Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Al, at this point...

Al Gore recently responded to Bill O'Reilly's question:  “Why has southern New York turned into the tundra?”

It was a reasoned response, if you understand the issues.

In fact, scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe. Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air. When temperatures dip below freezing, a lot of moisture creates a lot of snow.”

“A rise in global temperature can create all sorts of havoc, ranging from hotter dry spells to colder winters, along with increasingly violent storms, flooding, forest fires and loss of endangered species.”

The problem is that Al Gore has tainted this issue with his insistence on framing the issue of climate change in terms of "Global Warming." It is a branding issue largely, once you dip into the science of climate change.

The problem lies in that most folks aren't dipping into the science. In framing things under the rubric of
Global Warming it not only allows misconceptions to bloom, it gives folks who reject climate change as a matter to latch onto this particular phrase.  Common sense folks, who look upon these blustery, blizzardy conditions hear "Global Warming" and short circuit to themselves, "How in the hell can this man be talking warming when it's so goddamn cold?" 

To be clear, the evidence that we are seeing climatic changes as a result of man made conditions is mounting. The loss in the polar caps, and the large amounts of fresh water dumped into those seas affects energy transfers across the globe.  That shift in energy transfer has growing evidence of climatic shifts that do much more than simply warm or cool. It shifts energy patterns and transfers that affect weather formation, and throw off climatic systems.  Moreover, the warming aspect carries with it its own dangers to throw things far enough off kilter, that the massive dump of fresh water into the poles, that it could even throw off the Great Ocean Conveyor. That would be catastrophic to current weather patterns, and the agriculture that we base our food supplies on, across the globe as a side effect. Stretches of arable land turned to desert, growth of the ice caps as fresh water is locked up, and that mass of ice furthering the size of the caps, creeping us into a return to conditions that the have more typified the Earth as of late, at least geologically speaking, with a return to another Ice Age.  Currents that drive the oceans, and massive amounts of energy, as well as the oceanlife that thrive in these currents and use them shutting down would be catastrophic to more than just human life, but cause extinction events in the seas as well as on land.

That's hard to grasp, when you only talk about Global Warming.

Al Gore did a great deal to promote the idea of responsibility for our actions, and understanding of the issues at hand. Save that his insistence of the branding of the problem as Global Warming, it now serves as an umbrella to attack him for hiding behind.

We face not just global warming, but climate change on a massive scale. Weather patterns thrown off kilter, energy transfers that fuel storm patterns that we have yet to accomodate and understand.  Shifts in pelagic poputions of various forms of life that affect fishing and the life cycles of many species. Framing the issue as climate change is a far more accurate form of terminology. It also gives the folks who are heavily invested in technologies and processes that fuel the problem less ground to push against, and less arguments to frame by disingenuously attacking the issue on "common sense" grounds and pointing to every blizzard and storm as asking the question of how can global warming explain these tundra conditions?

At this point, maybe Al Gore needs to step aside.  Allow the argument to be framed in the way that it should have been framed from the first.  Not as a matter of "warming" or "cooling" but as a matter of systemic climatic change.  Yes, Climate Change is less catchy and fear-mongery, but fear mongering is not what we need. Nor pithy catch phrases.  What we do need is understanding that our actions are causing shifts in global weather patterns.  That will mean some folks get colder, or warmer. That rain falls that they expected will change. That the storm systems they are used to will change. That lands that were arable thanks to seasonal patterns will be affected. That the investment in infrastructure around these arable lands may become outdated, if not useless.

Gore's insistence on framing things in terms of Global Warming as a brand is hurting his own cause. And the cause of scientists who are doing good research.

Crossposted to The Motley Moose.

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