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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Wednesday, May 29, 2002
8:34 PM

DeNeen Brown wrote yesterday about an Inuit community's observations about global warming and other strange ecological events. It's an interesting piece with no trace of skepticism and nothing to put it in context.

IQALUIT, Nunavut -- And so it has come to be, the elders say, a time when icebergs are melting, tides have changed, polar bears have thinned and there is no meaning left in a ring around the moon. Scattered clouds blowing in a wind no longer speak to elders and hunters....

Boy, do I not have patience for such ledes.

Inuit elders and hunters who depend on the land say they are disturbed by what they are seeing swept in by the changes: deformed fish, caribou with bad livers, baby seals left by their mothers to starve. Just the other year, a robin appeared where no robin had been seen before. There is no word for robin in Inuktitut, the Inuit language.

Basically we get a post-colonial take up here in Iqaluit:

For years, the wisdom of Inuit hunters and elders about climate in the Arctic, known as "traditional knowledge," was largely disregarded. Sometimes it was called merely anecdotal and unreliable by scientists who traveled here with their recording devices, measuring sticks and theories about the North. Some of them viewed the Inuit as ignorant about a land in which they and their ancestors have lived for thousands of years.

Well, they were wrong, there's plenty to learn from these people and their observations are valuable. But surely "measuring sticks" are valuable too. One measuring stick questions whether an Arctic warming trend is uniform. Don't blink now, because you're about to see virtually the only countervailing view in this story:

During the past 40 years, average temperatures in Canada's Western Arctic have risen by 1.5 degrees Celsius, to -13.5 degrees Celsius, according to Environment Canada, the government's environment ministry. Temperatures have also risen in the Central Arctic, but not in the Eastern Arctic, where some scientists suggest there may even be a modest cooling.

Debate over. Back to our regularly scheduled program:

"Global warming doesn't mean all areas will warm," said Tom Agnew, a senior meteorologist with the Meteorological Service of Canada. "Some will warm and some will cool a bit."

Now that's a system. Global warming is demonstrated when the temperature rises, and also when it falls.

Some scientists predict a rise in sea levels leading to devastating floods, thinning ice and perhaps even an ice-free Arctic within 50 years.

Other scientists, Brown continues.....wait, just kidding, there are no other scientists.

Okay, let me be fair. There are models that show global warming would not be uniform--that some regions would cool despite an overall warming trend. And there's a place in the world for stories like this that take one long look exclusively from one perspective. But how many stories do you see like this from the informed opposition? Do write. Mostly you get this:

While scientists debate the causes of climate change and politicians debate whether to ratify the Kyoto accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that many scientists believe cause global warming, the Inuit who live in Canada's Far North say they are watching their world melt before their eyes.

Well, why are people debating the causes of climate change and whether to ratify the Kyoto accord? Because if they're wrong about the cause, Kyoto is the wrong solution. Because the Kyoto accord imposes incredible financial and developmental costs on the West, exempts the biggest polluters going forward including China and India, and even under its own theory is insufficient to produce the desired effect.

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