A response written to this Foreign Policy article.
This article is such a train wreck that it's difficult to know how to respond. Its biggest failure: ignoring any notion of "tipping points," or "regime change" - in other words, how climate and environment actually come to change. Recent research into the end of the last great ice age and the lesser climatic variations of the Holocene has revealed that climatic change happens suddenly, catastrophically. It has also demonstrated that relatively small changes in global temperatures can have cascading effects that end up radically changing the system (for example: a warming of 1.8 degrees Celsius will likely melt Greenland's entire ice sheet). It's hard to square Kenny's outdated philosophy of humanity's triumphant progress with the very real possibility of, for example, spectacular sea level increases, spreading dessertification, species extinction and, worse, changes in ocean currents that will almost certainly accompany climate change in the next few decades. Will the technology developed in our lifetimes make us immune from environmental disasters fuelled by the technology of the present and the past? I'd prefer not to take that risk.
Global warming today is fuelled by accelerating feedback cycles at the poles that, owing to the way greenhouse gases interact with our atmosphere, will take decades, perhaps centuries, to reverse. Global warming is not a slowly building threat that can be easily handled with a few inevitable adjustments to our economic structures. The current boom in coal consumption makes that abundantly clear, as does the lack of any substantive political action outside of Europe. Acting like we can continue to enjoy business as usual while safeguarding our environment is much more dangerous than potentially overselling the threat of global warming. In fact, articles like these help me realize that the likely disastrous consequences of global warming, far from receiving too much attention, are actually too often swept under the rug. After all, isn't it easier to "sit back, put your Toms shoes on the couch, and drink micro-brewed herbal tea" while insisting that everything will be fine?
4/10/2012 04:39:00 am
Good point. It has been my experience in conferences to the general public that the notion of 'tipping point' (or whatever it is called) is largely ignored, but once explained it triggers more interest than the discussion on climate sensitivity.
4/6/2018 02:49:55 am
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Was published in the American Journal of Biochemistry.
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