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May 12, 2008 | by  | in Features |
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Global Warming: So Hot Right Now

Global warming is freakin’ EVERYWHERE these days. The media covers it nearly as much as Hollywood hook-ups and political scandals, so it’s become almost as annoying as those “Save the Whales” shirts from Supré (Almost). Sure, the climate may a bit hotter now than it was before, and yeah, the weather has been a bit weird lately – but does that really warrant all this fuss?

It’s a messy business, and quite controversial. For one, there was actually a ‘Medieval Warm Period’, or ‘Medieval Climatic Anomaly’ (800-1300 AD), when the weather was unusually warm, and it was even followed by a ‘Little Ice Age’ – as if was part of a trend in a bigger picture. However, as well as the specific details of and conclusions derived from this period, its very existence as an anomaly has been contested, since apparently not all technicalities were considered. Translation: No one knows if global warming is supposed to happen, let alone if it’s our fault.

That’s the problem with this global warming scare. Compared to the Earth’s four billion years, humankind is unbelievably young, whether you count from Homo Sapiens or Adam and Eve. As a result, many global warming statistics look quite flimsy. Like: Eleven of the twelve years between 1995 and 2006 are the warmest years in the instrumental record! That is, since 1850. Or: the average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th Century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year-period! Provided you only count the last 500 years.

Species-wise, dinosaurs were also relatively young, seeing as they died out long ago (and don’t give me that crap about tuataras). Still, we can draw interesting conclusions from their experiences. For starters, during the Mesozoic period (251 million years ago), no one worried about the polar ice caps melting. Not necessarily because dinosaurs lacked the mental capacity for contemplating environmental matters, but because there were no polar ice caps at all – so the sea levels were about 100-250m higher than today’s. The atmospheric temperatures were different too, with the poles being 50°C warmer, and carbon dioxide levels up to twelve times higher. Perhaps dinosaurs should have considered a carbon tax on their various industrial endeavours, or solarpowered public transport. Yeah, that’s really why they went extinct, those self-serving capitalist reptiles!

One can also uncover the uncertainty about this potential doomsday by looking at how it’s being dealt with (other than those carbon programmes). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was one result of this allegedly manmade climate change. Its purpose, to quote IPCC itself: “… to provide the decision-makers and others interested in climate change with an objective source of information about climate change.” But note: “The IPCC does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data…” So the problem-solving might well be as hollow as the problem itself! The IPCC seems to be just another body in the conga line of the blind leading the blind, substituting actual research for assessing “the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic literature produced worldwide”. I do hope they cite their sources. And couldn’t they have used a more scientificsounding word than ‘literature’, so that we could at least pretend that they know what they’re doing?

Another view, regardless of whether global warming will be as epic as some people have predicted, is that our species causes harm to the planet through its sheer numbers. After all, our population count was about 6.7 billion in March 2008. However (and I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed this), people are miniscule compared to this rock we call home – even counting those really tall guys in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Earth’s average radius alone is about 6,380km, and we only really occupy the surface, seeing as the magma would kill us and all. So, we should really take a little perspective on this.

Let’s look at bacteria! Wait, you can’t – unless you have a microscope, because they’re only a few micrometres long (which is really, REALLY small). Considering that there are approximately ten times more bacterial cells than human cells in the human body (eww, by the way), we don’t notice them all that much. We get colds and sniffles, but mostly we survive. So, while it’s selfish to ‘abuse’ Earth, it might also be a bit arrogant to presume that the planet couldn’t manage without us. I mean, God KNOWS (or perhaps scientists do) what sort of mischief bacteria gets up to these days.

In the end, the most interesting thing about global warming is the fact that the most powerful greenhouse gas is not carbon dioxide, which only causes about 9-26% of the greenhouse effect (i.e. the effect of various gases in the atmosphere keeping the heat trapped on Earth). So, even if we sorted out this carbon emissions business, not even a third of the problem would be solved. Believe it or not, 36-70% of the problem is water vapour. WATER VAPOUR. Like HELL the greenies are pinning that all on us!

