Monday, December 23, 2013

Climatologist: Earth's Rate of Global Warming "equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day, 365 days a year

It was very disheartening to listen to the "McLaughlin" host of the McLaughlin Group on PBS this weekend comment that there was no evidence of global warming from the last fifteen years. Global warming and climate change deniers have  billions of dollars poured into their cause, the cause of corporations and some governments who individually and collectively still have their "heads in the sand" and seek the sole pursuit of personal, corporate and political profit, at the expense of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we attempt to feed ourselves upon.
An "ecojustice" lawyer appearing on CTV's Question Period yesterday, when asked about the issue of the continuing dependence on fossil fuels commented, "Canada currently produces 2 million barrels a day of crude from the Alberta tar sands and is projected to produce some 5 million barrels a day by 2030. Is that the direction we want to go?"
We are living in a culture dominated by shouting larynxes, without anyone in power really listening....especially in Canada where the federal government has turned a tin ear to the climate issue, in favour of securing both funding and votes from its conservative base, who would happily quote McLaughlin as a source of pride and resolve as they take Canada into the backwaters of the global warming and climate change debate.
Enmeshed in the oil industry, the Conservatives are determined to move Alberta crude to Far East consumers like China and India, just as they are moving lethal asbestos to third world countries, because it generates "jobs" in the Canadian economy; they could not case less about the lives of those it poisons in their off-shore market places. Similarly, with a blanket of CO2 covering the earth, these deniers, avoiders and corporate capitalists care only about their own short-term, narcissistic and lethal motives that literally disregard the lives of future generations.
Making headlines like the one in the story below will alienate those who seek arguments of sensationalism against the people who really care about how we treat the fragile "earth" and its supporting ecosystem, because, once again, it will be considered apocalyptic, and therefore irrelevant.
On the other hand, there is a slight possibility that such a headline might just waken a few people in power in lands not yet having to wear masks just in order to continue breathing, the smog from industry being so heavy.
Collective collaboration, certainly no the global community's strong suit, will be required to bend the curve of political action on behalf of future generations, and if it takes headlines like this to begin to raise the consciousness of those in denial, then so be it. Bring on the apocalyptic metaphors, so long as they have a base in evidenciary science.

Earth’s Rate Of Global Warming Is 400,000 Hiroshima Bombs A Day

By Joe Romm, Climateprogress website, December 22, 2013
How can one convey the Earth’s staggering rate of heat build up from human-caused global warming — 250 trillion Watts (Joules per second)? The analogy to the energy released by the Hiroshima bomb has been used in recent years by a number of scientists, such as NOAA oceanographer John Lyman, and Mike Sandiford, Director of the Melbourne Energy Institute. In his TED talk Climatologist James Hansen explained the current rate of increase in global warming is:
“… equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day, 365 days per year. That’s how much extra energy Earth is gaining each day.”
That comes out to more than four Hiroshima bombs a second, which is a metric Skeptical Science has turned into a widget. I prefer the 400,000 Hiroshimas per day metric simply because the heat imbalance is occurring over a very large area, which four Hiroshimas don’t do justice to.
The deniers don’t like the metaphor because, they assert, it is inexact and sensationalistic. But the deniers don’t like the literal facts because they think those are inexact and sensationalistic, too, so we can safely ignore them.
Some climate scientists disagree with those scientists (and others) who use this metric “because climate change is nothing like atom bombs” and “my problem is that the association of death and destruction is also easy to grasp,” as Dr. Doug McNeall of the UK Met Office has tweeted.
Metaphors are not literal — by design — so if you don’t like non-literal comparisons, you won’t like metaphors. I have argued at great length that one of the major failings of science communication is the failure to use figurative language. For what it’s worth, Aristotle believed, “To be a master of metaphor is a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.”
So I’ve been delighted to see scientists start to use metaphors, such as analogizing the effect of greenhouse gases on extreme weather, by saying it’s like the climate on steroids. But of course the climate isn’t literally on steroids. It is figuratively on steroids. It is literally on CO2, which is much worse.
Abraham Lincoln was a master of metaphors. He famously said of a nation split by slavery that, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” But, of course, he was literally wrong: You could turn it into a duplex.
Ironically, a metaphor is the source of some of the most common terms in climate science: the greenhouse effect and greenhouse gases. And yet at least one expert has argued that the metaphor is fatally flawed:
“By producing an illusion that the climate system will respond instantly at the moment when CO2 level is reduced, the greenhouse metaphor is ultimately responsible for the wait-and-see approach to climate change.”

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