the changing arctic
“Daunting as the future Arctic looks to be, it may in fact be much worse. What we think we know about the future of the region may be grossly underestimated because scientists are uncomfortable talking about or putting pen to predictions that are not backed by 95 percent certainty.” — from The End & Beginning of the Arctic.
This is precisely what’s concerned me since (before, but pointedly, since) the collapse of the Canadian ice shelf mentioned in this article. I understand the politics of science well enough to understand why scientists are reluctant to make draconian estimations, but when their predictions had previously imagined shelves like that taking decades or centuries to collapse, and instead it happened _inside an hour_–a blink of an eye in human terms, nevermind _geologic_ terms–it is clear that a conservative nature of prediction does the future no favors.
I knew a lot of what’s in the article, because personal obsession, but this really puts it all on the line. And it’s too late to stop. At this point the very very best we can do is mitigate it.
He’s Gonna Send the Water From Zion
Recent climate reports say the Western Antarctic Ice Shelf (WAIS) has reached a tipping point. Comparatively warm water is coming up and melting it from beneath where it’s attached to land, and all that’s keeping it from working its way into a lower-than-sea-level valley where it can loosen the entire WAIS is a granite bulge.
There is no stopping it from cresting that bulge; the only question now is when. At the moment the predictions are that water will continue to rise on the order of millimeters per year for two centuries as six major, leading WAIS glaciers melt, putting about 1.2 meters (4 feet) of water into the oceans. Without those glaciers in place, the rest of the shelf becomes vulnerable, and its melting and/or displacement means an additional 2.4-3.6 meters (8-12 feet) of water in the oceans.
For some visual reference here, check out an artist’s photorealistic renditions of US cities after 3.6m of water rise.
In the meantime, Greenland is shedding water into the ocean at a rate of about .55 millimeters a year, with its ice loss being responsible for about 4% of the approximately 18cm (7 inches) of water rise over the past century. Scientists are looking at Greenland’s melt as the possible most worrisome problem of the 21st century, as, if all its ice should go, the sea level would rise by over 7 meters (23 feet).
But I’m pretty sure that what most people see is “.5m” (.01 inches) and what most people think is “Pffft.” I mean, come on: continents are vastly more dramatic than that. Given average continental drift speeds, the continents have moved 2 meters (6.6 feet) in my lifetime. SIX AND A HALF FEET. ENTIRE LAND MASSES have moved SIX AND A HALF FEET in the past 40 years, and scientists want people to get excited about 7 inches of water rise in a hundred years?
Well, personally, I sure as hell want people to get excited about that. Not because 18cm is all that much rise (except it is if you live somewhere low-lying: do not imagine that that gradual creep of water did not affect what happened in New Orleans with Katrina), but because time and again we are seeing that climatologists, even when they’re getting bolder, keep underestimating how fast things can change. A few years ago an ice shelf came off Greenland–an event ice-chasers thought would take decades–in a couple of hours. That’s a blink in the terms of a human lifespan, nevermind geologic time; geologic time can’t even account for something that fast. And that’s not the only example; the WAIS data mentioned above is exactly the same kind of surprise to the scientists studying it. It’s proving to be far more sensitive to temperature changes than previously expected. The list goes on, too.
So when I read these articles citing a century or two centuries, and when I look at the drastic changes being seen in my home state, I can’t help revising the numbers downward by orders of magnitude. If two hundred years becomes two decades, or a century becomes ten years, those microcosmic increases that most people can’t be bothered to worry about are suddenly going to be forgotten in the deluge.
The world is changing, goddamn it, and humanity, with its astonishing ability to adapt, is still for the most part enjoying its bread and circuses. We can do better than that. We should do better than that, because it doesn’t matter if it falls down or rises up: the water is coming from Zion.
I thought I’d said, but maybe I didn’t!
I closed out the Arthur Guinness Projects popularity vote contest with 2976 votes. The leader had just under 4500, and I’m pretty clearly in the top 10%. I think I might have been #6 overall.
So now we wait. :) The judges will be announcing their decisions sometime in September, but I don’t know when exactly. Someone hypothesized it would be the 26th, which is the Guinness-invented holiday Arthur’s Day, and having had that hypothesis suggested to me, it’s OBVIOUSLY what *I* would do, but I’ve no idea what they’ll do. :)
Anyway, I’m certainly in with a chance, and it’ll be exciting to see what happens! Fingers crossed! :)
o noes! Swan River Press has surpassed Last Days! O noes!
(Actually, Brian’s doing an amazing job of promotion. I am agog and impressed!)
Let’s see. Um. I had thoughts about thhings to blog, earlier today. they seem to have gone away. except I’ve become a convert to streaming TV, and we just watched the first episode of Jericho, which I’ve been meaning to watch for approximately ever. Five minutes in we’re like OMG IT’S ALEC FROM CONTINUUM! and Ted was all, “Thank God! Now we know how he fits into the Geek TV pantheon!”
The tumblr blog DC Women Kicking Ass outlines my response to a JLA-movie-introduced-Wonder-Woman perfectly. I have said it before. I will say it again: if they do not make a kick-ass Wonder Woman film before they make a JLA movie, I will not go see the JLA movie. It will *kill* me. I *want* to be able to see it. But if they can’t get Wonder Woman off the ground first? Fuck. That. Noise.
Midsummer regatta at the North Pole, anyone? Good thing there’s no such thing as climate change.
Last Days of Ancient Sunlight
In the near future, a visionary leader brings Ireland to the forefront of green technology while in Alaska, communities displaced by the rising seas struggle to rebuild without losing their sense of self. Disparate worlds collide when fracked-out gas fields in middle America collapse, finally destabilizing the last of the old-world power regime in The Last Days of Ancient Sunlight.
Here begins a few weeks of probably-daily vote hounding, because I’ve applied for a grant which has a first step of reality-show-style popularity contest to it. Arthur Guinness Projects is offering grants of up to €50K for a variety of arenas: arts, music, sport and food.
I’ve applied for an arts grant to work on my climate change trilogy, which I’d dearly love to do. The catch in the voting process is you have to sign up for their site, which I wish wasn’t the case, but if you don’t mind doing so, you can vote for my project once a day. And it’d be really nice if you would. :)
Behind the cut is the (extremely rough, but uncut) version of the excerpt that is also posted on the AGP website.