A new global warming peril…giant rats
A new species of giant rat was “discovered” recently in a remote corner of Indonesia. I say “discovered” since these guys are so unafraid of humans that they wandered into the scientist’s camp. So it’s more correct to say a group of scientists was discovered by giant rats. Scientists also discovered a new species of miniature possum, as well as recording the mating activities of several rare birds. I hope this wasn’t a privately funded scientific expedition, how do you explain this to your sponsor? “Yes, Lord Mallomy, we discovered a giant rat, a pygmy possum, and photographed birds f**king. We’ve named the rat after you. Can we have ten million pounds for the next expedition?” Even Indiana Jones couldn’t make that fly.
Kidding side, these are important scientific discoveries, and it shows that there are still many discoveries to be made in the odd corners of our planet. Of course, what do these giant rats have to do with global warming? Nothing really, but people are so bored with global warming that I thought I’d spice it up a bit. The ability of our society to focus seems pretty limited these days, it’s one crises to the next with little long term staying power. One of the best examples of this is overpopulation, which was a huge issue back in the day. Fortunately it has been solved and we no longer need to worry about humans breeding to the point where our whole system collapses under the strain of producing ever more food for ever more mouths.
Insert rolled eyes here. Of course we do, the overpopulation problem is as bad as it ever was, and humans are pushing into the last corners of the world modifying the environment in a reckless way and destroying the local wild life. The great apes are well on track to being extinct in the wild in a generation for example, due to human activities encroaching on their remaining forest refuges. In a very real sense, unless we solve the overpopulation problem, any and all solutions to other problems are merely stopgap measures.
Moving right along, this is a global warming post, even if I am wandering a bit. The news on the global warming front has continued to be grim, and has continued to exceed our worst case models. The latest example of this is sea level rise, which appears to be worse than predicted. The seas may rise five feet or more this century, and that’s assuming no catastrophic ice sheet collapse and melting in Greenland or Antarctica.
The interesting this about this failure to predict is that it is similar to many recent examples where the trends are running ahead of our worst case scenarios. In many areas of global warming, as things heat up, changes are occurring in the environment that are accelerating the process. Some were simple to predict and easy to model, like less sea ice means less sunlight reflected back into space by ice. Others are far more subtle and hard to understand, like how melting ice is sinking through cracks and speeding up glaciers as they head to the sea. Many people, like me, were predicting long ago that we needed to take this problem far more seriously because if positive feedback kicked in, the problem could get much worse very fast. And sadly, the past few years we are seeing things like global temperatures and melting Arctic ice exceeding all expectations because of unanticipated positive feedback.
This is not good. Fortunately the governments of the world, especially the US, are starting to sit up and take the problem more seriously. In the latest UN Global Warming conference, the USA reversed itself and agreed to a compromise. Yes, the USA agreed to intensely study the issue for two more years, but insisted that the developing countries of the world must also make sacrifices. Uh huh. Let’s see if I have this right, the hyper rich insist that the hyper poor pay their “fair share” to fix a problem caused by the hyper rich. Yeah, that’s fair.
The ridiculous thing about the “debate” is that the amount of money it would take to dramatically reduce global warming gases is minor in the greater scheme of things. And it’s not like the money is going anywhere, it will still be circulating in the economy. So what’s the problem? The problem is that a few powerful industries like the energy industry and the dam building industry would have to retool, and it would cut their profits for a few years. This would mean that a tiny number of people who are already rich beyond the comprehension of normal folks would have a few less zeros in their bank accounts. And since these people own the media and have enormous influence in government, nothing will get done until the last possible second.
The problem isn’t global warming, it’s greed. Some things never change.
(The above image of Mallomys Giant Rat is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it is being used for educational purposes, and it is central to illustrating the post. Credit: BBC/Conservation International. Isn’t he cute? I’m thinking “glove liners.”)