Hurricane season is approaching. This would not typically be a concern for Newfoundland and Labrador. We’re used to those big blows in the fall as southern hurricanes move north and then lose steam as they veer out into the Atlantic.
In the past decade, however, we’ve had enough full-force winds and rains to make us especially nervous. A scattered hurricane is one thing; a steady string of destructive storms signals something else is afoot.
By now, there should be little doubt among rational observers that climate change is a reality, and that human activity is the primary cause. The essential scientific evidence has remained unchanged for decades. And now, it’s more certain than ever.
This month, a draft of the fifth assessment report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was leaked to the media. Although it has not gone through the final review process, the report’s findings are sobering.
The level of certainty about human-caused warming has gone from 90 per cent to 95 per cent since the last report in 2007.
The Washington Post this week listed 10 of the report’s most alarming findings. Among them:
• The Antarctic Ice Sheet lost mass nearly five times faster between 2002-2011 compared to the period from 1992-2001.
• The Greenland Ice Sheet lost mass about six times faster between 2002-2011 compared to the period from 1992-2001.
• The global average sea level is projected to rise by (an average of) 16 to 24 inches by 2100, depending on future greenhouse gas emissions and climate sensitivity.
The latter statistic, in fact, may be conservative. Penn State climatologist Michael Mann told the Huffington Post that many estimates suggest the sea level could rise by as much as six feet.
“This fits a pattern of the IPCC tending to err on the side of conservative,” Mann said, “in part — I believe — because of fear of being attacked by the climate change denial machine.”
It’s sad to think scientists actually feel forced to water down their findings to avoid the railings of deniers and ignoramuses.
Perhaps they are tired of responding to the likes of Rep. Michelle Bachmann, when she says things like, “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”
(It’s not the gas itself, congresswoman. It’s the fact that excess CO2 is an agent for warming.)
What’s more troubling is that such ill-informed attitudes are showing up in bills tabled in state legislatures. No longer content to push creationism into school curricula, some rogue U.S. politicians are trying to push climate science out.
North Carolina, once a bastion of climate change preparedness, even tried last year to pass a law banning state agencies from applying global warming research.
So far, these bills have died on the vine. But the prospect of even one of them getting a foothold is frightening.
It’s not like we’re going to literally bury scientists alive, as the ancient Qin Dynasty did to its Confucian scholars.
But this demonization of science seems truly unprecedented, and could well foreshadow a dark age in our history.