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Yes, we are significant enough to impact the Earth …

April 8th, 2015 · No Comments

There are multiple factors fostering climate denial/skepticism CCEHvOqUsAAkxg3and a raft of truthiness laden arguments and shaky assertions (repeated time and time again, no matter the evidence proving them wrong) leveraged by science denialists against climate science.  Amid them is one that, in some ways, reflects humanity’s basic wonder at the immensity, scope, and wonder of the world around us that is often captured within a religious weltanschauung. In short, the arrogance of man to believe that we can have an impact on God’s creation.

To suggest that humanity is capable of impacting and disturbing forces of such magnitude is reflective of a self-centred arrogance that is mind numbing. Humanity is a subset of Nature. Nature is not a subset of humanity.

This is an argument that I’ve encountered too many times in the past. This sparked a question: “Do you believe that a major nuclear war could bring about a nuclear winter?”  A “yes” response was virtually a gotcha moment: okay, you believe that humanity can impact the climate. In other words, we’re now just haggling over the price.

Let’s be clear. This is far from truly ‘fringe’. A chairman of a powerful Senate committee directly states

The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate. Man can’t change climate. [M]y point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous. [Senator James Inhofe]

Rather than taking the hypothetical of nuclear warfare, there are so many tangible examples of humanity having a direct impact on the global system. When it comes to the atmosphere, for example, CO2 levels and the ozone layer.  We could show humanity’s direct ability to impact God’s creation via major canals, replacing forests with cities and farms, flattening mountaintops, etc …

In the past day, there are a number of efforts going on that provide strong visualization of humanity’s thumbprint on the globe.  It is hard to imagine anyone watching Chasing Ice and not being awed both by the enormity and scale of Greenland, Antarctic, and other major ice (glacier and otherwise) formations along with overwhelmed by the rapidity of change in them.

The images above show the drying up of Mongolian lakes.

Lakes on the Mongolian Plateau are shrinking rapidly, according to researchers from Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. After analyzing several decades of satellite imagery, the researchers found that the total lake surface area had declined from 4,160 square kilometers (1,060 square miles) in the late 1980s to 2,900 square kilometers in 2010, a decrease of 30 percent. The authors attribute the losses to warming temperatures, decreased precipitation, and increased mining and agricultural activity.

Note something: this is not solely (nor necessarily) dominated by climate change but climate change (“warming temperatures”) is part of the causation for shrinking Mongolian lakes.

This is all part of NASA’s  Images of Change, which provides (as of this post) 302 sets of ‘before and now’ photos from around the globe of humanity’s growing thumbprint on the world (around us all). For example, water diversion and the shrinkage of the Dead Sea.

Water Diversion: Dead Sea

Sadly, retreating ice (as with Chasing Ice) could be represented with 1000s of images as with this 1940 and 2005 comparison of an Alaskan glacier.

Northwestern Glacier melt, Alaska

As Brad Plumer’s  opened his “15 before-and-after images that show how we’re transforming the planet“.

Human beings have replaced nature as the dominant force shaping Earth. We’ve cleared away forests, dammed up mighty rivers, paved vast roads, and transported thousands of species around the world. “To a large extent,” two scientists recently wrote, “the future of the only place where life is known to exist is being determined by the actions of humans.”

Yes, humanity is a subset of nature … but a subset which has figured out how to have its thumb weighing heavily on nature’s scales.

Plumer’s post and the NASA project are worth a visit … and perhaps sharing with those who wish to assert that humanity is too insignificant to have an impact on God’s creation.


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Tags: climate change