But whatever the truth behind global warming turns out to be, this doesn’t justify the excessive manipulation of natural resources, nor general polluting – maybe not even single-sided printing. Just keep in mind that there are many other problems to be concerned about, environmental or otherwise. And I’d say that global warring beats global warming any day.

Global Warming, Really Cool?

Few people seem to look at the silver lining of any stormy apocalyptic catastrophes, global warming in particular. There is also a definite lack of movies about its potential benefits. But in fact (while simultaneously purely in theory), global warming could solve quite a few of today’s problems, or at least enough to outweigh possible negative consequences. So let’s take a minute to really imagine the situation…

– World Food Crisis:
Woolly animals, like llamas, are no longer needed for clothes. Also, the ice and snow melts, so all the polar bears and other animals that don’t adapt die. We eat them all. Those that do survive turn into really cool sea-creatures. The Japanese government fishes them out, then everyone else hijacks their ships, under the pretence of destroying whaling equipment. More food.

– Obesity ‘Epidemic’:
The new polar bear diet doesn’t help. Luckily, the extreme heat leads to humans evolving into a new species (known as XSMen) with far less fat cells, seeing as ‘winter fat’ and such is now completely pointless, and even detrimental to our survival. Those who don’t evolve sweat most of it out anyway.

– Energy Crisis:
As it becomes clear that humans are genetically adapting to the new climate, some scientists decide to help speed up the process, via government-funded operations to remove most fat. Unbeknownst to everyone who signs up to the programme, the fine print at the bottom of the contract that they sign before the operation declares that all extracted fat is to become property of the government. The government then proceeds to turn this human fat into fuel (because they all watched that episode of Boston Legal too).

– Inequalities Between Developed and Developing Nations:
Europe gets thrashed by all the water from the melted ice caps. Deserts in the USA expand and people suffer from droughts. The Third World laughs.

– Religious Differences:
Extremely religious people conclude that this is their deity/ deities punishing all the non-believers, and sit back to wait for all the smiting. The vaguely religious people and atheists start worshipping everyone just to be safe. People in the middle either guiltily convert to a more compassionate religion, or wonder if life is really just scientific after all. The agnostics join up with those who turn to science, and together they try to build rockets to get off the damn planet. Meanwhile, it’s too hot to wear headscarves, and the Western world adopts the loose robes from the Middle East for practicality. Everyone gets confused.

– Overpopulation:
If you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Unfortunately, not everyone can find their way out. So, they become livingly- challenged. More housing opportunities for those left alive.

Apocalypse NOW! Now? … Now?

Is global warming just another craze? Perhaps. Is it crazy to suggest that global warming might be another fad, exaggerated to epic proportions? NO. Collectively, people seem to be pretty damn obsessed with apocalypses. It’s almost as if we aren’t happy unless we are ‘certain’ of some sort of impending doom looming around the corner.

– Exhibit A:
Various biblical Judgement Days and such. There have been views that we’re already in Hell, so that’s your call.

– Exhibit B:
The Y2K bug. A certain writer was especially impressionable around that time, and may or may not have thought that the commotion was about computers going berserk. And possibly electrocuting people. And possibly even coming to life, making little anthropomorphic-but-still-electronic noises. Turns out that it was more the fear of computers getting confused by the dates. Okay, that may be simplifying it somewhat, but still, it was disappointingly anti-climactic. Moreover, according to a BBC article in January 2000, at least $300 billion (and that’s US dollars) was spent in preparation for it. Wow.

– Exhibit C:
The Year 2000 in general. Alongside the computer bug (which wasn’t as potentially disastrous as we’d really hoped for), there was the general sense that at midnight, between December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000, something mysteriously catastrophic could happen. Then, when nothing did, there were rumours that we actually started counting the years wrong, and the mysterious catastrophic something-or-other would in fact occur at midnight exactly a year later. Yeah, because apocalypses SO pay attention to things like the historical basis of our calendars.

