I fully understand that by posting this, I will again provoke all of those who are emotionally and politically invested in denying global warming to assume the position.
We all know what the position is: Eyes squeezed shut, forefingers inserted firmly into ears, loudly chanting the slogans they’ve been taught to chant so that no portion of actual scientific knowledge is allowed to penetrate.
But let’s take a look anyway, because it’s our planet, and it’s important, and I have children, and I’m not going to give up hope that we may yet summon the decency, courage and wisdom to at least try to mitigate the worst impacts of what we are doing to ourselves.
The above chart comes from “The State of the Climate: 2009,” a report compiled by more than 300 scientists worldwide under the auspices of our own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As the report notes, it is the product not of computer models but of observed data.
As the chart demonstrates, global climate has been changing just as scientists have been predicting it would since back in the ’70s. As the report warns:
“Continued temperature increases will threaten many aspects of our society, including coastal cities and infrastructure, water supply and agriculture. People have spent thousands of years building society for one climate and now a new one is being created – one that’s warmer and more extreme.”
So far, “more than 90 percent of the warming that’s happened on earth during the past 50 years has gone into the oceans,” the report warns. The expected effects of such warming include rising sea levels, melting ice caps and stronger hurricanes.
But those may not be the most dire consequences, as another study published this week documents.
“A Dalhousie University-based study, published in the scientific journal Nature on Wednesday, suggested for the first time that microscopic marine algae known as “phytoplankton” have been declining globally – its population has decreased by roughly 40 percent since 1950 – because of rising sea surface temperatures and changing ocean conditions.
“This may well be one of the largest biological changes observed in recent times, simply because it affects most of the biosphere,” said study co-author Boris Worm.
Phytoplankton need both sunlight and nutrients to grow but warm oceans are limiting the amount of nutrients that are delivered from deeper waters to the ocean surface.
“Phytoplankton are a critical part of our planetary life-support system. They produce half of the oxygen we breathe . . . and ultimately support all of our fisheries,” he said.
He said the species is just as valuable to survival as “all plants on land combined.”
Isn’t that lovely? A single species of aquatic plant life — a fundamental building block of our ecosystem, as valuable to survival as all plants on land combined — has declined by more than 40 percent because of global warming.
As one more effort to break through the denial, I’ll leave you with this, also from “The State of the Climate in 2009.” Scientists identified 10 major metrics that would tell us how and whether the climate was changing. Every single one of those metrics is indicating significant and ongoing heating.