Eureka! Point of Agreement Discovered Between a Republican and Scientists

Thwaites Glacier. Photograph: NASA

How nice to see the views of a Republican Party leader align with scientists about any element of climate change. However vaguely. Or imagined.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, told ABC News this weekend he doesn't think that people are changing the climate, or that we can do anything about observed changes that are occurring.

"I don't agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow, there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what's happening in our climate," Rubio said.

In other words, the climate just changes. That's what it does for a living, and it's unstoppable.

Two new studies suggest the second half of his assertions -- the unstoppable part -- might just be true in one important corner of the world.

West Antarctic glacier collapse is underway, according to a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters. It describes the retreat of West Antarctic glaciers, from 1992 to 2011, and finds nothing to halt the melting of the Amundsen Sea Embayment. That alone would raise sea levels by four feet globally.

More bluntly, glaciologist Eric Rignot, the lead author, said in a release:

"The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable."

Three other scientists, writing independently in the journal Science, said today that on West Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier Basin, "early-stage collapse has begun."

"Our simulations provide strong evidence that the process of marine ice-sheet destabilization is already under way on Thwaites Glacier…"

The time scales involved are much longer than the American presidential election cycle, which is good for Rubio. The Science paper concludes that "collapse may be closer to a few centuries than to a millennium."

Rubio and the people he refers to as "the scientists" might agree that there are many more things that we can no longer prevent. From the most recent science assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

"A large fraction" of changes from manmade CO2 "is irreversible on a multi-century to millennial time scale." -- IPCC

It's easy to be fatalistic about it. It's easy to draw the back of your hand to your forehead, swoon, and think there's nothing to be done about global warming. There is, for now.

And even if there's nothing to be done, "a few centuries" is still plenty of time to at least familiarize oneself with the utility, however occasionally agreeable, of science.

More by Eric Roston (@eroston on Twitter):

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