By G.T. Larson
Is the Earth’s atmosphere heating up and melting the polar ice caps because of human-induced pollution? Or are we just experiencing the normal, historical ebb and flow of our planet homes climate? We ended our last article by considering a report from the American Geophysical Union Journal on the Antarctic annual snowmelt trend for a three-decade period. The abstract showed recent (2008-2009) 30-year minimum snow melt records. This scientific report has been used to prove the Polar caps are not melting, contrary to what has been strongly reported by others.
The Polar caps have been much larger in the past and much smaller. At times, during the Ice Ages for example, the Arctic ice sheet has extended onto the northern half of the North American Continent, covering most of present day Canada and the upper half of the continental United States. With that much ice, there was a corresponding lowering of the oceans sea level.
There is a finite amount of water, H2O, on Earth and since ice is frozen water, the more ice, the less free water. Conversely, when there is a retreat of the Polar caps by melting, there is much more free water, hence much higher sea levels. An example of sea level changes can be seen right here on Molokai; at mile marker one going east from town, on the left (mauka) side of the road is a dirty cream colored rock outcrop on top of lava rock. This is an ancient coral reef, obviously from a time when the ocean was much higher.
The most serious aspect of the climate change debate is the “side” issue; my side, your side, their side, our side, which side is right and which side is wrong? As long as we continue to dwell in an “us versus them” mindset, profoundly positive progress is an intensely illustrative illusion. We cannot come together as long as we decide to remain apart, protecting our cherished positions. Too many people today have their opinions told to them by which ever political wind happens to be blowing strongest. We are told what to think and say, versus reserving the right to formulate our own opinions. With knowledge can come power, but most importantly, with knowledge comes responsibility. We must reserve our individual rights to be individuals, individually working together as a whole. The Earth is not mine nor yours; at the very least, it is our children’s and their children’s.
To have a more informed opinion on the climate change debate, an examination of the issues surrounding climate change may be apropos. What is the greenhouse effect, what are greenhouse gasses, where do they come from and where do they go? These are questions that, if we have a simple understanding of some elements involved, we can draw our own informed conclusions. We will look at some of the elements of our climate next time. Aloha Ke Akua.