The Norman Transcript

Opinion

May 23, 2013

Misinformation clouds global warming

NORMAN — Next spring I will again have to update my lecture on global warming. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now rising above the 400 ppm level for the first time in perhaps 5 million years — a scenario humans have never experienced. In my Geology class, before I contrast recent climate change to the past, I plow through the facts ... a 0.8°C global rise in temperature and a 20 cm sea level rise over a single century, changes in rainfall patterns, growing season changes, melting of sea ice and glaciers. Then attribution ... greenhouse gasses cause atmospheric warming (fact), atmospheric greenhouse gasses have risen >43 percent in the last century (fact), chemical fingerprints of atmospheric carbon implicates fossil fuel burning (fact); yet I see the eyes of my students glaze over. Science only informs, but because of misinformation, stored like noxious gas in the blogosphere, the crystalline facts of global warming have been clouded as opinion, or worse, and they fail to incite or excite. The implications of the facts, however, transcend science, and should ignite our humanness.

To me, a geoscientist who researches past climate, modern climate change is a moral issue. Climate has changed in the geologic past, but geoscientists can clearly demonstrate that the human-induced warming we experience today is far faster than the non-catastrophic climate swings buried in Earth’s past, and likely too rapid for many living plants and animals to adapt. Climate scientists frame potential effects with increasing clarity. Economists propose clear paths, such as revenue-neutral carbon taxes, to enable the transformation away from fossil fuels, because most see the economic benefits of mitigating climate change as outweighing their costs.

What transcends the science and economics is that our actions or inactions impinge on the rights and freedoms of others. We protest vehemently and demand protection when our own political planks (e.g., gun or reproductive rights) are threatened. But when a Pacific Islander from Kirabati or the Carterets has to abandon her home as the island drowns with rising sea level and storm surges, her freedom to live in her homeland is lost. When a Tanzanian, living along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, hauls in fewer fish and can’t feed his family, as rising water temperatures damage the lake’s food chain, he has lost the right to harvest food in his homeland. When the village of Newtok, Alaska disappears in the next five years because of rising seas and increased erosion caused by accelerated ice melt, the 350 native Alaskans will have lost their homeland entirely.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Top honors for NPS

    Top honors keep rolling in for both of Norman’s high schools. The district learned this past week that Norman High School and Norman North High School have been recognized as two of the most rigorous high schools in the country and in the ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Wind power bursting

    There are a few wind generators dotting the Norman skyline, but western and northwestern Oklahoma makes up for the deficit here. An industry group this week said Oklahoma ranks fourth nationally in the amount of wind-generated ...

    April 16, 2014

  • First, do no harm — to your bank account

    After being sued by the Wall Street Journal, the government finally released its Medicare reimbursement data last week. It included the less-than-stunning revelation that 28 of the 100 doctors who received the largest payments in 2012 were ...

    April 15, 2014

  • Reading between the lines

    Reading is such an improbable idea — a miracle, really. Yet simple squiggles on a page, arranged just so, can convey ideas that change the way we think or introduce to us characters we love for a lifetime. In celebration of reading — and ...

    April 15, 2014

  • CCFI tackling area’s child abuse problem

    Editor, The Transcript: To those of you who are reading this editorial, I assume you care or at least are entertained by the opinions of others. It is my hope and desire that when you read this editorial, you will care about the facts. ...

    April 12, 2014

  • Protect your home from wildfires

    To most people, fuel is what you put into your gas tank. To firefighters, it means something altogether different. To people who make a living putting out fires, fuel is that material that feeds wildfires — and there is an abundance of it ...

    April 12, 2014

  • League of Women Voters meeting

    Editor, The Transcript: On Saturday, May 10, the Norman League of Women Voters will hold its annual meeting at the Memorial Presbyterian Church, 601 24th Ave. SW, Norman, OK, from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm....

    April 12, 2014

  • Does Oklahoma need advice from Texas?

    Does Texas have a lock on “brilliant minds”? The names of Texans like Congressman Louie Gomert, Sen. Ted Cruz and that other guy ... I can’t think of his name ... oh yeah, Rick Perry come to mind very quickly. Add to that infamous list ...

    April 12, 2014

  • Why Comcast-Time Warner deal makes sense

    Say this about the deal announced Thursday for Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable: It’s big. Big price tag of $45 billion. Big combined subscriber base of 30 million households. And big risk of a veto from government antitrust regulators....

    April 12, 2014

  • Solid evidence within ice record

    In his November 10 Letter, Gary Reynolds misstated information in the October 27 op-ed by Catherine Hobbs, “New report says global warming is “unequivocal.” Mr. Reynolds incorrectly stated that Dr. Hobbs cited evidence from the 2007 UN ...

    April 12, 2014

Video
Facebook