Years ago, we interviewed a man in an office with all the walls painted black. He had a great stereo system and was playing a Peter Gabriel tune when we arrived. It seemed that while in his darkened den the outside world simply vanished. His name was Michael Mann and he was producer of Miami Vice, a TV show that ironically was known for it bright pastel colors. His Mann-cave provided him a place to escape all the hoopla and buzz about his popular show.
Now there’s another Michael Mann who says many of us are living in caves like his namesake, avoiding the reality of what is happening to the climate. This Michael Mann, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, recently told The Guardian of London that low-lying island nations could see disastrous consequences of climate change far sooner than expected.
“The models have typically predicted that will not happen for decades but the measurements that are coming in tell us it is already happening so once again we are decades ahead of schedule,” Mann said, who is the director of Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Center.
Meanwhile, more than a third of the people in the U.S. and Great Britain deny that there is any climate change going on, and that figure, ironically, has been rising along with the waters from the melting ice on the polar ice caps. “There’s a huge gap between what is understood by the scientific community and what is known by the public,” according to NASA scientist James Hansen.
Whether you think climate change is a normal pattern of nature or is being hurried along by 7 billion people and their carbon prints is irrelevant to the fact that the climate is rapidly changing.
It’s time for the deniers to abandon their caves and take a look at the science, which says the rise in average global temps, has been largely attributed to the burning of fossil fuels and the resultant increase in greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. That’s the overwhelming conclusion of scientists, even if politicians and their corporate allies are doing their best to tell us it ain’t so.
Even if all the scientists are wrong, the bottom line is that disastrous consequences are coming our way. As the Greenland and the west Antarctic ice sheets disappear,”we [will] really start to see sea level rises accelerate,” Mann says. Unlike with the melting of sea ice, these ice sheets would introduce vast quantities of water into the world’s oceans, and could cause the evacuation of some islands.
“Island nations that have considered the possibility of evacuation at some point, like Tuvalu, may have to be contending those sort of decisions within a matter of a decade or so.”
For vulnerable island nations, like the Maldives, Kiribati, the Torres Strait Islands and many others, rising seas will bring significant coastal erosion and saltwater contamination of limited freshwater supplies. Environmental group Oceana recently noted that nations dependent upon the sea will face food security threats as greater temperatures and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide increase ocean acidity and put marine life at risk.
Yet, the disbelief that it is happening is widespread. So maybe one day we will step out of our Mann-caves and discover that we’re on an island and water is rising.
This year’s record melting, which occurred under more “normal” conditions than the previous record set in 2007, left Arctic sea ice at a minimum “nearly 50 percent lower than the average … for the years 1979-2000,” according to Climate Central.
Despite the increasingly clear picture painted by scientific observations and climate modeling, “There’s a huge gap between what is understood by the scientific community and what is known by the public,” according to NASA scientist James Hansen. Recent polling suggests that as much as 35 percent of the U.S. population and 37 percent of the British public remain unconvinced of the scientific reality of climate change.