Global Warming’s Other Side

global warmingThe latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a picture that could certainly be interpreted as dire. It points to substantial evidence that climate change has significantly impacted natural systems on all continents and across the seas. The damage predicted as the situation worsens makes it clear that global warming will prove devastating to Earth’s natural ecosystems, but wait–there’s another side to the story.

The damage attributed to Earth’s warming trend is considerable. In many regions around the world, changes in rain and snow patterns are affecting the availability of water, while increased melting of glaciers and other ice features are affecting water sources in terms of both quantity and quality. This could have wide-reaching, damaging impacts on many different ecosystems. The IPCC report states that while only a few species extinctions have been attributed to the current ongoing climate change, historically documented climate changes in the past several million years–at rates far slower than those observed today–are known to have caused extensive shifts of ecosystems, as well as the extinction of many different species. They believe that even a two degree increase in global temperatures could result in irreversible damage to the world’s ecosystems, triggering a series of events that will take everything over a hypothetical tipping point. From this point, alterations and interactions between systems could fall into a sort of runaway chain reaction that could not soon–if ever–be undone.

However global warming is not just about the animals and the trees. There is definitely another side to this story–us. Changes in precipitation and melt rates affecting water levels and quality could have a disastrous effect on human living conditions, rendering fertile areas arid or flooding many out of long-established homes. Extensive flooding could result in mass epidemics of cholera and other water-borne illnesses. Crop yields would likely be severely diminished as regional conditions change.  The availability of food would be limited, and prices would drastically increase. Widespread hunger, even famine, could result. The IPCC reports a documented increase in heat-related and cold-related deaths as a result of the overall warming trend. In addition, the devastating impact from climate related phenomena such as wildfires, heat waves, droughts, and floods have demonstrated that many of our society’s systems are poorly designed to withstand such an assault from the elements.

Climatologists and other scientists have collected a great deal of data about the changes in temperatures, precipitation, and countless other factors in order to create a climatological portrait of the Earth. But climate is a very complex and fluid system, and as such does not much like to sit still for the photographer. Many details are open to interpretation, even among knowledgeable experts. So what is sought after is a certain level of agreement from a reasonable segment of the scientific community. Still, some believe that climate change is not due to human behavior at all, but simply a result of normal atmospheric activity. However, Shaun Lovejoy, professor of physics at McGill University, calculates that there is less than a one percent chance that the natural-warming hypothesis is correct. And he is far from alone–97 percent of climate scientists believe that the global warming trends observed for the last century are caused by human activity. So, yes, it’s probably us.

Changes to the world’s meteorological patterns, ecosystems, rainfall and sea levels are one thing. Those, perhaps, you could shrug off and go about your day. But when you look at the other side of global warming–the side that affects us more directly, more obviously, the side that washes away your house and takes food away from your family–suddenly it quickly becomes a far more personal issue.

Commentary by Peter Barreda

New York Times
Science 2.0
Huffington Post

One Response to "Global Warming’s Other Side"

  1. Russ Maurer   April 12, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    The trouble with the whole mess is the Money , man will soon realize that he can not eat Money !!

    No other creature on the planet gobbles up more resources than a Human.

    The Great Ape that is Never Satisfied , always wanting More and wanting it Faster !

    And now Nature Bats Last !

    She will have the Final Say , and there is nothing that can be done.

    As the reset button has been pressed and the climate with its Enormous Momentum and Multiple Positive Feedbacks , moves towards the Hotter More Stable State at a Exponential Rate .

    The truth is is that if we Stopped all Emissions at this time there will be No going back as the Trigger on the Methane Clathrate Gun has been pulled !

    The Sixth Great Extinction , will make the Permian Extinction look like nothing !

    That Great Ape is about to get More and at a Faster Pace than they can handle .

    But the truth is that technology that got us this mess , will not get us out of this mess.

    Everyone thinks some technology like fusion is the ticket , cheap clean energy.

    But we would cut down every last tree with clean electric chainsaws.

    Human beings are the most out of order things in the universe.

    Looking to the stars for intelligent life when it is all around us and we cannot see it.

    If it doesn’t have opposing fingers and a thumb and cannot make a automobile then it must be just a stupid animal.

    Look at the brain of one of the great sea mammals and compare it to the human.

    in their world they cannot Tinker !


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