Thursday, April 07, 2005

Almost Insane Reaction to Global Warming-- Bill McKibben

On Not Quite Getting It
by Bill McKibben

"Late last summer, dozens of scientists aboard a trio of icebreakers visited a submerged mountain range in the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole. They drilled core samples fourteen hundred feet beneath the sea's surface along the Lomonosov Ridge, recovering sediments that revealed clues to the planet's past: a period 49 million years ago, for instance, when for several hundred thousand years "so much fresh warm water apparently topped the Arctic's oxygen-starved salty depths that the polar sea became matted with tiny Azolla ferns, resembling the duckweed that can choke suburban ponds." What the new cores show, Dr. Henk Brinkhuis, a geobiologist from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, told The New York Times, is that "you can get a really strong cascade" of events toward global warming that can then last for eons.

That's interesting—and it accords with a thousand other puzzle pieces that pile up weekly in the scientific journals, all showing that we stand on the brink of changing the planet's climate so abruptly that the world we were born into will be thrown into wild chaos.

But what's more interesting was the reaction to the news. It wasn't: Oh my gosh, let's get to work on global warming. It was: Let's find out if there's oil down there. If sandstone and clay formed a lid over all those dead ferns, then perhaps they've been cooked into petroleum in the intervening years. "This could be a promising sign for oil and gas prospectivity in the Arctic Ocean," a former exploration geologist for Shell told the Times. "Oil prospectors will be very excited, and will be watching the results of analyses with keen interest." Indeed, the Times editors chose the headline "Under All That Ice, Maybe Oil."

Which, if you think about it, is an almost classically insane way of thinking."

See more from Bill McKibbon's article in Orion linked above or:


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