There’s a plum tree just outside the window of the kitchen. Every year it blooms for about two weeks, the bright pink blossoms filling the tree, adding a nice bit of color to our back yard. When we first moved here eight years ago, the plum tree budded in early February, and I remember thinking to myself that this seemed a little early compared to where I grew up in Mississippi. For the next several years the plum tree budded in January. This winter, however, the plum tree began sprouting buds in the third week of December.
A couple of days ago my teenage son and I were talking about nature, and he told me how ‘boring’ the Mississippi Delta was when compared to Puget Sound. I told him that each kind of land has its own language of sorts, and reminded him of the sounds of the doves, the cicadas, and the crickets in the Delta. I didn’t want to bore him, so I didn’t continue the description I had in mind which included watching the dark thunderclouds rumbling through on a hot summer afternoon, the near-constant brisk breeze of March that announces the welcome arrival of spring weather, the swarms of dragonflies hovering, swooping, crazily swerving to catch the hated mosquitoes that have always plagued the Delta since the days before it was drained, when it was just one vast swamp.
Yes, every distinct region of land has its own language (and old sailors will say the same of the seas around the world)…and as with the languages of humankind, the languages of the land are changing.
Last month Dallas got blanketed with snow…and then a great snowstorm covered almost entire northern European continent. There was an incredible satellite picture of the entire British Isles covered in the stuff. The conservative pundits and climate-change deniers made a great to-do about the wintry blast — after all, if ‘global warming’ was true, how could there be record-breaking cold weather?
Not really — it’s not that simple. Read this summary of research published by the National Academy of Sciences back in 2007:
There is some speculation that global warming could, via a shutdown or slowdown of the thermohaline circulation, trigger localized cooling in the North Atlantic and lead to cooling, or lesser warming, in that region. This would affect in particular areas like Scandinavia and Britain that are warmed by the North Atlantic drift. The chances of this near-term collapse of the circulation are unclear; there is some evidence for the short-term stability of the Gulf Stream and possible weakening of the North Atlantic drift. However, the degree of weakening, and whether it will be sufficient to shut down the circulation, is under debate. As yet, no cooling has been found in northern Europe or nearby seas.
Do you see the bolded sentences? The scientists knew what could happen and said so… and pay particular attention to the last sentence, because it looks like that cooling has been found. So is this proof of global warming?
Not really. As I said above, it’s not that simple. Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, it’s something called the Arctic Oscillation, described thusly:
In more scientific terms, the Arctic Oscillation refers to shifts in atmospheric pressure over the Arctic and the middle latitudes of the earth. In its positive phase, atmospheric pressure decreases over the Arctic and increases over the mid-latitudes. In the Arctic Oscillation's negative phase, it's just the reverse. Pressures are relatively high over the Arctic and relatively low over the mid-latitudes. In December, the Arctic Oscillation went into extreme negative mode — more negative than it's been since at least 1950. Serreze says that has affected weather all over the Northern Hemisphere. "At the very same time that we've seen these areas in the middle latitudes with sub-zero temperatures and big snow storms, the Arctic has been much, much warmer than normal." Ten to fifteen degrees warmer in some places.
So does this mean that now we don’t really have to worry about global warming? Again, not really — it’s not that simple. In the same article, Mr. Serreze points out that the extent of Arctic sea ice is already a million square kilometers below normal. And those who pay attention to news outside the U.S. may have noticed that for a second year in a row, dozens of trains have been cancelled in Melbourne, Australia, due to the heat, and in the Southern hemisphere.
The climate-change deniers don't have their story straight — that's why they generally fall into four camps. One camp claims that climate change is happening, but it’s not due to anything done by man, but is due to the sun or the heat of the Earth’s crust or a host of other possibilities. The second claims that global warming is a complete falsehood because there are a few scientists (and many businesses) who believe otherwise — and they believe that the vast majority of climate-change professors simply don’t know what they’re talking about. The third camp says that global warming is a myth propagated either by governments hell-bent on spreading socialism, or by scientists who are somehow afraid to speak up against the scientific theory du jour, or are afraid to jeopardize their funding. And the fourth camp? They're the ones who think that climate change can't be real because God wouldn't allow it.
The vast majority – 90% – of the climate-change scientists, on the other hand, are pretty much united in what they report. There is always debate on which factors contribute what proportions of concern — which is true of any scientific community — but they are united in pointing the finger at humankind as the biggest single factor.
As for myself, if ninety percent of scientists tell me one thing, that fact in and of itself doesn’t mean they’re right – after all, a week or so ago I posted an article in BC denying dark matter and dark energy, which are supposed to make up over 90% of all matter and energy in the universe, and the existence of which is accepted by well over 90% of the world's astrophysicists. But when such a strong majority of scientists agree on something, I consider what they say very, very carefully before I say anything that is contrary to their professional studies.
But the reason I can speak out in opposition to most of the world’s astrophysicists is that there are observed anomalies that they cannot yet explain by any currently accepted theory, whereas I DO have an explanation that I cannot yet disprove. This is not so with climatologists — they are able to explain quite well the entire process of global warming.
Not only that, but there’s something else telling us to listen to 90% of the world’s climatologists — the language of the land. There’s a reason why the vast majority of glaciers are shrinking. There’s a reason why the oceans are measurably rising. And there’s a reason why the plum tree outside my kitchen window is budding earlier and earlier as the years go by.
Global warming is very, very real… and even if humanity isn’t the primary cause, we’re certainly aggravating the process. It is a great sadness indeed that there are so many intelligent Americans — mostly Republicans and other conservatives — who are so focused on keeping the dollars they have that they cannot see the slowly growing but now inevitable global catastrophe that is global warming.