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Do We Need To See Climate Change To Believe It?

Do We Need To See Climate Change To Believe It?

James Balog says that 95% of the glaciers in the world (outside of Antarctica) are shrinking or retreating, and he has the photos to prove it. Balog runs the Extreme Ice Survey, which “uses time-lapse photography, conventional photography, and video to document the rapid changes now occurring on the Earth’s glacial ice.” Their tag line is “seeing is believing.”

They have some phenomenal videos, one of which is embedded below. While the videos are compelling, in the past I have been somewhat dismissive of the idea that using selected discreet observations can either prove or disprove climate change. It leads to too many “it was colder than ever in my town this January” type arguments, countered with “not where I live!” retorts.

My bias has always been to point to the science and models, which bring me to the Economist Magazine’s recent piece that attempts to demystify and present a balanced summary of the science: what we know, what we think we know, and what we don’t know. For anyone serious about weighing the evidence and understanding the uncertainties, it provides a very thorough discussion of a complex issue…a very very complex issue.  It is a welcome change to the typical cherry picking of data used to attack the science, and acknowledges and discusses the many issues brought up by climate skeptics.

The Economist’s conclusion is that “there are a lot of uncertanties in climate science, but that does not mean it is fundamentally wrong.” They also point to a variety of observations, which seem to reinforce the conclusions of climate science. Unfortunately, most of these observation are still relatively subtle – a bit of temperature rise, some elevation of CO2 concentrations, coral reef bleaching, migratory pattern changes. This leads to my concern that we are like the fabled frog in a pot of water on the stove: If the water heats slowly enough the frog will not sense the danger, and boil to death.

Balog sees ice as one of the most visible and dramatic sentinels of climate change – “a canary in the global coal mine”. The paradox is that if we wait to see more visible changes, it will be too late to act….and if we act, we may never see the changes.

And what about the frog? That’s just an urban myth: Frogs have enough common sense to jump out and save their own skin.


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Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/90664717@N00/ / CC BY 2.0

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116 comments

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9:09PM PDT on Oct 20, 2013

Thank you.

9:07PM PDT on Oct 20, 2013

Thank you.

9:04PM PDT on Oct 20, 2013

Thank you.

9:03PM PDT on Oct 20, 2013

Thank you.

4:44AM PDT on Aug 23, 2010

I'm really tired of people arguing that global warming is not occurring... what's it going to take to make them see the truth? There ARE uncertainties about our climate, but they are not about whether or not the climate is changing. The uncertainties are about how bad things will get, what we can/can't do to improve our circumstances, and whether or not our efforts will be a success. Climate change IS occurring, and it's our responsibility to make every attempt to minimize its effects.
Water Damage Restoration

12:35AM PDT on Jun 25, 2010

Thanks

8:20PM PDT on Apr 29, 2010

Hemp - The Short Term Solution for climate change

Image Hemp can be used as a short term solution to the climate change challenge, simultaneously increasing soil carbon, locking carbon into raw materials and replacing unsustainable raw materials across several industries. It is an adaptable, hardy, multi-purpose crop that can play an important role in reducing and repairing human environmental damage.

Hemp is far less vulnerable to changes in climate compared to slow to medium growth forests and still has the most useful biochemical characteristics of hardwood. In addition, hemp is a very versatile crop, not just in terms of use value, but also in terms of how it can be managed by farmers. Growing hemp on deforested hillsides prevent landslides, run-off and also prepares land for future crops or reforestation. Large scale tree planting is not feasible without providing an immediate and sustainable alternative to forest resources used by the majority of the worlds population for cooking heating and raw materials. Hemp produces several metric tons of versatile biomass per hectare annually or bi-annually in hotter climates, potentially protecting old growth forests.

CO2, which represents 50 per cent of greenhouse gases (GHGs), according to the IPCC, is converted along with other chemicals (or assimilates) into food by plants, depending on biomass production. The resulting growth and storage of carbon is identified in terms of biomass. Mature forests, such as those

8:17PM PDT on Apr 29, 2010

Hemp - The Short Term Solution for climate change

Image Hemp can be used as a short term solution to the climate change challenge, simultaneously increasing soil carbon, locking carbon into raw materials and replacing unsustainable raw materials across several industries. It is an adaptable, hardy, multi-purpose crop that can play an important role in reducing and repairing human environmental damage.

Hemp is far less vulnerable to changes in climate compared to slow to medium growth forests and still has the most useful biochemical characteristics of hardwood. In addition, hemp is a very versatile crop, not just in terms of use value, but also in terms of how it can be managed by farmers. Growing hemp on deforested hillsides prevent landslides, run-off and also prepares land for future crops or reforestation. Large scale tree planting is not feasible without providing an immediate and sustainable alternative to forest resources used by the majority of the worlds population for cooking heating and raw materials. Hemp produces several metric tons of versatile biomass per hectare annually or bi-annually in hotter climates, potentially protecting old growth forests.

CO2, which represents 50 per cent of greenhouse gases (GHGs), according to the IPCC, is converted along with other chemicals (or assimilates) into food by plants, depending on biomass production. The resulting growth and storage of carbon is identified in terms of biomass. Mature forests, such as those fo

7:07AM PDT on Mar 31, 2010

Thanks!

6:19AM PDT on Mar 31, 2010

Gunter K, you state things very well. Yes, there are "natural" cycles of warming and cooling on the earth, with non-human causes, but the scientific evidence is steadily mounting that human activity is definitely contributing to the current overall warming trend. "Weirding" is a more accurate description in some ways -- since there are some extremes of cold as well as warm, as well as wet and dry, as things shift around. Unfortunately, there is a human tendency to see only what is right around us - so those who are not in the major change areas can deny what is happening, because it doesn't appear to be happening where they are. That was why it took so long for people to acknowledge that the world wasn't flat. We can change what humans are doing, and the question is: will we do that before it becomes impossible for that to help?

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