– Exhibit D:
Hole in the ozone layer. So, the ozone’s pretty much a gassy blanket, or a sort of invisible coffee filter, that lies between us and the burning wrath of the sun. The hole in question was discovered in 1985, and there was a lot of general freaking out that went on and off for a while. But then it seemed to float away, rather like the gas itself. The hole’s still up there, but all the hoopla isn’t. Perhaps it escaped into outer space?

– Exhibit E:
Miscellaneous. The sun will explode and blow us up! A meteor will smash into the Earth! The planet will collapse because of overpopulation! We’ll get invaded by aliens with probes! All the aliens that are already here will escape from that top-secret military base and get revenge – with probes! The ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ is actually a prophecy! Global warming! … Ahhhh!

And yet, we’re still here. Either there are some seriously incompetent deities and/or aliens who can’t get their act together, or it’s all in our heads. Go us!

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  1. george of the jungle says:

    “In the end, the most interesting thing about global warming is the fact that the most powerful greenhouse gas is not carbon dioxide, which only causes about 9-26% of the greenhouse effect (i.e. the effect of various gases in the atmosphere keeping the heat trapped on Earth). So, even if we sorted out this carbon emissions business, not even a third of the problem would be solved. Believe it or not, 36-70% of the problem is water vapour. WATER VAPOUR. Like HELL the greenies are pinning that all on us!”

    Obviously the person who wrote this has no understanding of the science, this is basic science. Water vapour doesn’t last long enough in the atmopshere to effect the climate. It has a feedback effect, it is not a forcing agent. Carbon dioxide is more power than water.

  2. george of the jungle says:

    “In the end, the most interesting thing about global warming is the fact that the most powerful greenhouse gas is not carbon dioxide, which only causes about 9-26% of the greenhouse effect (i.e. the effect of various gases in the atmosphere keeping the heat trapped on Earth). So, even if we sorted out this carbon emissions business, not even a third of the problem would be solved. Believe it or not, 36-70% of the problem is water vapour. WATER VAPOUR. Like HELL the greenies are pinning that all on us!”

    Obviously the person who wrote this has no understanding of the science, this is basic science. Water vapour doesn’t last long enough in the atmosphere to effect the climate. It has a feedback effect, it is not a forcing agent. Carbon dioxide is more power than water.

  3. Sarita says:

    Hey George,

    In all honesty, my scientific understanding barely extends to gravity (and even that comes and goes). I did mostly essay subjects in highschool – where I learnt that “effect” is a noun, often mistakenly used in place of the verb “affect”, and also that “power” is a noun, while “powerful” is an adjective, though the two are rarely ever confused.

    So, sorry about that, and thanks for pointing it out.

  4. Sarita says:

    Hmm, now if only I could go back in time to switch “affect” and “effect” around in my last comment…

    Ahahaha.

  5. Sarita says:

    Wait.
    Why the hell did I just post that? I was right in the first place.

    Fuck this, I need coffee.

  6. Eric says:

    Sarita,

    What if you are wrong, and the world is facing wide-scale depopulation as a result of global warming, like many informed scientists suggest? Isn’t it better to take preventative measures?

  7. Sarita says:

    Eric,

    Point taken.

    Also, your comment had a nice not-being-a-total-asshole-while-offering-crticism tone to it (seriously, thank you), so hopefully this doesn’t come off as mean or anything, but I just wanted to say that:
    a) I meant to bitch more about that hype than the measures (though granted I probably didn’t do that);
    b) I’m one of those people who (rather selfishly) think, “Well, I’m probably going to be dead by the time anything happens – or else, I won’t care if the global warming’s already killed me off…”;
    c) I’m also one of those people who secretly hopes that I AM dead by the time all (if any) of the scary shit actually happens; but mostly –
    d) If all the scientists and such start taking advice from a little first year like me (who didn’t even do all that well in 6th form physics), then we’re pretty screwed anyway.

