May 29, 2009

Global Warming Rethunk

I just had an ‘Aha! Moment.’
For the last decade or more I’ve believed every word the scientists said about Global Warming. After all, the politicians immediately came out swinging, smearing the scientists and declaring their findings ‘pseudo-science.’
I mean, who would YOU have believed?

I just watched a documentary I’d seen before—but, this time, I noticed something that had escaped me the first time around.

I had known for many years about the Little Ice Age that began around the year 1000. It ushered in such innovations as chimneys, multi-roomed dwellings with staircases [the gentry lived upstairs where it was warmer] tapestry-hung beds, buttons on clothing, rotation of crops, an increase in animal husbandry as a result of the mass failure of cereal crops while animal feed crops were better able to survive the cold, etc. etc. etc.
The Black Death arrived about three hundred years later and preyed on a population already weakened by the change in climate.
The European mindset became paranoid. Surely, the Almighty was calling on the populace to clean up its act. The Church and governments turned on Jews and women and the witch hunts and purges of the Jews brought about thousands of violent deaths.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, the Vikings’ great experiment had been underway for several generations.
When they arrived, Greenland was a lush and green place—not the glacier-covered mass we’re all familiar with today. For the first century or so of the European settlement, the newcomers derived 80% of their sustenance from the land [goats, sheep and cereal crops] and 20% from the sea. After the Little Ice Age began, that ratio gradually reversed itself and the Vikings, who had never learned the technique of winter-fishing used to tide the Innuit over during hard times, died out.

This is the history of the early Little Ice Age. The earth actually began that cycle with a considerably warmer climate than we see today.
The part I hadn’t put together before was the length of the cycle we’re talking about, here.
The Little Ice Age didn’t last for two or three hundred years, as I’d always assumed. Its effects, in fact, were being felt when the Pilgrims arrived in the New World in 1620. They were still going on when George Washington crossed the Delaware River in 1776. All that ice in the painting wasn’t included for effect. It was really there as diaries of the time attest.
In 1816, when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, ice imagery abounded in the novel, reflecting conditions outside as she wrote. In short, the Little Ice Age came to an abrupt end in 1850—probably fueled, at least in part, by industrialization.

The fact remains, though, that the earth has not, by any means, warmed to the level it was when the cycle began in approximately the year 1000—when Greenland was actually green and England harvested grapes every summer as a matter of course.
But, here’s why this whole argument [the ‘natural warming’ the politicians postulate] is irrelevant:
No matter the cause, we are faced with a major crisis or even series of crises as a result of the warming we’re undergoing at the moment.
After all, with Greenland locked up in ice for almost a thousand years, with the arctic and the antarctic massively larger than they were 1000 years ago, we’ve been building on coasts that have been dry for considerably less than that amount of time.
Whole cities have grown up on land that was covered by ocean before the Little Ice Age began [I live in one of them]. Therefore, it would behoove us to keep the Little Ice Age that we’re currently living in stable—or face violent social upheavals as the climate returns to the level that may be the actual ‘norm’ [assuming there is such a thing] and our coastal cities drown.
I guess my point is—if conditions that existed prior to the year 1000 were the norm—and we are currently living in a waning Little Ice Age which may, now, be drawing to a close—whether or not we are responsible in whole or in part for the warming—we may be fighting a losing battle as we attempt to stabilize the climate, no matter what we do.
If we’re lucky, we are the sole cause of the warming and we can slow or stop it if we clean up our acts [given our political situation, a pretty big IF.]
But, if we’re not lucky and the earth just wants to warm up, my guess is she’s gonna do it.
In a battle between us and Mother Nature—guess who’s going to win? And those of us who live along the coasts had better invest in swim fins.


Ramonas Voices said...

Bravo! Superb post!

I think you're on to something here. I hadn't thought about the "mini-ice age" and I'll bet there are others who haven't, either.

TC, why don't you cross-post this on TPM? Create a blog over there and put this up. There are so many thoughtful commenters over there who would eat this up!


two crows said...

hi Ramona--
thanx for the kind words.

hmmmmm--- TPM is that site you cross-post to, right? I'll check it out--if I can figure out how, I'll set something up over there. thanks for the idea.

Ramonas Voices said...

Yes, Talking Points Memo has been getting quite a bit of press lately--especially since Maureen Dowd lifted some lines from the TPM founder, Josh Marshall.

Setting up my blog was pretty easy. And if I can do it YOU can do it! I just cut and paste my Blogger blog and place it there. If you need any help, email me and I'll be glad to do what I can.

two crows said...

hi Ramona--
I sent you an email about the problems I'm having on the site. did you receive it?

I've also written to the administrators asking for their help.
I'd really, really, really like to join-- if I can get past this snafu.