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Editorial: Science is there; politics is not

Science is there; politics is not

The Astorian, April 22, on climate issues:

Terra is Oregon’s best magazine. Published by Oregon State University, the quarterly covers a broad array of science and social science as well as the arts.

Julia Rosen’s article in the Winter issue of Terra (“Ice Core Diaries: Records from the past carry warnings for our future”) describes her exploration of ice cores above the Arctic Circle in Greenland. Air samples within ice cores provide information on the Earth’s climate of centuries ago.

“These observations from opposite poles forewarn a perilous future for our planet,” writes Rosen. “We know without question that we’ve entered a period in geologic history for which there is no natural analog, and we know that the Earth’s climate can respond dramatically to perhaps even the smallest nudge.”

That is sufficiently arresting. But Rosen adds: “However, the most terrifying lesson I learned from ice cores did not come from drilling into the past, but from just standing on the surface. At 80 degrees North, well above the Arctic Circle in the empty white wilds of the Greenland ice sheet, I watched a supply plane on skis repeatedly try to lift off. First the crew dumped cargo and then off-loaded all their fuel except what they needed to get home. Finally, on their seventh attempt, they succeeded.”

She continues: “The problem? The snow had warmed to the freezing point, and microscopic drops of water on the surface made the friction between the skis and the ice too great to break. Last summer, 97 percent of the surface of Greenland experienced temperatures above freezing, more than any year in NASA’s 30 years of satellite observations.”

We are well past the point when serious science acknowledges a warming trend in the Earth’s atmosphere. The concept of global warming is quite real. But we have also learned to expect that Congress is incapable of responding to that reality.

Writing in The New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann observes: “The science of carbon emissions is there. The politics is not.”

It is all the more important for towns in our regions to mark Earth Day with commitments to recycling, riparian improvement and conservation. We must do what we can, because our national legislature lacks the courage.

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