Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Planet temerature warmest in the last 12,000 years

A research team led by NASA's James Hansen has concluded that the Earth's surface temperature has reached its highest point of the current interglacial period which began about 12,000 years ago. Global temperature is now within about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit--1 degree Celsius--of it's highest point in the last million years.

The earth has been warming at about a third of a degree Fahrenheit--0.2 degrees Celsius--per decade for the last three decases.

A report in the journal Nature found some 1,700 plant, animal and insect species that are moving poleward at an average of about 4 miles per decade in the last half of the 20th century.

In a public statement, Hansen commented that, "This evidence implies that we are getting close to dangerous levels of human-made pollution."

Darkening the near term future is the prediction by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research that the next sunspot cycle will be 30-50% stronger than the last. Both sunspots, which indicate increased solar activity, and global warming gasses are believed to influence Earth's temperature. Since the 1960s, however, temperatures have climbed during peak sunspot activity but, at best, only leveled off during inactive periods.

The sun is now at the bottom of its 11 year sunspot cycle. An especially strong sunspot peak, combined with accelerating accumulations of global warming gases could result in even more rapid temperature increases.

Advocates of sustainability may be strained to find a level of human activity that can truly be sustained. "Sustainable growth" will no longer be possible. The best option may be what Gaia Hypothesis author James Lovelock calls a "sustainable retreat."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The World Is Changing

Climate change has become a global phenomenon.

Barley is growing in Greenland for the first time since the Middle Ages. Warmer waters have brought jellyfish in record numbers to Europe's shores.

Holland, recognizing the inevitable, will strategically flood 500,000 hectares and the people living there will be moved to floating homes.

Last summer Spain and Portugal experienced record tempuratures and searing drought; this year that drought expanded into central and Northern Europe.

In the Horn of Africa droughts have culled theregion's wildlife and disrupted the migrations across the Masa Mara and the Serengeti. Herdsmen in Kenya have been driven to war over the few cattle that have survived the drought.

Alaska has suffered millions of dollars of damage to buildings and roads caused by permafrost melting. Rising sea levels have forced the relocation of Intuit villages, while the region has seen the world's largest outbreak of spruce bark beatles, normally confined to warmer climates.

Most distubing of all may be the record drought in the Amazon basin. Last year the Amazon was reduced to a tricle by unprecedented drought. The Amazon's rain forests, the world's largest carbon sink, are in danger.

In Asia, rivers are disappearing from drought and overuse. In the Himalayas, melting glaciers threaten to dry up major rivers as far away as China, India and Vietnam.

Climate changes is here, now. We have precious little time to do anything about it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rate of Decline in Arctic Ice Increasing

The amount of ice being formed in the Arctic winter has declined sharply in the past two years.

For years, scientists have reported a steady decrease in summertime Arctic ice, but they had never before found a similar reduction in the amount of ice being created during the frigid and dark Arctic winter.

But a new paper by Josefino Comiso, a senior research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, found precisely the reduction in wintertime ice over the past two years that the model had predicted. The past two winters each produced 6 percent less ice than the average amount measured for almost three decades.

Comiso yesterday called the new data from satellite imaging of ice formation and temperatures "the strongest evidence of global warming in the Arctic so far. ... The abnormally low winter ice maximum extent and area and enhanced surface temperatures in 2005 and 2006 . . . may just be the beginning of these trends which have been more apparent in other seasons."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

10 years left to stop global warming

Peter Smith, a professor of sustainable energy at the University of Nottingham, told a British Association gathering that the world had ten years to develop and implement technologies to generate clean electricity before climate change reaches a point of no return.

The scientific opinion is that we have a ceiling of 440 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon before there is a tipping point, a step change in the rate of global warming. The rate at which we are emitting now, around 2ppm a year and rising, we could expect that that tripping point will reach us in 20 years' time. That gives us 10 years to develop technologies that could start to bite into the problem.

Professor Smith faulted the British government's recent energy assesment for failing to adequately address the problem. He was not optimistic that the government would make policy changes without some major weather event to bring the problem home.

What will overcome [government apathy] is when there's a 2 metre rise in the Thames so that the House of Commons is underwater. The tragedy is that there needs to be a fairly catastrophic event to motivate politicians to take action then they feel confident that the public will vote for them next time.