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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Climate Changes Before Your Eyes

Author: Guest Writer/Saturday, May 26, 2012/Categories: Uncategorized

To watch the climate change, you can't just average out the temperatures or measure the rainfall or count up the extreme storms

To really watch, you have to go to the ends of the Earth. 

To see the world warming, you have to go where it's coldest. 

To the ice.  

In Greenland, an iceberg breaks off a glacier and roils the water, an iceberg that is two or three times as big as lower Manhattan. In Iceland, the glaciers do a disappearing act. In the Arctic, glaciers melt like the snow in Chicago -- but, unlike Chicago, they never come back. 

We can see these things because of James Balog and his team at the Extreme Ice Survey

In the most hellishly frozen parts of the world, Balog bolts cameras to the rocks, programs the shutter to click every so often, and walks away. Months or years later, his team cuts the images into time-lapse videos of the glaciers melting, scenes of the world rupturing and falling apart. 

The videos run on a loop on screens in the Denver Airport, and elsewhere, and they've now been cut together into an incredible film called "Chasing Ice," which we've written about before

I saw it for the first time today at the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, Colorado, and I was blown away. 

It starts with the usual chatter of the cable networks -- Hannity, Limbaugh, and Inhofe blowing wind, plus real TV anchors flatly stating that the science on climate change is unsure -- and then spends the rest of its time methodically and irrefutably demolishing all doubt. 

You simply cannot witness glaciers melting at the rate they are and think that nothing's going on. You can't watch a glacier recede farther in ten years than they had in the previous hundred years and think there's nothing going on. You can't watch the freshwater from these glaciers rush to the sea and not believe that to sea level rise is going on. 

Something's going on. 

Watching these glaciers recede has been called "the smoking gun" of climate change by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and that's a powerful way to phrase that, but it's not quite right. It's even more powerful than that. 

We haven't just found the gun after a murder. We are watching the crime take place. It's like watching a man being beaten, and crumbling, over a period of three years. 

And the glaciers aren't the gun, they're the blood. They're the gore. They're the carnage. It's visual proof that something extreme is happening. 

The Extreme Ice Survey should silence all debate. 

This is concrete stuff you can point to when all the data gets to be too much.

Because facts are slippery and stats aren't trusted, I'm going to load this film into my iPhone and keep it in my pocket, and next time Karl Rove tells me "it was cold in Europe this year," I'm going to whip out Balog's footage and let him watch, with his own eyes, the world melt. 

For most of human history, as George Orwell said, the challenge was to see what was in front of our faces. Now, the challenge is to notice the way in which the world is changing, and we might have to go beyond the horizon to see it all clearly. 

If we don't do that -- and maybe even if we do -- we'll be cooked. Because this is a change that we might not be able to come back from. 

As Balog says in the film, "Sometimes you go out over the horizon, and you don't come back." 


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