In her New Yorker piece Hotter Than Paul Ryan, Elizabeth Kolbert is alarmed by the fact that it normally takes thousands or millions of years to see a change in the Arctic sea ice as large as the one we saw this year.
It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this development. We are now seeing changes occur in a matter of years that, in the normal geological scheme of things, should take thousands, even millions of times longer than that. On the basis of the 2012 melt season, one of the world’s leading experts on the Arctic ice cap, Peter Wadhams, of Cambridge University, has predicted that the Arctic Ocean will be entirely ice-free in summer by 2016. Since open water absorbs sunlight, while ice tends to reflect it, this will accelerate global warming. Meanwhile, recent research suggests that the melting of the Arctic ice cap will have, and indeed is probably already having, a profound effect on the U.S. and Europe, making extreme weather events much more likely. As Jennifer Francis, a scientist at Rutgers, observed recently in a conference call with reporters, the loss of sea ice changes the dynamics of the entire system: “It’s like having a new energy source for the atmosphere.”
Infographic from Live Science
Elizabeth Kolbert is an excellent science writer. Her book Field Notes From A Catastrophe remains one of the best books available about global warming. It is an excellent introduction to the subject for those with little background in the science. But that is not her subject, as the title suggests.
Yet, as big as the almost certainly irreversible retreat of the sea ice will figure in the future of the planet, it has attracted relatively little attention in the here and now. A study released on Thursday by Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group, found that over the last few months, Representative Paul Ryan’s fitness routine—he’s a big fan of what’s known as the P90X workout plan—has received three times as much television coverage as the ice loss.
What’s hotter: Global warming or Paul Ryan’s abs? the study asked.
From the Media Matters study
Elizabeth moves on the presidential election, where any discussion of anthropogenic climate change has been conspicuous by its absence.
Which brings us to the Presidential campaign. You might have thought that with the Arctic melting, the U.S. in the midst of what will almost certainly be the warmest year on record, and more than sixty per cent of the lower forty-eight states experiencing “moderate to exceptional” drought, at least one of the candidates would feel compelled to speak out about the issue. If that’s the case, though, you probably live in a different country.
Remarkably—or, really, by this point, predictably—the only times Mitt Romney has brought up the topic of climate change, it has been to mock President Obama for claiming, back in 2008, that he was going to try to do something about it.
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans,” Romney declared in his convention speech in Tampa, pausing here to give the audience time to chuckle, “and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”Obama at least got exercised enough to point out, in his convention speech, that “climate change is not a hoax.”
“More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke,” he said. “They are a threat to our children’s future.” But that was as far as he was willing to go: no more grandiose claims about actually taking action...
Kolbert finishes by noting that when the presidential candidates debate in 2016, the Arctic sea ice may have disappeared altogether in September of that year. She is hoping that Hopey-Changey and the Bane Capitalist will be asked about global warming during the first debate in Denver on October 3.
You might have thought ... at least one of the candidates would feel compelled to speak out about the [climate] issue, writes Kolbert. Well, No, I didn't think... If you've been a regular reader of DOTE, you understand why climate change is rarely mentioned during the 2012 election. You understand that For Humans, The Economy Is Everything. It may even pain you to have to admit that Romney is right to mock President Obama for claiming, back in 2008, that he was going to try to do something about it. Romney is merely reflecting what humans value. You know why Obama has dropped the subject.
If the question is Arctic Sea Ice versus Paul Ryan's Fitness, it's No Contest. That debate is over before it starts. It's Paul Ryan's Fitness, hands down.