Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rising High Water Blues

You may recall that back in February, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) released a report about manmade global warming, along with some preliminary estimates of how much sea levels would rise if global warming was not stopped.

Today, comes this story:
HOBART (Reuters) - Rising sea levels and melting polar ice-sheets are at upper limits of projections, leaving some human population centers already unable to cope, top world scientists say as they analyze latest satellite data.

[...]"Observations are in the very upper edge of the projections," leading Australian marine scientist John Church told Reuters.

"I feel that we're getting uncomfortably close to threshold," said Church, of Australia's CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research said.

Past this level, parts of the Antarctic and Greenland would approach a virtually irreversible melting that would produce sea level rises of meters, he said.
You might recall, although I can certainly appreciate that you might not, the original report was criticized for its optimistic projections of the melting of the polar and Greenland ice caps. The report assumed a constant rate of melting.

Today's story puts the lie to those projections. Those projections called for the sea to rise no more than two feet this century. That may happen this decade, based on this latest research:
Church pointed out that sea levels were 4-6 meters higher more than 100,000 years ago when temperatures were at levels expected to be reached at the end of this century.

Dynamic ice-flows could add 25 percent to IPCC forecasts of sea level rise, van Ommen said.
Not good news.

And we even have a laboratory experiment in how societies will cope after massive coastal flooding alters civilization forever:
The number of permits issued to carry concealed weapons [in New Orleans] is running twice as high as it was before Katrina — this, in a city with only about half its pre-storm population of around 450,000. Attendance at firearms classes and hours logged at shooting ranges also are up, according to the gun industry.

Gun dealers who saw sales shoot up during the chaotic few months after Katrina say that sales are still brisk, and that the customers are a cross-section of the population — doctors, lawyers, bankers, artists, laborers, stay-at-home moms.

"People are in fear of their lives. They're looking for ways to feel safe again," said Mike Roniger, manager of Gretna Gunworks in Jefferson Parish.

Citizens, the tourism industry, police and politicians officials have been alarmed by the wave of killings in New Orleans, with 162 in 2006 and 37 so far this year. A Tulane University study put the city's 2006 homicide rate at 96 slayings per 100,000 people, the highest in the nation.
By the way, of that 162 killed last year? An additional number of people were killed in self-defense using guns. That number?

Two. Just over 1 percent. So a gun was 81 times more likely to be used in the commission of a homicide than in self-defense.

The breakdown of the social structure in the wake of the breakdown of the infrastructure in just one city is an object lesson in what happens to society. People feel vulnerable and so they will take drastic steps to feel less vulnerable, even if those "drastic steps" may seem reasonable at the time.

Too, think about how easy it was to sell the American people on the Iraq invasion, and that was after a relatively small tragedy occurred in two cities that most Americans view with disdain. Now think about how ready Americans will be to go to war just to feel good about themselves if the Outer Banks of North Carolina wash away, and take Charlotte with them.

We can even look back to history and see that the various occurrences of the plague wreaked havoc with society, resulting in the widespread persecution of Jews and Muslims, the extending of what was to become the Hundred Years' War, and the Jacquerie and England Peasant revolts. Hell, the plague even caused the Great Vowel Shift, which is why roam is pronounced to sound like "rome" but loam is pronounced to sound like "loom".

When you add to this the fact that most Islamists are not going to be too concerned with the immediate effects of global sea level rises, you can see there's a bit of reason to be concerned about warfare after the catastrophe's effect is felt fully.

But, um, yea, right won't have to shovel as much snow, so there's an upside...