Global Warming


(This 891st Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on April 20, 2008.)


I begin this column with a series of pronouncements:


1. We do have global warming and it is caused by us.


2. We face devastating consequences if we fail to address this problem.


3. We are at what scientists call the tipping point with irreversible consequences if we fail to act now.


4. As a nation and as individuals, we are not facing this problem. The activities we have undertaken so far have served only as palliatives.


5. Thus our situation is absolutely critical.


And what is so terrible about this situation is the fact that:


6. Our grandchildren will bear the real burden of our failure to act today.


Yes, a few readers will reject those statements as simply that tree hugger spouting off. Urged on by our national arbiters of idiocy -- Rush Limbaugh, Michael Crichton, James Inhofe and Fox "News" -- they will dispute those statements with a cold day last winter or the one glacier out of hundreds that is not retreating. The rest of us know that those statements are true.


But we continue to sit on our hands.


I will beat a dead horse here with just some of the evidence that supports those pronouncements:


      Temperature averages have been moving north seven miles each year. At this rate, children born now will have as adults the weather of the mid-South and within our grandchildren's lifetimes Buffalo really will be the Miami of the North.


      The Arctic and Antarctic ice caps are melting at an extraordinary rate. In 2007 a Northwest Passage, the sea route running along the Arctic coastline of North America, was open to navigation for the first time in recorded history.


      Worldwide glacier melt is accelerating. At this rate those grown children will not see glaciers in Glacier National Park.


And just what are the consequences?


      The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other scientific leaders project temperatures to rise between 2 and 10 Fahrenheit by the end of this century. That's up to 6 Celsius and Mark Lyman's book "Six Degrees" outlines what to expect: a 1 rise will destroy most coral reefs and mountain glaciers; 3 will mean the end of the Amazon rainforest and the creation of deserts across the Midwest; 6 would eliminate most life on Earth, including most of us.


      Scientists at the Scripps Institute suggest that the loss of the Greenland ice cap could cause the Gulf Stream to change course in turn causing catastrophic weather changes.


      Projections of sea level rise caused by melting ice caps go higher than 80 feet. But even a one yard rise will inundate whole cities and wreck havoc along our coastline.


      At the same time the Great Lakes face a serious drop in water level, as much as six feet. Last summer Lake Superior was already down two feet and ore boats could not enter ports.


Our politics is failing us here. This is not a matter of progressives against conservatives because the large majority of both sides know everything I have mentioned. The problem is that we have a myopic focus on today: today's economic crisis, today's presidential campaign, today's war in Iraq, today's athletic achievement and today's outrageous behavior.


It seems that no one is looking to our most serious problem: our very future on earth.


Frankly I am not nearly as sanguine as Al Gore is about our willingness to take on this problem. But I thank goodness for people like him and Walter Simpson. Walter is one of my personal heroes. He is deeply committed to addressing the cause of global warming locally. A week ago I sat in on a program he, his wife Nan and youngsters from UB Green led for people who will now serve as speakers on this subject. I have not outlined in this brief article either global warming causes or what we should be doing to address this critical problem, but these people are prepared to do just that.


I urge every local organization -- block or garden club, union or PTA, social or religious group -- to contact UB Green (829-3535 or to invite one of these men or women to discuss this important subject with your group.-- Gerry Rising