Thursday, April 19, 2007

April Snowshowers bring May's...

A snowy central Texas Easter - photo courtesy of Donna O'Connor

...Global Warming?

One of my biggest pet peeves right now are the folks (in the media and otherwise) who point to unseasonably cold weather as evidence against "global warming." I'll readily admit that the term "global warming" probably does a disservice to the cause in that it is easily interpreted to be something other than what it is not (much in same way as the term "gifted" seems to imply that children two standard deviations above normal IQ don't require special services when those in the opposite position do). Perhaps a better descriptor is "global climate change," though I suspect that this phrase doesn't have quite the alarmist overtones that serve both supporters and detractors.

For those who have yet (or are unwilling) to see Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, I'll give the two minute version here. Yes, Gore does use his bully-pulpit to make a few good-natured jabs at the 2000 elections. he also masterfully translates the science of global climate change into common parlance much in the same way that Dr. Stephen Hawking does for theoretical physics. There are a few points to the take-away message: 1) The ocean currents power our global weather; 2) Increased temperatures at the poles result in ice melt, ice melt results in exponentially faster ice melt because water absorbs the sun's energy and melts the ice from below (when frozen, most of this energy is reflected back into space); 3) increasingly warm water at the poles will shut off ocean currents causing massive, widespread climate change in a matter of years instead of millenia.

Those who would point to unseasonably cool weather to disprove global climate change fundamentally misunderstand the thesis; they are, in fact, unwittingly drawing attention to the harbingers of such a shift. Though "global warming" accurately describes the root of the problem at the poles, the resultant climate shift everywhere else won't necessarily mean higher temperatures. It might mean less rainfall, or more. It might mean more big, destructive weather for some, and milder weather for others. Certainly, one year of cooler-than-average springtime doesn't provide conclusive evidence for climate shift, but three years looks like a trend, and in five we might have completely different weather patterns.

Taking a broad view of the global ecosystem, one might argue that there have been much warmer periods in earth's history (Mr. Gore does point this out). What is markedly different about this moment in history is that the change is likely to happen far more quickly than it has in the past, and with much greater impact on the world's ecosystems, which are already hard-pressed by other man-made threats such as habitat elimination and excessive harvesting.

The sobering, and hopeful, coda to An Inconvenient Truth is that we can make a difference. Start thinking about your carbon footprint and how you can live a lower-impact lifestyle. Check out's Green Challenge. Save your gas money and ride a bike...or a Segway. Vote for green energy and sustainable practices with your wallet.

In closing, I offer these thoughts penned by His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew
The Lord suffuses all of creation with His Divine presence in one continuous legato from the substance of atoms to the Mind of God. Let us renew the harmony between heaven and earth, and transfigure every detail, every particle of life. Let us love one another, and lovingly learn from one another, for the edification of God's people, for the sanctification of God's creation, and for the glorification of God's most holy Name. Amen.

No comments: