Friday, November 28, 2014

Yes, Virginia, there is Global Warming

In this season it is important to look beyond our immediate material concerns and appraise our existence in a larger context. In an effort to help accomplish this I have recast a classic editorial to address a modern concern that is just as important to all organisms living on this planet as the existence of Santa Clause was to little Virginia O’hanlon 117 years ago.

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Global Warming, and even if there were, man can have nothing to do with it.
Papa says, 'If you see it posted in A Quantum of Idleness it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Global Warming and are people at least partly responsible?"

Somewhere in America."

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been afflicted by the doubt spread by those who mistake their ignorance for skepticism. They do not accept facts unless those facts align with their own wishes or agree with what they perceive to further their own interests. They think that nothing can be which is not acceptable to their narrow little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they are men's or children's, can be narrow, but with imagination and study, they can grasp nature’s subtle workings. Surrounding our vast planet is a wafer-thin layer of gasses we call our atmosphere; it envelopes the Earth like the lacquer layer protecting the globe that might be standing in your living room; it is a mere film, a fabulously thin thermal blanket. He who doubts that our emissions, which amount to more than 100 times the emissions of all the world’s volcanoes combined, have badly soiled this blanket is little more that a cold hearted, blind, and stubborn fool.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is Global Warming. It exists as surely as greed, avarice and gluttony exist in this all too often cruel world, and you know that they abound and give to your life its greatest sorrow. Alas! How nice would be the world if there were no Anthropogenic Global Warming. It would be as pleasant as if there were a world full of VIRGINIAS. If the damage we humans do to our atmosphere goes unchecked, our world will become a dismal place indeed, as dreary as a life that knows no poetry and no romance that make tolerable our existence. As a life without these things to leaven it would know no enjoyment, except in sense and sight, so will our world become an unpleasant place, bringing unbearable suffering to mankind. The congenial climate that has allowed life to thrive these many millions of years will be thrown dangerously out of whack.

Not believe in Global Warming! You might as well not believe in atoms and molecules! You might get your papa to hire men to look over the global temperature record taken on Christmas Eve to catch the Global Warming trend, but even if they did not see Global Warming in that small sample of data, what would that prove? Nobody sees Global Warming on any given day, but that is plenty of long term evidence of Global Warming. Some of the most real things in the world are what men and children can see only through the dedicated analysis of complex and long-term data. Did you ever directly see an electron in action? Of course you did not, but that's no proof that it is not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world without first looking carefully at what the world does reveal to us.

You can present some men with all the data in the world and explain how what we have done and are doing is changing the climate of our planet, yet they close their eyes and plug their ears to keep out information that the find unpleasant. One hopes that repeated exposure to the truth through reasoned argument and the presentation of data can push aside their curtain of ignorance to allow them to recognize that careful and dedicated study of our atmosphere has revealed the truth behind global warming to the scientific community.

The current Global Warming trend not caused by man? Dear God, if only it were true! A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, our descendants, should any exist, will continue to wonder why we acted as we did as caretakers of this fragile world that is being handed to you and your young friends in much poorer condition than it was handed to me and mine.


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