October 27, 2006

Trying for a personal response to climate change

As the proprietor of a blog called "Nature Blog," I keep thinking that I ought to say something about climate change.

The problem is that I do not know what to say.

Something is happening, I am sure. But I am disgusted by politicization of the public discourse.

For instance, the National Academy of Sciences offers a free summary of their report, "Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the last 2,000 Years."

The report states, "It can be said with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries. This statement is justified by the consistency of the evidence from a wide variety of geographically diverse proxies."

(Read the news release here.)

Humanities guy that I am, I am impressed by the idea of researching climate change by studying old paintings of natural features such as glaciers, for instance.

Skepticism continues, of course, as in this Canadian news item.

But I'm still thinking about Greenland. You may know the story--reconstructed as fiction in Jane Smiley's novel Greenlanders--how the early medieval warm period collapsed around 1400 (?) as the world moved towards the Little Ice Age. (More on ups and downs of the Little Ice Age.)

They are farming in Greenland again. Weird.

What if . . . what if . . . this was something outside our control, in other words, not George W. Bush's personal fault? You can't blame the "Medieval Climate Optimum" on coal-burning power plants or eee-vul sport utility vehicles.

What if climate change was controlled by solar radiation or by cosmic rays' influence on cloud cover?

We could still save money and energy by emphasizing conservation and new technology more, whether doing so had any effect on the climate or not.

In fact, even as "recycling" became the save-the-planet mantra of the 1970s, I suspect that the screw-in fluorescent lightbulb will become the poster child of the current effort. I am typing this post by the light of one of them, screwed into a draftsman's lamp at my computer table. ("Anglepoise" lamp to my UK readers, both of you.)

And then I walk outside and look at the pine trees, thinking, "I must continue to love this place."


Steve Bodio said...


PBurns said...

Brilliant and correct (which is to say I agree with it).