Is the Climate Beginning to Spiral Out of Control?

Global warming skeptics believe that scientists are being overly alarmist in their projections. I think this position represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how science actually works.

Science, by its nature, is conservative. There is so much data crunching and theories and challenges and peer reviews….getting to a consensus on anything takes an awful long time. And by the time the data are refined to the point where one can draw conclusions, reality has moved far beyond the millions of individual data points that make up the picture.

With climate change, that can be deadly.

There is growing evidence that not only is the world changing, it’s doing so at a faster rate than the consensus view. The worst projections might come true – far earlier than even their proponents hypothesize.

Why does it matter? Because our entire existence – all the settlements, infrastructure and methods for maintain life – are based on a relatively stable climate. Many of our coastal settlements are barely above sea level. Washington, DC, which is far inland, is nonetheless on a river that is tidal. Any significant change in sea levels would swamp trillions of dollars in real estate. Reason alone to take the problem seriously.

The Los Angeles basin would be great affected. All that Malibu real estate. Gone. But there’s a greater danger; half the water supply comes from snow melt from the Sierra Nevada mountains. If the snow pack shrinks, then the City of Angels – the rambling, incoherent home to millions – returns to the desert from which it was carved. Desalinating the rising ocean will cost billions and billions.

Do we still have time? I don’t know. What I’m sure of is that the last 14 years – from the “Republican Revolution” of 1994 to the end of the Bush Administration – has been a lost time in which the world’s leading economic power did little or nothing to change the course of a world barreling toward a potential catastrophe.

I know not what will happen. But all the evidence that is beginning to flood in does not paint a very pretty picture.