  8. Seven billion deaths aint very funny. says:

    Sarita,
    You are the dunce of the class and a failure as a human being.
    Please, never write again.

  9. Jackson Wood says:

    Seven billion deaths aint very funny:
    It may not be funny, but it would be the best thing to happen to the earth in about 4000 years. Maybe we could start the voluntary extinction with you. You obviously have nothing constructive to add to humanity. Please report to your closest hospital for termination.

    Support the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Kill yourself today.
    http://www.vhemt.org/aboutvhemt.htm#vhemt

  10. Brunswick says:

    I enjoyed the chatty and humorous tone of this article – especially “seeing as the magma would kill us and all”. I look forward to Sarita’s next piece – I think she could write about anything and make it interesting.

    Environmentalists have been saying “We have to do something now! Now! NOW!” for the past thirty years. We’re seeing a lot of evasion and weasel words this decade (e.g. businesses leaning on the government to water down the emission trading scheme,) and it’ll be interesting to see who history holds accountable.

  11. I also thought Sarita’s article was great on humour but I just wish she got the message right!

    The reality is that climate is changing, it’s caused by us and the future does look grim if we don’t get off carbon. This is all being questioned, studied, checked, and taught here at VUW, as in Universities and institutes world-wide. In fact there is a forum for staff and grad students at noon in Cotton 304 today (Friday) on our new climate change research institute for enhancing current research, teaching and collaboration (don’t all rush – the room holds only 70 bodies – but how about Sarita and a Salient reporter?).

    Also check out Richard Alley’s public lecture on the future of the Antarctic ice sheet 12.30 Tuesday May 20 Ilott Theatre – preview on “Our Changing World” last night http://www.radionz.co.nz/podcasts/ourchangingworld.rss to get really up to date and credible on this issue.

    Peter Barrett

  12. Sarita says:

    Hah, it’s awesome how Jackson’s like… the Guardian of the Online Realm of Salient, or something. In your neighbourhood indeed!

    Thanks Brunswick – I love your comic, by the way.

    Peter – Yeaaah, so do I… Anyway, sorry I missed the environmental forum thing. Then again, I probably wouldn’t be particularly welcome. Tar and feathers, and whatnot.

    PS.
    Seven billioon deaths aint very funny: Like, ouch.

  13. Seven billion deaths aint very funny. says:

    Dear Jackson (my head is like) Wood
    You miss the point.
    The planet is not some separate concern.
    My contribution to humanity, try to understand, is to point out the truth of its impending extinction.
    It can be avoided but undoubtedly a lot of people are going to die – I don’t think this a good thing.
    Authorities on the subject, such as scientist James Lovelock, see world population being culled back to half a billion by the end of the century.
    Meanwhile, people such as yourself and Sarita are caught up in a consensus dream where being funny in a crappy student rag is more important than knowing what you are talking about.
    You are not original. This behaviour is a cliche, and part of the problem.

  14. “knowing what you are talking about” big talk from a man whose pseudonym is based on a blatantly wrong statistic. ‘Seven Billion deaths’ would be quite impressive seeming there aren’t seven billion people ON THIS PLANET.

    You’re a fucking idiot and have no right to criticize others, please die.

  15. Seven billion deaths aint very funny. says:

    Karl Bronstein
    You wish me death? Does the truth upset your little world so much?
    I wouldn’t describe 7 billion deaths as impressive…
    I might describe it as an underestimate.
    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population
    “…The world’s population, on its current growth trajectory, is expected to reach nearly 9 billion by the year 2050.”
    You remind me of the holocaust deniers – creating a false debate over whether it was ‘six million’ or ‘six and a half million’ Jews that were killed, and inferring therefore that there is no consensus between people who don’t have their heads stuck in their own asses.
    Your reaction is the typical boring reactionary denial mechanism of a hopelessly spoiled brat.
    Please continue to live, but try not to be so ignorant.

