Global Warming: What's Next?

Note to Debaters: Tomorrow we will bite into the Miers nomination. Yummy. Have a good tidbit to share? E-mail me.

At the end of a Debate, it's always nice to wrap up the topic with some solid answers. Unfortunately, in this particular Debate, there are more questons than answers. We know the basics: global warming is happening, and the majority of scientists believe humans are contributing to the problem in a significant way through emissions of greenhouse gasses. It is likely that this will change -- and has changed -- weather patterns in some way.

But just how well do we understand these changing weather patterns? Gregg Suhler, who was a White House Fellow during the Carter administration and served as the 'political point-man' on the 1980 heat and drought, shed some light on that with a detailed comment in this blog regarding climate modeling.

Some other questions to consider:

Could climate change actually pose a natonal security threat? (Subscription to Fortune magazine required to read more about "The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare"; but the full text is here for free.)

Should we be worried that global warming could cause hurricanes to form in places where they haven't before? Just last year we saw the first South Atlantic hurricane ever recorded (subscription required.)

Lots of different views on global warming and related subjects were published in the Sacramento Bee. Of course, it is the very the fact that there are different views on global warming in the first place is what really bugs Mark Hertsgaard, writing in The Nation. He is aghast that anyone is confused about whether warming caused by human activity is really occurring.

"That confusion was encouraged by the mainstream media, which in the name of journalistic "balance" gave equal treatment to global warming skeptics and proponents alike," Hertsgaard writes, "even though the skeptics represented a tiny fringe of scientific opinion and often were funded by companies with a financial interest in discrediting global warming."

So, where do things go from here? Should we expect more huge storms? Is Katrina's "real name" Global Warming, as Ross Gelbspan argues in the Boston Globe? Both the Washington Post and the New York times editorials on the subject answer that question with a resounding "We really don't know." Well, at least they're honest.

The editorials agree that scientists insist no single storm or storms can be attributed to global warming, but the New York Times editorial does contend that the hurricanes were natural disasters "with human fingerprints." Even if the hurricanes aren't related to climate change at all, the NYT board writes, the warming is raising sea levels, which could put significant portions of U.S. coastline underwater.* That would wipe out much of Florida, meaning that projects like restoring the Everglades would have been a huge waste of time. The Times says we need to get our greenhouse gas emissions under control in order to avoid "the worst outcomes" -- but that would require action from the biggest emissions offender, the United States, and the Times is understandably skeptical that Bush would take on the task.

*There's a map here that is unnerving and amusing at the same time. Unnerving because the US just doesn't look very good with half of California, most of Florida and a good bit of the Mississippi basin covered in water. Amusing because I'm still trying to figure out how a third of Colorado gets drowned -- I always thought the elevations in those parts were pretty substantial, what with the mountains and all. And then there's Utah -- just a tiny piece remains, right at Four Corners. Umm ... grudge against the Mormons?

By Emily Messner |  October 5, 2005; 1:23 PM ET  | Category:  Looking Ahead
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Hmmm...maybe they see the major waterways flooding, including rivers. Thus the Colorado River could be putting Colorado and Utah in the blue - mind you, I am surmising this without actually looking at a map (the Colorado River could be in Vermont for all I know).

Posted by: Tina A. | October 6, 2005 08:14 AM

Does no one follow the links within the links? The source for the map takes it from yet another source: a site for new age mumbo jumbo. The map is the result of a, uh, vision. Glorious! Lest anyone doubt it, the western U.S. is _very_ elevated and would be the last part of the lower 48 to get flooded.

Posted by: Eric | October 6, 2005 03:25 PM

I don't want to be covered in water!

Posted by: wenny | May 6, 2006 11:18 PM

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