The Other I

December 19, 2009

What’s wrong with global warming?

Filed under: Environmental Issues,Political thoughts — theotheri @ 4:27 pm
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Now that the Copenhagen conference seems to have failed comprehensively, is it really  so bad?  What’s really wrong with global warming?

Okay, let’s assume that the sceptics are right.  Everybody agrees that climate change is occurring – the ice caps are melting, water levels are rising, incidents of extreme weather are increasing.  The sceptics say that it is not due to the tonnes of carbon-dioxide we humans are pouring into the atmosphere.

I’ve just come in from clearing 8 inches of snow from our drive, and I wish the sceptics were right.  But I’ve read an awful lot, and I fear they are wrong.  The uncertainty that I worry about is whether the changes are occurring at a much fast rate than even the most pessimistic scientific projections predict.  But let’s assume that global warming is not a result of our carbon emissions.

There is another problem caused by carbon emissions and that is the acidification of our oceans.  What difference does that make?

There are two really significant problems.  The first is that acidification is already beginning to disrupt the ability of ocean organisms to make shells.  That means coral, crabs, lobsters, oysters, clams, mussels, and other small shell-fish which are vital to the diet of fish and plankton.  If acidification continues at its current rate for another 50 years, shells will actually be dissolved by the acidic water.  This will  feed through to the entire ecosystem including whales, dolphin, tuna, salmon, and the many species of other fish that currently provide roughly half the food sustaining us humans.

The second problem with acidification is that it may already be slowing down the oceans’ role as a “carbon sink.”  The data on this is still mixed, but it is scary.  The ocean absorbs huge amounts of carbon dioxide which is then sequestered on the ocean floor.  But if the ocean stops sopping up so much carbon, the problems of global warming are going to accelerate.

The politicians are putting a brave face on the abject failure that has come out of the Copenhagen conference, pretending that it represents a giant leap forward.  It does nothing of the kind.

I think that us “ordinary people” are going to have to take matters into our own hands.  I might sit here smugly with the comfortable knowledge that the deterioration of the planet is unlikely to be the cause of my death.  I will most probably die of something else.  But I don’t have another 50 years to live.  If I did, I wouldn’t be too sure that I didn’t have to worry.

And apart from how personally vulnerable I might be, I just don’t like the idea of trashing the planet, and leaving a lethal legacy to threaten the next generation.

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