  16. Seven billion deaths aint very funny.:

    Appreciating your passion for the subject, I’d like to point out that your first comment was insubstantive and pointlessly inflammatory. Hence the insubstantive and pointlessly inflammatory responses. If you want to be taken seriously, then don’t be a dick.

  17. Seven billion deaths aint very funny. says:

    BK Drinkwater
    Fair comment.
    My assumption is that these people are obviously not interested in the truth – which begs the question – why am i writing on here at all? An accident of human emotion?
    I do have far better ways to spend my time…and indeed have done – as may soon become apparent in future issues of Salient…
    I would like to point out that my first comment about Sarita, aside from being “inflammatory”, is quite literally true, as evidenced by her own comments on this page (a,b,c,d) – comments far more valuable in understanding what is going on than anything in her actual published article.

  18. george of the jungle says:

    In regard to ‘do hope they cite their sources. ‘ and the IPCC… obviously the writer has no clue.. why did she write this. If you even bothered to glance at any report, you would have know that the entire report is cited.

  19. Kerry says:

    Sarita,

    a little searching of the Green party website http://www.greens.org.nz/frontsite/bigger.htm
    (where 30 years’ worth of oil/energy/climate policy has distilled into the latest round, thanks to Jeanette Fitzsimons’ input over a period longer than your life…) would both educate you, and possible help you to be less anxious – because policy work in this area is advancing, so it just needs the government-of-the-day to take it on board.

    And of course, Peter Barrett’s renowned research is a big target to have missed. He’s based just down in Cotton Building, that is when he’s not doing cutting-edge research into climate change down on the ice in Antarctica. There’s a big blurb about it on the VUW website, too.

    Why report on science topics if you have not the faintest clue about the depths of your ignorance? At least you could have made some minimal effort to chase up some facts, both references above are not hard to find.

    Funny is cute up to a point, but not the point at which informed readers cringe at every sentence.

  20. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    I think the readers of Salient are educated enough to know that this article was a piss-take – I highly doubt anyone read this and thought “oh my God, Sarita is RIGHT! Screw this, i’m going out back to light a forest fire and spray all my CFC-producing deodorant cans up into the air at once!!!” Farce is often a better platform for getting a point across than the “hype” this article is directed against.

    What I take more seriously is the attitude that “I’m probably going to be dead by the time anything happens”. Change isn’t a difficult thing to effect – a series of small modifications to one’s lifestyle is all that is needed. Invest in a compost bin for green waste. Recycle more. Replace your existing light globes with energy saving ones. Switch to a greener power company like Meridian. Use biodegradeable soap and washing products. Turn off powerpoints and lights when they are not in use. Use public transport.

    Crap… i’ve become a greenie preacher! Aaaaaahhhh! ;)

  21. Seven billion deaths aint very funny. says:

    Matthew
    I’m sure you are educated enough to know that the measures you have suggested are all pretty token.
    Which almost makes me believe that it is your comment that is the piss-take, given that Sarita’s article obviously is not. Refusing to take the topic seriously is not the same as being satirical.
    Underneath her flippant tone, lies an all-too-familiar attitude that the rest of the world can go to hell – I want a car, my lifestyle to remain on target; keep exploiting foreign people; bomb them where necessary; I want the historical privileges of my parents even though they have used up most of the resources that allowed this.
    Sarita ignores the uncomfortable truth. The baby boomer party is over.
    Still, forget this problem – it pales next to the fact that you had to appear for a second or two like a…(shock, horror)… ‘greenie preacher’..!!!
    Matthew, I’m sorry if I seem harsh – I sense you are, unlike Sarita, at least trying.
    Let’s not add to the confusion that she willingly promoted.

