Accidental Activist

Global Warming Really is Bloody Inconvenient

Unfortunately, having kids means I don't get to sit back and do nothing about it.

By Ben Bull
Published February 09, 2007

I'd been avoiding Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' like a trip to the dentist. It was, I suppose, inevitable that I would eventually see it - I write for a sustainable development web-site after all - but still, I wasn't quite prepared for what Al had to say.

Like many people, when it comes to global warming, I'd been in denial. As Ryan McGreal noted in Climate Change Denial on February 2nd, I'd been switching between ignoring the problem and hoping it would go away, to acknowledging it but deciding "we're screwed anyway, so why should I care?"

I guess that's why it's called 'inconvenient'. It is inconvenient - bloody inconvenient. As if I don't have enough on my plate bringing up four kids (I think that eight billion population projection at the end of the film might have something to do with me - sorry Al) and trying to hold down a steady job, now I have to save the planet too? It's too much!

For those of you who haven't seen the documentary yet, I do of course recommend it. The essence of what Al is trying to say, in his usual sober, schoolteacherly manner, is that our out of control carbon emissions are causing our little blue ball to heat up, and fast.

Here's what I learned from Mr. Gore's presentation:

  1. Increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere, brought about by our car-addicted crappy human behaviour, cause more of the sun's rays to get trapped on Planet Earth instead of bouncing back into space. Hey presto! Global warming.
  2. Hotter temperatures (the hottest eight years on record have occurred during the last decade, according to Al) lead to hotter oceans, more storms and redistribution of precipitation patterns (sorry Sahara belt - no more rain for you).
  3. The rapidly melting Antarctic and Greenland ice caps are causing huge slabs of ice to slide into the ocean. If only a quarter of this plopped into the sea we'd see ocean levels rise 20 feet or more. Good-bye most of Holland, see you later Shanghai, nice knowin' ya Manhattan.
  4. If the ice erosion isn't stopped the Atlantic currents could grind to a halt, bringing us the unwelcome prospect of...another ice age! How long would that take, you wonder? Well, evidently the last ice age took just 10 short years to freeze its way around the planet.

Al makes many of the same points that historian and doom-and-gloom merchant Ronald Wright made in his thoroughly depressing 'A Short History of Progress'. The world's population is booming (projected to be over 8 billion souls in the next 30 years), and humans have screwed things up before and survived, but this time we might not be so lucky.

To his credit, Al ends the lesson with a little chink of light, poking out through the thin sheath of ice. "We've had these problems before," he explains, reminding his audience about a little problem called the hole in the ozone layer, "and we've come through. We can do it again".

I don't like Global warming and I wish it would go away. Hell, if I didn't have kids I might very well decide to do nothing about it.

I do have kids and even though in my darkest moments I wonder whether the human race really will pull through on this one, I have no choice but to believe that we will. And I have no choice but to do everything in my power to try and avert this disaster.

See also:

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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By ENLIM (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2007 at 10:38:18

What makes you think that the current climate trend is unnatural? The most recent research indicates that it is due to solar activity.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2007 at 11:27:00

The research indicates no such thing - that's just a popular meme kicked around by the usual coterie of climate change skeptics. There are three reasons why the anthropogenic climate change hypothesis has legs:

  1. The mechanisms of anthropogenic climate change (increases in atmospheric CO2 and other gases that trap the sun's heat) are well understood - i.e. the theory is plausible;

  2. We can observe climate effects that are consistent with the predictions of climate change theory; and

  3. Based on climatologists' fairly detailed understanding of the various cycles that affect climate over geologic time, no combination of other factors can account for the climate change we observe.

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