Addressing Global Climate Change

For the last two weeks I’ve been touring the Pacific Northwest and northern California in support of E’s new book: Feeling the Heat: Dispatches From the Frontlines of Climate Change (Routledge). It’s safe to say that audiences here (ranging from 12 people to more than 100) are receptive to our message that global warming is no longer a matter for scientific debate, but an observable fact. With my colleagues Gary Braasch, Orna Izakson and Sally Deneen, I’ve been showing slides of effects underway in places as diverse as Australia (where corals are bleaching) and the California coast (where species are on the move because of warming waters). It’s interesting to note that people react strongly to news about the Pentagon report on global warming. This is an analysis of the prospects for abrupt climate change prepared by two outside scientists, positing major national security implications. And it’s not all about warming. The report outlines the scientific case for a rapid cooling of England and western Europe. These countries, on a latitude with Labrador, are kept eight to 10 degrees warmer than they’d otherwise be by the Gulf Stream conveyer. Warm, salty water is carried from the Pacific into the North Atlantic, where it sinks and begins its journey back. Melting polar ice is making the conveyer lose its momentum. All of this was discussed in scientific papers going back at least five years, but the Pentagon gives the theory new momentum. One analysis from Woods Hole speculates that if the effect occurs in just 20 years, it could plunge Europe into a new Ice Age; if it occurs in 100 years, it could simply offset warming that had occurred and keep the region temperate. But great uncertainty lies ahead. Also propelling the idea of vast disruptive cooling to a place in the popular imagination is talk show host Art Bell’s book The Coming Global Superstorm, written with Whitley Streiber. The book "reveal[s] what powerful interests are trying to keep hidden: rapid changes in the atmosphere caused by greenhouse gases have set humanity on an incredibly dangerous course toward a catastrophic change in climate in the immediate future. It will begin with a massive, unprecedented storm that will devastate the Northern Hemisphere. This will be followed by floods unlike anything ever seen before—or perhaps a new Ice Age." The book is the source for the new Hollywood film The Day After Tomorrow, which was "novelized" by Streiber. It stars Dennis Quaid and includes such sequences as: New York taken over by an ice age and then inundated by a tidal wave, Los Angeles torn apart by tornadoes, and a giant chunk of the Antarctic ice shelf sheering away. I got news: the latter part has already occurred. I was on Art Bell’s radio show, heard on 500 stations, for an amazing three hours recently and was able to go into detail about the scientific fact behind the Hollywood spectacle. Thank you, Art Bell. I was glad for the forum, and it certainly introduced a lot of people to our book Feeling the Heat. It’s unlikely that everything in The Day After Tomorrow will come to pass, but it’s wonderful if this adventure picture raises the public consciousness on this critical issue for our time.