  22. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    ‘seven billion deaths…':

    What I was trying to point out through the ‘token’ measures in my post is the difference between practicality and sentimentality. You can’t expect to flip a switch and have every single person on the planet fall into place in the carbon neutral lane overnight, no matter how much bludgeoning “hype” is doled out. Change is rarely, if ever, affected in this way. It’s about baby steps – steps which I have outlined in my post. No piss-take intended.

    When people hear catch phrases about “saving the planet”, “becoming completely carbon neutral”, and “stopping global warming”, most cannot help but want to do something to aid the cause. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, allowing us the luxury of a pat on the back for thinking of the planet. And that’s a great thing in itself – but in order to affect change something has to do more than just FEEL GOOD. Hence my focus on practicality. What actions can the individual do? Those measures i’ve mentioned above are great, easy, and not too draining on the bank balance – and, as you’ve pointed out, they’re fairly obvious, so any Tom, Dick and Harry will know about them and can do them.

    I disparage sentimental fantasies about “saving the planet” for being impractical. I neither expect nor wish for the population to abandon their cars, disconnect their electricity, forsake consumerism and materialism for complete austerity, and disconnect from the global economy by buying only local products. This would only precipitate an economic crisis equal to, if not greater than, the climate one. What is needed is state-level input to adjust the capitalist ‘baby-boomer’ system to more renewable strategies and to promote the economic growth potential of a greener system. Accredited carbon offset companies, for instance, have the potential to become an entirely new section of the service industry, creating jobs for thousands.

    Whether or not one interprets Sarita’s original post as a piss-take depends on the manner in which you interpret it. She has since stated that she “meant to bitch more about that hype than the measures”. That’s a fair enough comment, I think – nobody likes a ‘holier than thou’ preacher trying to forcibly change the way they live their life. Hence my “shock horror” at sounding like a greenie preacher – i’d much rather appeal to people’s common sense and baser instincts than berate them with insults.

  23. Floyd says:

    I think w should do as much as we can for our enviroment and be thankfull for what we have got.

  24. Critical_Lemon says:

    Seven billion deaths, I think you missed the theme of last week’s issue which was being reactionary (In a humorous way). I got the distinct impression from the article that Sarita was trying to make fun of the frankly opressive “we must save the planet” messages we are confronted with every day. Yes it is a serious issue but if we can’t make a joke about something serious what hope do we have for our collective sanity?

  25. Sarita says:

    Just to clarify, it WAS supposed to be a general piss-take (as I had hoped would’ve been clear from the suggestion to eat bloody polar bears), but I admit that it wasn’t well done, and I made factual mistakes – and for that I’m sorry.
    So, let’s move on already.

    PS. In their green rage, did everyone ignore the last paragraph of the main bit?!?

    PPS. Moral of the story: Double-check your facts before you print stuff, and never be honest about yourself on the internet. EVER. EVER EVER EVER.

  26. Seven billion deaths aint very funny. says:

    Sarita, the moral of the story is not “never be honest about yourself..”, but ‘don’t go telling lies in the first place.’
    Perhaps the supposed humour in your main article (the only one I paid attention to) would have worked if it was in the context of ‘Children Say The Darndest Things’ ..but not as an article in a University magazine.

    Matthew, I see where you’re coming from but I don’t agree that the environment needs to be weighed against the economics. It is too late for that. We don’t have the luxury of such tokenism now. Thirty years ago maybe.
    But if what you are saying is true and anyone spelling out the situation is going to be dismissed as a curmudgeonly greenie rather than as a voice of reason, then my conclusion would have to be that we are fucked.
    The human race I mean.
    On the other hand, maybe ‘Peak Oil’ is a timely way to provide the natural limits, as a substitute for the political limits that we are failing to install. But I honestly doubt its efficacy.

    Critical Lemon, I think the ‘collective sanity’ disappeared a long time ago.
    Ask any of the 26 nations (comprising a third of the world’s population) bombed by the US since World War Two.
    But seeing as you like jokes so much, here’s a funny joke for ya:- they are fighting for Freedom and Democracy! …Hahahaha!

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