Letter: On global climate change
The letters to the editor before Christmas about global warming have finally pushed me to a formal response.
To start, global warming is essentially an erroneous term. Yes, the overall average temperature of the planet is increasing, but a more accurate portrayal of the phenomenon and its effects is "global climate change." Even the best climate models have not been able to consistently predict exactly how a warmer average temperature will affect specific regions of the planet because it is not known how ocean currents, and thus wind currents (which create weather patterns), will change with any specificity.
For example, if the ice mass on Greenland were to melt, the massive amount of increased cold fresh water poured into the North Atlantic could essentially stop the Atlantic Gulf Stream, halting the movement of warmer water from the Gulf of Mexico towards the North Atlantic (which is what keeps the United Kingdom warm (livable), and creating a much colder and drier climate. Thus, the average worldwide climate would be warming, but the climate in the U.K. would be much colder.
I'm not here to spout of humanity's suicide. Whether we have had any effect on the climate or not, the climate is changing. NASA's premiere climatologist, James Hansen, just published an article stating that if we would like to maintain the climactic conditions present during civilization's development, we need to keep the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide below 350 parts per million. The current level of atmospheric CO2 is 386 ppm. This has risen from 385 ppm in the two months since the article was published (cited from personal communication with author Bill McKibben, colleague of James Hansen).
If you would like more information or would like to contribute to large-scale policy change countering global climate change, please visit the Web site www.350.org.
In conclusion, one normal winter out of 10 abnormal winters is not enough to discount climate change or to mock the efforts of those trying to keep the American lifestyle even a viable possibility.
"The greatest danger is continued ignorance and denial, which could make tragic consequences unavoidable" (James Hansen).