It’s about the Himalayan glaciers, and their melt rates. I hear about this way more than I like to in the various places I go to engage in “public education” on the internet, in particular, the 2035 year figure that the IPCC released, and then retracted. It was an unfortunate error, since it was immediately pounced upon, and since debunked arguments in the science denialsphere are automatically corrupted by their pre-debunking use, they come back as undead arguments that can’t be killed, but eventually go away as the bits keep falling off, before they’re resurrected again as ghosts.
Where was I? Oh yes, glaciers. The reaction to the error among the scientific community was to say, quite clearly, that while we don’t have an exact date, it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. This argument is, of course, lost on those who need it most, but it touches on something rather important about our current reality.
About six months ago, I worked in data entry for a couple days for Wisconsin Environment, and the young lady who was training new canvassers kept talking about how we can raise awareness, put up some windmills, and solve this problem, so that our kids and grandkids will only think of it as that narrowly escaped catastrophe averted by their parents/grandparents. I didn’t say anything at the time, but I did think to myself “wouldn’t that be nice.”
Fred Upton, in calling for hearings on climate change, said “No matter what we did between now and 2050, it, it, there was no real science to verify that it would reduce the temperature rise that some predicted. And that’s why we do need hearings.”
He is behind the times. He is addressing the goals of the climate action movement from 10 years ago at least, whether intentionally or not, and I think it’s important to make clear what our goals ARE now.
We are now at the point of working out not if, but when the changes will become catastrophic. Not if, but when it will get so bad that only the lunatic fringe will doubt that there’s a problem.
There is, however, an “if” question left to us, and it is of paramount importance. The question is if we will be able to take action in time to start talking about when the worst effects of climate change will be over. In 50 years, I’d like to be having a conversation about when the glaciers will return.