01/28/09 - WSJ Best of the Web by James Taranto
From The Los Angeles Times:
[edited] Susan Solomon is a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and lead author of an analysis published Monday.Taranto asks:
Even if, by some miracle, carbon dioxide dropped to pre-industrial levels, it would take more than 1,000 years to reverse the climate changes already triggered. The gas already emitted and the heat absorbed by the ocean will show effects for centuries.
Long term, the warming will melt the polar ice caps more than previously estimated, raising ocean levels substantially. Changes in rainfall patterns will bring droughts similar to the 1930s Dust Bowl, to the American Southwest, southern Europe, northern Africa, and western Australia.
People thought that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide, the climate would go back to normal in 100 - 200 years, but that is not true. Absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans acts to cool the Earth. Release of heat from the oceans warms the Earth. These processes will work against each other to keep temperatures almost constant for more than 1,000 years.
So, is it crucial that we lower greenhouse gases this instant, or would it not make any difference? If no difference, what sense does it make to be alarmed? That last statement by Solomon is a head-scratcher. Are we supposed to worry that temperatures will be "almost constant for more than 1,000 years"? Is that what they mean by global warming?
I am reminded of a joke.
A scientist was talking about the evolution of stars and the universe. He presented that the Sun would burn its nuclear fuel and explode as a nova in about 5 billion years. A student in the back began urgently waving his hand to ask a question.
"Professor, did you say 5 million years?"
"No, I said 5 billion," replied the professor."
"I'm so relieved."