This blog hopes to try and bridge the vast gap that exists between the fact-based world of science and the sensation-based world of popular entertainment, but--frighteningly--these worlds are beginning to converge.
Yesterday from Nature came news that the Gulf Stream has weakened thirty percent in the last fifty years, suggesting the possibility of an ice age, or, as the invaluable Metafilter site dryly notes, the even-more-alarming scenario of a sequel to "The Day After Tomorrow."
The news about the Gulf Stream and the recirculating system of North Atlantic currents may mean that Europe needs to plan for a colder future, but the complexity of the system--which includes natural cycles of warming and cooling--rules out an immediate ice age, according to the BBC News. Nonetheless, Michael Schlesinger from the University of Illinois, a leading expert on ocean currents and climate modeling, calls the study "more or less a smoking gun."
This is the second "smoking gun" on climate change announced by scientists this year. In April, James Hansen, widely considered the most reputable expert on climate change in country, revealed the results of a ten-year study that showed that "more energy is being absorbed from the Sun than is emitted back to space, throwing the Earth's energy "out of balance" and warming the planet." He said this constituted a "smoking gun."
Even reputable sceptics are taking the latest study seriously. James Annan writes:
So, are we about to enter a new cold spell after all? Personally, I doubt it, but maybe I'm not quite as sure as I was.
Others living further to the north are less ambiguous. Detlef Quadfasel of the University of Hamburg points out:
"This is quite sensational information. It is also an important message to politicians: We do change our climate."
Will "politicians" get the message? Some, such as John McCain, already have. Others are notoriously resistant. As a public service, here's a transcript of Will Ferrell's hilarious impression of George W. Bush attempting to deliver a talk on global warming from his vast estate in Crawford, Texas, from the "Earth to America" comedy special a couple of weeks ago. As Andrew Sullivan has noted, recent revelations about Bush's inner circle suggest that Ferrell's impression are spot-on in terms of fact, as well as in attitude.
Imagine the Prez dressed in casual clothes, standing on a porch in front of a couple of corrals, speaking mostly to the camera, but occasionally to a director off-screen. A narrator says:
"And now, a SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT from the President of the United States on Global Warming:
Hello America, it's me, your President, your commander-in-chief of the world and I'm at my ranch in Crawford Texas just taking a little R&R, relaxing, growing out my soul patch [he points to it] playing a little frisbee golf with Condi Rice and Dick Cheney. Having a good time but still keeping my eye on the ball, and there's an issue that has come to my attention. The issue of so-called global warmings...that are happening...on our planet. For centuries the rays of the sun have warmed the surface of our earth's crust. [He looks a little uncertain.] And, uh, apparently these rays are intensifying...in such a way that, uh, it's increasing lava flows. And, uh...
Hey, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.
[Slate: Global Warming Talk]
Global warming is an issue that my administration is very concerned about--deeply. Deeply, in a deep kind of concerned way. The, uh, I start my day and I think about the warming of the globe and how we can get it warmer.
Rest assured that the issue of global warming is something that my adminstration takes very seriously. [He catches a frisbee thrown his way.] Not right now, Condi! We'll play later.
I'm sure by now you've all heard what liberal scientists are trying to say. It seems that liberals and godless tax raisers are trying to make me look bad by using such things as facts anad scientific data.
[Cut! Director: Mr. President, you can't say they're using facts, Facts are real, they're not disputed.]
How do you know that?
[Slate. The President opens a book. It's a pop-up book featuring dinosaurs. Startled, he drops it.]
Jesus, why didn't you tell me it was a pop-up book? Those things scare the crap out of me.
[Director: I don't think that's the kind of science book we're looking for...]
Well, what kind of science book would you suggest? One filled with facts, maybe?
Yeah. I bet you'd like that.
When you think back to Biblical times, when Adam and Eve talked to that snake six thousand years ago when the world was created, it was hot back then too. Why do you think Adam and Eve were naked? [He gives the camera a wise look.] See what I'm saying? I mean, I'm not making this stuff up. I mean, you didn't hear Adam and Eve talk about emissions standards for cars. In fact, Adam and Eve drove an Excursion.
Let's talk about something that really matters, liking keeping steroids out of T-ball.
I think the polar ice caps suck. Who cares about a place where a bunch of penguins can have an orgy?
Global warming, don't worry about it, we got a bead on this thing...you know, we just need to get nature to co-operate with us. We don't need to listen to nature, nature needs to listen to us.
[Cut! Director: Mr. President, you asked me to tell you when the Rangers game was on? It's on right now.]
What inning is it? It better not be past the third inning...
[President runs off camera.]