Re: global warming and sea level rise

Date: Tue Jul 24 2001 - 11:03:57 MDT

ct forwards,
> Global climate change does occur, however, and sometimes so quickly that
> you can watch it happening. Just look at our neighbor, Mars: within the
> last month, the global atmospheric temperature of Mars has increased by
> approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to data being received by
> the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor
> spacecraft.
> The cause of this sudden shift is a giant dust storm that has snowballed
> and now has enveloped almost the entire planet, absorbing a lot of the
> Sun's energy in the upper atmosphere.
> [...]
> "In the end, the cloaking of the entire planet with dust is probably going
> to cool down the surface of Mars significantly and ultimately shut this
> entire weather system down again," said Christensen. "It's kind of like
> what we imagine would happen with a nuclear winter on Earth." In fact,
> Christensen points out, it was another global dust storm observed on
> Mars in the early 1970's that gave astronomer Carl Sagan and others the
> idea of the kind of catastrophic climate change that might be caused by
> a global nuclear war.

It's funny how our observations and interpretations are guided by
the current political landscape. In the 1970s there was talk of an
impending ice age, and the 1980s brought the nuclear winter scare, so the
emphasis on the Mars dust storms was the resulting *fall* in temperature.
Today the worry is global warming, so we read about the sudden *rise*
in temperature on Mars.

Imagine the headline 20 years ago being Mars Dust Storms Raise Temperature
50 Degrees. That would have been no more possible than to see one today
about a sudden drop in temperature.

I hope that someday we will have improved our communications technology
to the point that news can be disseminated with much less concern about
political implications. Of course the net is a great step forward.
20 years ago there would have been no way for us to express our
concerns about these issues, except perhaps through letters to the
editor. Distributed virtual communities allow for sharing of news and
information outside the control of the great political and economic
powers. Talk radio and magazines offer other avenues. But we still
don't have an integrated system where these two worlds can coexist:
the official, respectable, politically correct one, and the anarchic,
diverse, uncomfortable and unflinching world.

The various proposals for bringing a more critical eye to factual
reporting have never come to fruition. Xanadu, Crit mediator and other
web-commentary systems, back links, Drexler's fact forums, all have
remained nothing but toys. Maybe the world's just not ready for them.
But Slashdot has been reasonably successful despite the often abysmal
quality of their moderation system (which attempts to select and highly
higher-quality commentary). Perhaps it will eventually grow to add some
parallel mechanisms to help to integrate parallel viewpoints into a story.


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