“Things are on more of a hair trigger than we thought.” Ted Scanbos, Univ of Colorado
So ends a Washington Post article for Monday morning, At the Poles, Melting Occurring at Alarming Rate. This article (the latest in the Post series In the Greenhouse: Confronting a Changing Climate) lays out many reasons for concern about events in the polar regions from fisheries to threats to ocean currents to …
The poles are often referred to as can canaries in the coal mine for our planet’s climate. These canaries are collapsed, panting with racing hearts … what will it take to prompt serious, effective action globally.
The scenes are playing, at the start, in slow motion: The relentless grip of the Arctic Ocean that defied man for centuries is melting away. The sea ice reaches only half as far as it did 50 years ago. In the summer of 2006, it shrank to a record low; this summer the ice pulled back even more, by an area nearly the size of Alaska. Where explorer Robert Peary just 102 years ago saw “a great white disk stretching away apparently infinitely” from Ellesmere Island, there is often nothing now but open water. Glaciers race into the sea from the island of Greenland, beginning an inevitable rise in the oceans.
So begins the story. The comment re Peary is both news to me and, well, indicative of how catching this article is … I can picture today’s Peary looking at gray waters rather than white ice …
Species are on the move, seeking to find niches that meet their requirements.
Inuits are having their homes sinking into The Land Formerly Known as PermaFrost.
And, ice is becoming an ever more precious element of life.
“It affects everyone,” said Carin Ashjian, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute scientist who spent early September with native Inupiats in Barrow, the northernmost town of Alaska. “The only ice I saw this year was in my cup at the cafeteria.”
While some are salivating over the prospects of oil exploration in thawing terrain and getting cheap Chinese goods even faster to the East Coast via the finally useable fabled North West Passage, perhaps our concern should be the thawing of the Permafrost.
Consider the permafrost. The vast Arctic region in the north encompasses land on three continents that has been deeply frozen since the last ice age. A thin layer thaws each summer. By mid-century, half of it will thaw to 10 feet, according to computer models of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, and long-trapped greenhouse gases will be released.
Already, the melting in Siberia is releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that had been buried for 40,000 years, feeding a cycle of more warming and more melting.
“That’s a serious runaway,” Scanbos said. “A catastrophe lays buried under the permafrost.”
Just to be clear, the materials trapped in the permafrost dwarf humanity’s contributions to Global Warming. We are entering a domain of positive feedback loops that could, quite suddenly, take the ability to control global warming out of our hands. (NOTE: In this vein, positive feedback cycle/loop is anything but positive.)
Let us be clear. The skeptics like to point to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as, somehow, fear mongers, seeking to exaggerate the risks to gain attention, research funding, etc … They argue that the IPCC’s models are wrong. Well, these critics are right and absolutely wrong. Events in the Artic, ice melt, are clearly showing the IPCC modeling is underestimating the threat, underestimating the risks, and underestimating the urgency.
Notice the black line. Artic Ice retreat is already over a decade ahead of the most pessimistic estimates included in the IPCC analysis.
Should we be terrified as to the answer to this question: Just where else has the IPCC consensus been too conservative, underestimating the problems we face?
For example, is an 80% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 really enough? What is the scientific consensus driving this target? We should have great uncertainties about this target, that this could be too little, too late. Perhaps, instead, we should strive for a Prosperous, Climate-Friendly Society and living a carbon-negative life …
News not just from the Artic …
The warming globe is having impacts from its coldest zones to some of its hottest. For example, the Amazon Rainforest, the greatest oxygen factory in the world, is under severe (SEVERE) threat of ‘death’, or at least inability to absorb more carbon dioxide (with graphics version). A little closer to home, droughts worsened by Global Warming are threatening the American West.
Green House Life
We are living in a Greenhouse, living an experiment of a heating planet, unsure of exactly where we are taking it. And, despite Gore’s/the IPCC’s Nobel Peace Prize, we (collectively and individually) are acting to worsen this warming even while fruitful options exist to turn our path away from the precipice.
Well, in any event, it can’t be a real crisis, an issue of serious concern as At the Poles, Melting Occurring at Alarming Rate is an article planned for burial on page 10 …
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