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The American `allergy’ to global warming: Why?
Question of the Day
An authoritative study this August reported that hundreds of species are retreating toward the poles, egrets showing up in southern England, American robins in Eskimo villages. Some, such as polar bears, have nowhere to go. Eventual large-scale extinctions are feared.
The heat is cutting into wheat yields, nurturing beetles that are destroying northern forests, attracting malarial mosquitoes to higher altitudes.
From the Rockies to the Himalayas, glaciers are shrinking, sending ever more water into the world’s seas. Because of accelerated melt in Greenland and elsewhere, the eight-nation Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program projects ocean levels will rise 90 to 160 centimeters (35 to 63 inches) by 2100, threatening coastlines everywhere.
“We are scared, really and truly,” diplomat Laurence Edwards, from the Pacific’s Marshall Islands, told the AP before the 1997 Kyoto meeting.
Today in his low-lying home islands, rising seas have washed away shoreline graveyards, saltwater has invaded wells, and islanders desperately seek aid to build a seawall to shield their capital.
The oceans are turning more acidic, too, from absorbing excess carbon dioxide. Acidifying seas will harm plankton, shellfish and other marine life up the food chain. Biologists fear the world’s coral reefs, home to much ocean life and already damaged from warmer waters, will largely disappear in this century.
The greatest fears may focus on “feedbacks” in the Arctic, warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.
The Arctic Ocean’s summer ice cap has shrunk by half and is expected to essentially vanish by 2030 or 2040, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported Sept. 15. Ashore, meanwhile, the Arctic tundra’s permafrost is thawing and releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
These changes will feed on themselves: Released methane leads to warmer skies, which will release more methane. Ice-free Arctic waters absorb more of the sun’s heat than do reflective ice and snow, and so melt will beget melt. The frozen Arctic is a controller of Northern Hemisphere climate; an unfrozen one could upend age-old weather patterns across continents.
In the face of years of scientific findings and growing impacts, the doubters persist. They ignore long-term trends and seize on insignificant year-to-year blips in data to claim all is well. They focus on minor mistakes in thousands of pages of peer-reviewed studies to claim all is wrong. And they carom from one explanation to another for today’s warming Earth: jet contrails, sunspots, cosmic rays, natural cycles.
“Ninety-eight percent of the world’s climate scientists say it’s for real, and yet you still have deniers,” observed former U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican who chaired the House’s science committee.
Christiana Figueres, Costa Rican head of the U.N.’s post-Kyoto climate negotiations, finds it “very, very perplexing, this apparent allergy that there is in the United States. Why?”
The Australian scholar Hamilton sought to explain why in his 2010 book, “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change.”
In an interview, he said he found a “transformation” from the 1990s and its industry-financed campaign, to an America where climate denial “has now become a marker of cultural identity in the `angry’ parts of the United States.”
“Climate denial has been incorporated in the broader movement of right-wing populism,” he said, a movement that has “a visceral loathing of environmentalism.”
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