Saturday, December 17, 2011

Burning bright

The earth is still warming. We are still dithering.

A recent report on climate change had an arresting graphic, showing where New York State is migrating to, in climate terms:


NY starts in its customary position in the mid-atlantic in the mid-20th century, and already now occupies roughly the position that Pennsylvania used to. Easily within a hundred years, and quite possibly sooner, NY is going to land where the Carolinas used to be, climatically speaking.

Climate change is often spoken of drily, in terms of degress of average temperature change and the like. But to anyone who knows the climates of these two areas, the differences are stark. Unbearable summers, no-snow winters, and a completely different biome, all within the life span of a single tree. A recent Scientific American article pointed out that another extreme warming episode happened in the early Eocene. Geologists are astonished at its speed, but they are thinking in geological time. It was nothing compared to the speed with which we are changing the climate now, 150 times faster.

All this means that not only are we as humans going to be mighty uncomfortable, but animals and especially plants are not going to make the transtion- there just isn't the time. Biological diversity will continue to plummet via extinction, adding this global climate catastrophe to the localized habitat destruction, ocean fish-killing free-for-all, tropical forest burning, megafauna killing, and so many other catastrophes we have already authored. Just what kind of a world do we want to leave to future generations?

I'll close with another graphic, of CO2 emissions from power plants in the US. The task should be clear. The economic equivalent of World War 2 that we are waiting for to energize our economy is staring us in the face.


"Imagine you had a headache and some economist tells you that you can cure the headache by bashing your head against a wall. So you duly bash your head against the nearest brick wall and not only does it hurt (perhaps drawing blood depending on the severity of the blow) but you note the headache is now worse. The economist then concludes you didn’t bash your head hard enough and instructs you to stick to the “rule” and give it another try – only this time go harder."
...
"As I have noted previously, other professions are held legally liable for their professional behaviour. If they consistently make large errors then they will be deemed unfit to practise.
The IMF economists are immune from these standards. They consistently make bold predictions and impose harsh austerity programs based on those projections. The predictions are consistently shown to be wrong when the data arrives."

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