warming will double in 25 years, to 300,000 a year, extrapolating from the heat wave that racked Europe in 2003.

It’s one thing to make predictions about what could happen in the future; it’s another to endure the consequences, and the movie shows them. We’re living with the results of our actions.

Some areas flood because of melting mountain ice; others turn into dust bowls because of changed weather patterns and water flow. Category 5 hurricanes become routine.

The question is, can we overcome our dependence on big oil companies and others who profit from the current system and who put out disinformation about global warming?

Gore quoted Upton Sinclair, who said “It’s hard to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding.”

Maybe when most Americans wake up and realize the lives of their children depend on it, they’ll understand. They'll start demanding solar energy and other clean fuels we've had the technology for, but haven't done anything about. We've been passive and apathetic. We've let big oil interests and their cronies continue to rake in billions, while the Earth suffers.

We’d all better understand, and make noise, before it's too late.

Go see the movie.


Mike L said...

It must have been something like 50 years ago when the Post (I think) published a theory that one of the weather cycles consisted of the world oceans warming, the arctic ice melting, then the ocean flowing over the submerged dike into the arctic ocean and completly melting the ice cap. This open water in turn would supply snow storms that would build glaciers which would capture so much of the ocean water that the sea level will drop and the arctic will freeze over again, allowing the glaciers to retreat and the ocean waters to warm up again and ...

While I do not doubt global warming, I am not yet convinced that humans are the major cause of it, maybe they are just speeding it along the way. And certainly it would not hurt to slow down our use of fossil fuels. One way is to go toward nuclear power, but people seem to be more afraid of that then they are of global warming.

Several recent studies point out that global warming does not seem to be the cause of hurricanes. More likely it seems to be local warming of the seas around Florida, and I don't think anyone has realy come up with a good theory on why that is occuring. And last but not least, so far this has been a pretty quiet hurricane season, of course we still have the peak to come, but I think so far it is a lot quieter than last year.

It is most interesting to note, but not really newsworthy, that when Katrina hit New Orleans she was not a Category 5, or even a 4, and possibly only a cat 2. The real damage seems to have been done when poorly maintained and designed levees boke down and flooded the place. I don't think global warming had anything to do with that.

I think that we need to keep an eye on global warming, but non of the computer models that are used to explore it have been proven to be accurate, so I am not ready to panic yet. I suspect that you and I will be long gone before they decide if it is real or not.



Saint Pat said...

I don't know. Gore presented a convincing case for a correlation between C02 emissions and global warming. Even allowing for fluctuations in air and water temperatures, there seems to be convincing evidence of a dramatic spike upwards in the past 30 years.

Reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and using clean fuels can be nothing but good.

One of the neat things about my day job is I get to go and do some interesting things. I took a ride in a prototype hydrogen-powered car yesterday. It's supposed to be "zero emission"(non-polluting), and hydrogen is readily available. There are so many approaches we could have developed over the past 30 years, but didn't.

I'd rather not find out too late that it's too late.

Bateau Master said...

Unfortunately hydrogen is not readily available .... from a clean source. The way most energy companies will provide hydrogen is to strip hydrogen atom off of hydro carbons - read that a natural gas. The by-product will then still be CO2 ....

Now we can do electrolysis – but to generate the electricity we burn carbon fuels …. unless we get real about the NUCLEAR ENERGY!!!!!!! A combination of carbon neutral fuels, hydrogen, and NUCLEAR POWER is a great goal if we can get the chicken littles out of the road!!!

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