Sunday, March 26, 2006

"[T]he serious debate has quietly ended. Global warming [] is the real deal"

The photograph taken in 1928, above, shows how the Upsala Glacier, part of the South American Andes in Argentina, used to look. The ice on the Upsala Glacier today, shown in 2004 below, is retreating at least 180 ft. per year

Time Magazine's cover story this week (I had to watch an ad to get access to the article; it's time well spent):

Polar Ice Caps Are Melting Faster Than Ever... More And More Land Is Being Devastated By Drought... Rising Waters Are Drowning Low-Lying Communities... By Any Measure, Earth Is At ... The Tipping Point
The climate is crashing, and global warming is to blame. Why the crisis hit so soon--and what we can do about it

Some of the side articles are very good, also:

Feeling The Heat
Global warming is already disrupting the biological world, pushing many species to the brink of extinction and turning others into runaway pests. But the worst is yet to come

What troubles scientists especially is that if we are only in the early stages of warming, all these lost and endangered animals might be just the first of many to go. One study estimates that more than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by the year 2050.

The Climate Crusaders
They saw which way the wind was blowing and set out to save the world

How It Affects Your Health
Expect more risk of heatstrokes, asthma, allergies and infectious disease

Vicious Cycles

The debate over whether Earth is warming up is over. Now we're learning that climate disruptions feed off one another in accelerating spirals of destruction. Scientists fear we may be approaching the point of no return THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT Without the greenhouse effect, life on Earth would not be possible. Energy from the sun is absorbed by the planet and radiated back out as heat. Atmospheric gases like carbon dioxide trap that heat and keep it from leaking into space. That's what keeps us warm at night.

But as humans pour ever increasing amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, more of the sun's heat gets trapped, and the planet gets a fever BURNING FOSSIL FUELS RELEASES CARBON FUELING THE FIRE The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is climbing fast. Most of it comes from burning fuels for energy--gasoline in cars or coal for electricity, for example. The U.S., with less than 5% of the world's population, produces one-quarter of all greenhouse gases BURNING FORESTS REDUCES OXYGEN AND INCREASES DROUGHT SPREADING THE PAIN Deforestation, through clear-cutting or burning, sows havoc far beyond the affected area. The fires release still more carbon into the atmosphere, fewer plants survive to convert CO2 into oxygen, and scorched soil absorbs more heat and retains less water, increasing droughts •Plants take in CO2 •Fires release carbon •Less carbon absorbed •Soil dries out RISING TEMPERATURES MELT POLAR ICE AND PERMAFROST THAWING OUT The North Pole may be seasonally ice free by 2050. Melting permafrost will release vast amounts of trapped carbon into the air LESS ICE MEANS MORE HEAT WHICH MEANS LESS ICE SPEEDING UP Ice reflects nearly all the sun's energy that hits it. As the planet's ice melts, more of that energy is absorbed by Earth--which further raises the temperature. That, in turn, makes the remaining ice melt quicker •20% reflected by vegetation and dark soil •10% reflected by ocean water •90% reflected by ice MELTING ICE RAISES SEA LEVELS INUNDATING LOW COASTAL AREAS WASHING ASHORE The ice at the North Pole is floating, so as it melts, the sea level won't change much. But the massive ice sheets over Antarctica and Greenland are another story. If both melted completely, sea levels could rise nearly 220 ft. (72 m). That's a worst-case scenario. But the melting is accelerating, and sea levels are projected to rise gradually, threatening low-lying communities.


geoff seago said...

Finally America is waking up to the reality that all the countries that signed up to the Kyoto agreement in 1997 have been banging on about since. 95 % of the science community has been saying this for years (and the 5 % in denial were all funded by oil companies ) but oh no we mustnt derail the prosperity train. Personally I dont see why we cant do both but black gold for free straight out the ground is powerful stuff obviously

truth said...

Lots of Americans wish the US had signed the Kyoto Treaty. We're called Democrats.

geoff seago said...

Bush - what an catastrophic nightmare

geoff seago said...

seriously though I dont think the oil juggernaut is ever going to be de-railed but we should stop burning coal right now ( or at least pump the resultant CO2 straight back underground ) . I dont think its irreversible for the UK as one of the dominant influences on our climate is the greenland ice sheet which is up to 3km thick and will take a long time to completely melt. As for the rest of the world who knows

truth said...

I don't think any of this is going to take a long time. I'm increasingly fearful that we are heading for the global warming 'tipping point' and that the fearsome effects of global warming are going to happen all at once. Like the coral die-off, long predicted, a few months in the making.

Hope I'm wrong, afraid I'm right.

geoff seago said...

theres a survey going on here organised by oxford uni and involving over 100,000 computers in peoples homes in idle time thats bigger than the biggest supercomputer in the world that is hopefully going to tell us just how bad its going to be (due to report in May ). The new greenhouse effect that became climate change is now "climate chaos"