Amphibians Smart. Humans? TBD.
by Scott Lewis
A popular urban legend maintains that a frog put into hot water will leap right out, but a frog put into a pot of slowly heated water will complacently languish to its unhappy demise.
While this modern parable for human folly has long been discredited by scientists – frogs indeed hop right out of a warming cauldron – we humans, it seems, are a little less savvy than your average amphibian. Consider:
On July 25, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) reported that “[w]orldwide average land surface temperature was the warmest on record for June and the April-June period, and the second warmest on record for the year-to-date (January-June) period, behind 2007.” The monthly analysis from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, is based on records going back to 1880.
Additionally, a new NOAA analysis called “State of the Climate,” which looks at ten indicators of global temperatures, concluded that the past decade was the warmest in 150 years. An excerpt:
“While year-to-year changes in temperature often reflect natural climatic variations such as El Niño/La Niña events, changes in average temperature from decade-to-decade reveal long-term trends such as global warming. Each of the last three decades has been much warmer than the decade before. At the time, the 1980s was the hottest decade on record. In the 1990s, every year was warmer than the average of the previous decade. The 2000s were warmer still.”
One might think this kind of troubling news might stir policy makers to decisive action. The House had passed a solid energy/climate bill last summer (2009), and the Senate was driving a legislation introduced by John Kerry that would have created an economy-wide carbon cap. But unable to muster enough support to insure victory for the Bill, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid let the legislation die in committee on July 22nd. “We just don’t have the votes,” Reid lamented. Ribbit.
In response to this juxtaposition of more alarming data from NOAA and congressional inaction, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, “We’ve basically decided to keep pumping greenhouse gases into Mother Nature’s operating system and take our chances that the results will be benign — even though a vast majority of scientists warn that this will not be so. Fasten your seat belts.”
The remainder of Friedman’s column is full of some interesting and relevant information – I highly recommend it. From Friedman:
- The China Daily reports the country is set to begin domestic carbon trading programs during its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) to help it meet its 2020 carbon intensity target.
- ABC News recently reported that a “heat wave, which has lasted for weeks,” has Russia suffering its worst drought in 130 years.
- A day before the climate bill went down, Lew Hay, the C.E.O. of NextEra Energy, which owns Florida Power & Light, one of the nation’s biggest utilities, e-mailed to say that if the Senate would set a price on carbon and requirements for renewable energy, utilities like his would have the price certainty they need to make the big next-generation investments, including nuclear. “If we invest an additional $3 billion a year or so on clean energy, that’s roughly 50,000 jobs over the next five years,” said Hay.
So the next time you hear someone demean our pond-dwelling amphibious friends, remind them that at least a frog knows when to get out of hot water. As documented previously in this space, a renewable energy, stable-climate future is within our reach. Let’s hop to it!