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Opinion: Greenland is melting and that ain’t good

David Holahan.

We Americans believe in perpetual progress. We want our children and grandchildren to be better off than we are. It is an admirable and long-held trait. A key reason we declared our independence in 1776 was so we could pursue “Happiness” with a capital H.

So why, one has to ask, are we the people intent upon leaving our descendants a diminished, degraded and dangerous world to inhabit?

I don’t mean to malign all of us. “We the Republicans” would be more accurate. In a Pew Research Center poll earlier this year, just 21 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents agreed that dealing with climate change should be a top priority.

In another recent poll, when asked if the United States should in the future produce 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources like solar power, just 27 percent of Republicans agreed versus 92 percent of Democrats.

Everyone knows where our Republican president and his fellow GOP travelers in the U.S. Congress stand on climate change. They stand pat — even as virtually every climate scientist on the planet is warning of a dire future and as examples of extreme weather proliferate.

So are the scientists wrong and the Republicans right?

Let’s look at Greenland and see. Why should we the American people care about that odd far off island? Well, sorry to report its climate is changing in astonishing ways — in ways predicted by scientists’ climate change models, which have the northern latitudes warming first and faster than the rest of the planet. And what happens to Greenland will trickle down, literally, to where we live.

Greenland’s worrying warming is well documented in a new book, “The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future,” by New York Times reporter Jon Gertner.

Here’s a thumbnail on what is happening up yonder. Roughly 80 percent of Greenland’s land mass is covered with ice, two miles thick in spots, and temperatures of minus 89 degrees Fahrenheit have been recorded there. But Greenland is melting, shedding massive amounts of ice and water each year —300 billion tons now— and the pace of loss is accelerating.

In February 2018, scientists at the northern tip of the island, a mere 400 miles from the North Pole, recorded average daily temperatures for the month that were 45 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. To put that in perspective, if such a phenomena were recorded in February in New York City, the temperature would hover around 80 degrees for 28 days straight.

Gertner reports that Greenland’s average summer temperature is now 7 to 9 degrees warmer than normal. It should be noted that his book is not a polemic. Most of it consists of his engaging accounts of the explorers and scientists who have been drawn to Greenland’s otherworldly hinterlands.

He also makes clear that science is not augury and that there are many possible eventualities for our shared future, albeit most quite troublesome and some downright apocalyptic.

One of the most concerning findings that scientists established by studying Greenland, by drilling deep into its icy core and unlocking the secrets of its frozen past, is that climate change has not always been gradual, as most scientists (and most people) long believed. There have been tipping points in the past when a telltale threshold was crossed, when ice sheets collapsed and temperatures spiked dramatically in a very short period of time.

What if the worst happened? Gertner writes that the scientists who have taken the measure of this odd faraway place and its melting ice calculate that if it all melted away, Greenland alone would account for a sea rise worldwide of nearly 25 feet.

That will be one unhappy world we are bequeathing to posterity. One day, decades hence, children will likely be asking, “Grandma and Grandpa, what were you doing when the earth was warming and the seas were rising?”

David Holahan is a freelance writer from East Haddam. This column was originally published by CTMirror.org

10 comments

Bryan Meek August 18, 2019 at 11:25 am

Does the author know why it is called Greenland in the first place?

Hint: It’s been warmer than it is now in pre-industrialized history.

Humans account for 3% of the world’s CO2 output (according to the EPA). CO2 is 0.04% of the earth’s atmosphere. So humans, at our current level of output, make up 0.0012% of the CO2 in the atmosphere. Chemistry is an awesome thing, but this is what would be called a negligible amount, akin to a dirty beaker or test tube.

The sun generates 10,000x more power (that hits the atmosphere of the earth) than the sum total of human output (Royal Dutch Shell annual report on production).

Beyond destroying local environments, which we have done a good job of in our big cities, we simply do not have the technological means to affect earth’s climate and there are scientists across the planet who agree. A high school physics student could show you that at our current levels of output it would take about 50,000 years of human activity to raise the temperature of the ocean 1 degree Celcius.

Near earth object detection is something we can do to avert planetary strikes that historically have also released more energy than the sum total of human output.

