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John Simkin

Global Warming

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Sir David King recently wrote an article for the American journal Science criticising the US Government for failing to take global warming more seriously. He wrote: "In my view, climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism."

What do scientists think?

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"In my view, climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism."

People who write things like this are usually "well off" and not in immediate danger of the numerous random threats life has to offer. I am sure there are many less well off people who would disagree with him.

As I see it the whole global warming idea is complex, and the effects take years to show. Like many other things, taking a path that causes the least amount of pollution etc would seem like a good idea. However, most people are essentially too selfish** to give a monkeys about it, so nothing of significance is likely to get done.

**Most people can't help this, it is part of our nature as just another animal on the planet. Most people are not as special or clever as they "believe" they are. ;)

Max

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Some perspectives on conservation are assuming that maintenance of the ecosystem, as it is the prime objective.

This neglects that evolution is a dynamic process constantly causing change. The human species is an evolutionary component and by their actions are creating change. Global Warming is a change that will impact on ecosystems providing challenges to existing species, some will thrive others will become extinct.

In terms of global history this is just another of many events that have caused considerable and rapid change.

Evolutionary forces will determine the fate of living things.

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I've just spotted a really interesting article in New Scientist Magazine. It's in the technology section;

A MIRROR TO COOL THE WORLD

They want to save the world we know. The engineers who brought us cloud seeding and plans to warm Siberia by melting the Arctic now say they can stave off global warming by shading the planet with tiny metal balloons or burying greenhouse gas on the ocean floor. And climate scientists, depressed by the failure of politicians to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, are starting to take a serious interest in global "mega-engineering"...

I hope this type of innovation doesn't take the pressure of industrial and developing nations and their greenhouse gas emissions agreements.

If our use of energy is linked to economic growth then we must find ways to produce energy without producing greenhouse gases, or abandon the economic model the capitalist world uses for something more sustainable. "Sustainable growth" is an oxymoron from a biological perspective.

We shouldn't forget that the temperature of the earth has probably fluctuated much more in the past, but we should bear in mind that the cost was widespread extinctions and drastic changes in the size and shape of the Earth's landmass.

As the human race seems to have increasing difficulty in co-habiting the planet peacefully before the effects of global warming are really noticable I would suggest that politicians divert some of the "rich" nations' military budgets into prevention of war in the future - namely by finding an alternative to "economic growth" and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The neat idea of Ecological Footprints is a great motivator of young people in developed nations to save energy and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases but it causes some difficulty in poorer nations; when students find out how little of the resources they get to use. The danger is that poor nations will want to behave as the rich nations do, and who are we to say they shouldn't?

Before we have to fight to maintain our lion's share of the worlds resources and to save the world we know, I would urge politicians to challenge the way we live and do business. Has Keynesian or Monetarist economics actually brought us the lifestyle improvements we enjoy today in the developed world in the most efficient way? Do we have to consume so much and throw so much away to be healthy, well educated and happy?

Until company performance and share dividends are measured by the sustainability of the company's activities rather than the size of it's growth, I can only see an uncertain future ahead. I wonder if millions of metal balloons can be manufactured without exploiting the mineral reserves of a developing nation and releasing thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels?

Humans gained the evolutionary advantage when we first picked up tools thousands of years ago. It is time we started to use them efficiently.

Edited by david faure

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The climate has changed dramatically over the eons but that said it has not changed as rapidly as it is doing presently. Spring flowers are blooming a full fortnight earlier in western Canada than they did 100 years ago. Some might say thats great because it means longers summers but in fact it just means that plant shoots emerge earlier than get wiped out by the frost. Changing climates do not guarantee a steady, predictable climate.

In the past at times of dramatic climate change mass extinctions have occurred and the outcome is that the highly developed and specialised organisms are wiped out whilst those more adapted to more extreme conditions survive. Whilst we would like to consider ourselves clever enough to be in category two we are more likely to be in category one. If the temperature drops dramatically in the UK (which is likely to occur due to changing ocean circulation patterns) you will all freeze to death because the insulation of your homes is drastically inadequate, or if the temperature increases ever a few degrees the same thing will happen as happened in France in the summer- old people will be dying by the dozen due to the lack of air conditioning! Not so smart or adaptable are we?! The result will not be a world peopled by super smart humans but cockroaches or primitive molluscs.

Global warming is also not an isolated issue. It is linked to over consumption and by anyones standards we CANNOT maintain the lifestyle we in developed countries have any longer. Quality of life should not be measured by whether we have the latest technology in our living room, but by whether we can breath the air and have time to spend with our children. We are being sold a life that does not benefit anyone bar a select rich few.

Rowena

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Every week there are fresh pieces of evidence from the scientific world regarding the 'facts' about global warming. There is a lot of contradiction about what is causing it but the fact is that is does seem to be happening.

Only in last week's edition of the New Scientist there was an article suggesting that fresh water will be in shorter supply as climate change gathers pace. One new modelling study from Princeton University suggests that increasing temperatures will dramatically affect the World's great rivers in that some will become more swollen while others will dry up. The net result will be that water will not be available in sufficient quantities where many people across parts of the World currently live. The article later goes on the say that 'some of the findings are controversial' - the UK Met office model predicions are somewhat different!

The only solution, apparently, is to limit our production of greenhouse gases. 'Governments must act!' say the scientific writers. Yes, of course we should do as much as we can to protect the environment in which we live, but do we actually hold all the cards?

I am not convinced I must say. Our collection of evidence is from very recent years when we look at the history of the Earth. Is this a reasonable sample to be basing all our modelling predictions on? We know that the Earth's climate has been a lot warmer than it is now from fossil evidence. We know little about the actual reasons for the changes over time. Why should we be so totally convinced that what is happening now is purely down to the activities of mankind?

My comments are here!

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This neglects that evolution is a dynamic process constantly causing change. The human species is an evolutionary component and by their actions are creating change. Global Warming is a change that will impact on ecosystems providing challenges to existing species, some will thrive others will become extinct.

The rate of extinction is currently higher than it's ever been - due to human activities. Evolution does not provide an excuse to ignore environmental problems. As a scientist, I agree that environmental issues are much more important than terrorism, that climate change is in fact occurring because of human activities (the exact nature of that change being unknown), and that the human species is evolutionarily predisposed to behave selfishly. This may be a fatal combination of circumstance, but it doesn't mean we have to give up.

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