What shall we eat?

From Don Sanderson

2/20/09 Ukiah, California At the beginning of the week of Feb. 14, George Wills loosed a column entitled “Dark Doom Sayers” informing us that global warming is a myth, disdaining Energy Secretary Stephan Chu’s comments on the effects resulting desertification would have on our food supplies, and mocking Science Advisor John Holdren who has similar concerns. Wills asserted he had scientific foundations for his conclusions, so who can dispute with him? We want to believe. Indeed, it doesn’t require much effort to find Wills is preaching nonsense.

Wills began by referring to a report from the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center (ACRC), global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979 and that Arctic sea ice had been rapidly increasing. The ACRC staff quickly replied on their web site: “We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.” Arctic sea ice expanded at near-record rates of October and November, which Wills’ claimed supported his points. In fact, the rate than slowed and present coverage is somewhat less than last year at this time, roughly 13 million sq. km.

He then quoted the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to the effect that global temperatures had not increased in the last twenty years. In fact, the WMO reported “The global mean surface temperature for 2007 was estimated at 0.41°C/0.74°F above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.20°F.” “In January and April 2007 it is likely that global land surface temperatures ranked warmest since records began in 1880, 1.89°C warmer than average for January and 1.37°C warmer than average for April.”

Speaking to journalists at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Dr M.V.K. Sivakumar, Chief of the Agricultural Meteorology Division at WMO, said there was a clear linkage between the rise in global temperatures, the emission of greenhouse gases and desertification, adding that: “We are seeing an enormous amount of warming, and the projections are that the warming is likely to be around a 0.2°C increase per decade over the next several decades”

What is confusing many is that short term weather can’t be equated with long term climate. Global warming doesn’t proceed in a straight line because the Earth’s distance from and aspect toward the Sun is always changing as is the amount of energy generated by the Sun. But, the amount of heat stored within the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans is increasing, which fuels weather extremes. Thus, average world wind speed in increasing, with all sorts of effects including desertification, increasingly violent tornadoes and hurricanes, great storms containing incredible amounts of precipitation, and perhaps most importantly, the impact this is having on the jet streams. Have you noticed that the northern jet stream is plunging directly from Siberia across the Pacific to Southern California and so blessing us with rain? Do you want to bet this will continue?

In one particular Wills was correct. A Pew Research Center poll reported the last of January showed global warming was number 20 on the list of Americans’ concerns. Not surprisingly, all the others but one concerned personal economic wellbeing and security in the immediate future. Protecting the environment was number 17. Illegal immigration has fallen to 19. Americans are scared about their immediate prospects, as they should be. Obama quite naturally wants to respond to these concerns, but his success almost certainly would doom the world as we know it. As James Lovelock, James Howard Kunstler, and a host of others have been informing us in exquisite detail, there is no hope in alternative sustainable fuels. Indeed, if there were, we would just use the resulting energy for other world-burning purposes. Chu and Holdren understand our situation all too well, but who can hear them. Can Obama afford to?

Meanwhile increasing desertification is making human life in southwest Australia, including Perth, and southern Argentina untenable. Since the Colorado River has been in process of drying up for the last decade, the futures of Phoenix, Las Vegas, and San Diego are in doubt.

Can we expect an answer to Wills column such as the above to be read and appreciated? I say no way, because any rational response would unacceptably impact our lifestyles beyond recognition and scare us to death. But, the pending economic collapse and global warming – some pretty competent scientists say we’re already beyond tipping points in both – will do the same. How then should we choose to live, blow it all on a last spree or act as if we can have an effect? Alas, my experience on the local food coop board and elsewhere suggests most opt for the former.

Also see Washington Post unconvincing response to George Will critics
Hat tip to Janie

[George Will’s e-mail address is georgewill@washpost.com to send him a piece of your mind… not that he will ever see it, but it might be good for your soul! BTW.. why the hell do we have George Will in the Ukiah Daily Journal? They used to have sane and intelligent columnists such as Paul Krugman, but someone on high at UDJ decided there was too much truth in the news and tossed out the liberal columnists in favor of dead end, organ grinder monkeys who work for licensed PR  firms called Massive Media. And the Journal shrinks on… -DS]


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