Thursday, February 03, 2005

Climate change past the turning point?

First, the BBC is reporting that, according to a WWF study, we could see a Climate change 'disaster by 2026'


Dangerous levels of climate change could be reached in just over 20 years if nothing is done to stop global warming, a WWF study has warned.

At current rates, the earth will be 2C above pre-industrial levels some time between 2026 and 2060, says the report by Dr Mark New of Oxford University.

Temperatures in the Arctic could rise by three times this amount, it says.

It would lead to a loss of summer sea ice and tundra vegetation, with polar bears and other animals dying out.

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Dr New said: "A very robust result from global climate models is that warming due to greenhouse gases will reduce the amount of snow and ice cover in the Arctic, which will in turn produce an additional warming as more solar radiation is absorbed by the ground and the ocean."

Ice and snow reflect more solar radiation back to space than unfrozen surfaces.

According to the WWF, the perennial ice, or summer sea ice, is currently melting at a rate of 9.6% per decade and will disappear completely by the end of the century if this continues.

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Boreal forests would spread north and overwhelm up to 60% of dwarf shrub tundra, a critical habitat and vital breeding ground for many birds.

"If we don't act immediately the Arctic will soon become unrecognisable," said Dr Catarina Cardoso, head of climate change at WWF-UK.

"Polar bears will be consigned to history, something that our grandchildren can only read about in books."


Also of note, The Independent, by way of Common Dreams, reports that Global warming approaching point of no return:

Global warning has already hit the danger point that international attempts to curb it are designed to avoid, according to the world's top climate watchdog.

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told an international conference attended by 114 governments in Mauritius this month that he personally believes that the world has "already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" and called for immediate and "very deep" cuts in the pollution if humanity is to "survive".

His comments rocked the Bush administration - which immediately tried to slap him down - not least because it put him in his post after Exxon, the major oil company most opposed to international action on global warming, complained that his predecessor was too "aggressive" on the issue.

A memorandum from Exxon to the White House in early 2001 specifically asked it to get the previous chairman, Dr Robert Watson, the chief scientist of the World Bank, "replaced at the request of the US". The Bush administration then lobbied other countries in favor of Dr Pachauri - whom the former vice-president Al Gore called the "let's drag our feet" candidate, and got him elected to replace Dr Watson, a British-born naturalized American, who had repeatedly called for urgent action.

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And in November, a multi-year study by 300 scientists concluded that the Arctic was warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and that its ice-cap had shrunk by up to 20 per cent in the past three decades.

The ice is also 40 per cent thinner than it was in the 1970s and is expected to disappear altogether by 2070. And while Dr Pachauri was speaking parts of the Arctic were having a January "heatwave", with temperatures eight to nine degrees centigrade higher than normal.

He also cited alarming measurements, first reported in The Independent on Sunday, showing that levels of carbon dioxide (the main cause of global warming) have leapt abruptly over the past two years, suggesting that climate change may be accelerating out of control.

He added that, because of inertia built into the Earth's natural systems, the world was now only experiencing the result of pollution emitted in the 1960s, and much greater effects would occur as the increased pollution of later decades worked its way through. He concluded: "We are risking the ability of the human race to survive."


In related news a team of researchers have concluded that the American public has its collective head up its collective ass.

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