Thursday, April 28, 2011

Global Warming?

With the events unfolding in the mid-west and Gulf states, tornadoes in particular, it seems to me that these tragedies leaving hundreds of people dead and significant damage in the wake, are an excellent example of the how global warming is progressing worldwide. Because heat is energy and vice versa, these atmospheric events, like tornadoes, are natures' response to the build up of heat in the atmosphere. While tornadoes are familiar to those living in the middle of the country, the increased frequency and magnitude of these atmospheric storms is what is news. Many expect that global warming, and its cousin climate change will be felt almost exclusively at the poles. And it is a correct assumption that we are seeing the first and most dramatic response at the poles at least initially, it is not the only dynamic at work here. When we mess with the feedback loops that are the planet's weather patterns, we can expect those patterns to be disrupted. The imperative for the global human population is that we cannot predict with any real accuracy what the response will be on global weather, and atmospheric and oceanic systems; there is simply no precedent for changes that are proceeding at the rapid pace we are seeing, such as the melting of the polar ice sheets, and/or the thawing of permafrost at the poles.

As has been the case for a couple of decades now, the question is not whether global warming and the resultant global climate change are occurring, but how we will respond with behavior changes to help mitigate the changes that will play out not for us ourselves alone but for future generations, and the generations of all of the Earth's inhabitants. I had a student several quarters ago who expressed his opinion about whether global warming was actually occurring by stating that he lives in Ohio, and it is very cold there (during the winter). His response meant to me that he was either too lazy or too stupid to read and educate himself about the issue regardless of the fact that our course material covered the issues very well. We no longer have the luxury to choose either of those perspectives (stupid or lazy), but must act to help mitigate some of the detrimental effects on global ecosystems. It no longer really matters how global warming began, except for education, data collection and modeling purposes, but what our response will be to our credit or discredit. 

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