At the risk of being accused of promoting class warfare, may I highlight the projection that the same folks who get rich causing global warming will be the ones best situated to coast through it—able to move or rebuild—while everyone else gets the stick? It is not a soothing notion that we'd find equality only in catastrophe.
Scientists don't see global warming as a steady dial indicating rising temperatures, but rather a sequence of feedback actions and switches. For example, the upper latitudes are warming faster than the rest of the planet, resulting in the exposure of more heat-absorbing soil and less heat-reflecting ice and snow, which then hastens the melting of ice and snow, which, while also raising sea levels, may cause a switch to go off in nature. "In the North Atlantic, the Gulf Stream carries warmth to Europe. One of the possible switches is that fresh water coming in from melting Arctic ice might turn off the North Atlantic circulation, making Europe a colder place," Rowland said.
While he listed a number of qualifying uncertainties with that, he considers global warming more likely than other threats attracting far greater funding and public attention.
"Look at the enormous amount of money spent on anti-missile defense," he said. "While there should be an amount of worry about stray nukes, if anyone wanted to use one against an American city, it would be far easier and more accurate to ship it here on a freighter than to build a missile."
When we spoke, it was before recent news that a chunk of ice the size of Rhode Island weighing 720,000,000,000 tons (that's 720 billion tons, heft fans) had disintegrated off the Antarctic ice shelf in the rapidly warming climate. "The speed of it is staggering," said British glaciologist David Vaughan, quoted in a seven-paragraph story on page 10 of the Los Angeles Times, which is better play than they usually give global-warming news.
I know that scientists need to maintain their dispassion and objectivity. That's part of their gig. But, inside, they're as human as the rest of us, and I'd like to think I speak for them in saying, "Aieee!!!!!!!!!!"