By all means climate should be studied and theories should be explored, but resources should be allocated to things we can actually change. Capitalists get this evident by Musk, Bezos, and Branson who are spending their money on reaching space, while the public sector pisses money away on climate research with predetermined conclusions often supported with cherry picked and manipulated data (hockey stick lie, East Angelia fudging of temperature data).

I’ll be called a denier, but everything I’ve stated here are facts. Facts are stubborn things.

Now I don’t have measurable data on this like the above assertions, but from what I can tell 40 years later, the beach is the same size. Water street is better now with the drainage improvements, but still floods like it used to. The harbor is the same size, summers are hot, and winters are cold. What else have I missed?

Paul Lanning August 18, 2019 at 2:24 pm

From the NASA website:

“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals1 show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree*: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”

https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

Bryan Meek, you don’t appear to be a scientist. But if in fact you are a scientist you are in the 3% who dispute the research.

David August 18, 2019 at 6:54 pm

‘Does the author know why it is called Greenland in the first place?’

Dude. Are you —-ing kidding us? Why is it called Greenland? It’s called Greenland because Erik the Red – who was exiled from Iceland for his obscene levels of violence (obscene by Viking standards, let that one sink in) – wanted to attract people to a new colony he was setting up. It needed a good name. A name better than ‘iceland’, so he named it Greenland.

Bryan Meek August 19, 2019 at 9:03 am

I can admit I’m wrong, but can anyone explain why East Norwalk isn’t under water all the way up to Fitch street? This is what the experts have been predicting for 20 plus years now. Florida’s average elevation is under 30 feet….why does it still exist and why are they building on the shoreline like crazy? Follow the money.

Mike Mushak August 19, 2019 at 11:12 am

My friend Bryan Meek’s comment above is exactly why he should not serve on our Board of Education any longer, and be responsible for our children’s education, with all due respect.

This is nothing but regurgitated right wing ignorance, pushed by the snake oil salesmen Hannity and Carlson courtesy of the fossil fuel industry, plain and simple.

Bryan Meek is also the treasurer for Lisa Brinton, who has surrounded herself with Trumpian characters like this which is nothing but a a sign of her poor judgement. Imagine Norwalk being run by folks who think climate change is a hoax. No thanks!

Cue the predictable anti-bike lane response from Bryan Meek, which is his hilarious knee-jerk response to anything I say that exposes his absurd Trumpian anti-science and anti-factual positions.

The sad thing is he is currently serving on our BoE, but thankfully for all of us and for our children, not after November!

Bryan Meek August 19, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Also, wouldn’t Galileo loved to have had consensus amongst 3% of his contemporaries way back when.

Again, the climate may be changing, but my point is there is nothing we can do about it with current levels of technology and 99.999% of our warming comes from the Sun, which is conveniently left out of most of the models that have arrived at “consensus”. Another question that begs to be asked is why do we have the multitude of government funded agencies all studying the same thing? Could we get it down to like 5 or so? Or is that against the mission to waste as much money as possible?

Ed August 19, 2019 at 3:14 pm

Right now it appears that virtually no one, who lives along or owns property near the water in Norwalk or any of the surrounding towns, takes rising sea levels as a concern. I don’t see any bargains. Are they foolish not to sell?

So if it’s a given sea levels are rising, how fast will they rise in the coming years? How much should they go up by the end of 2020?

Claire Schoen August 20, 2019 at 11:39 am

So – for the climate change deniers, I would ask: what if you’re wrong? What if NASA scientists are correct? Wouldn’t you prefer to err on the side that will assure a future for next generations? This is kinda like two people looking down the barrel of a gun – one sees a bullet, the other doesn’t.
I’ll go with the scientists until someone can absolutely prove them wrong.

Ken Williams August 20, 2019 at 5:03 pm

That’s it, everyone jump on Bryan because you don’t like his political affiliations. Sounds a lot like the behavior from the Fab4 we have in DC. Every time they disagree with opinion and / or facts they cry “racism”. This is no different. Just because I don’t subscribe to the “sky is falling” narrative doesn’t mean that I and others like me don’t understand that climate is changing. Even if the US went 100% green (which is a joke given the inefficiency/ever changing and high cost of green technology) . . . What say you all when it comes to China and 2nd and 3rd world countries that don’t give a rats behind about cutting emissions and continue to procreate. How do you propose we “control” those quasi-developed and still developing countries ? Yeah, that’s what I thought !

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