While many politicians continue to deny that the climate is becoming increasingly warm, there is mounting evidence that not only is it becoming warmer, but that the warming is now in a positive feedback loop—it is perpetuating itself. As we know, anthropogenic (man-made) carbon dioxide is implicated in causing the increase in global temperatures we are seeing. Twenty years after it was recognized as an issue and despite the Kyoto Treaty (designed to limit carbon dioxide emissions) as well as actions by individual countries, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is continuing to increase (chart courtesy of U.S. EPA).
Global effects are seen at many levels—increased polar ice cap melting, links to possible droughts, and localized high temperature events. A more disturbing effect now suggests that the trend is irreversible.
Thawing of the permafrost in Siberia and Canada is releasing vast amount of methane—a gas 10 to 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Furthermore, the possibility exists that submarine deposits of methane may be released by the melting of the Arctic icecaps as the overburden of liquid water increases and bottom waters and sediments containing methane are turned over as a result. These events, coupled by the inability of governments to come up with any meaningful and effective policies to control carbon dioxide emissions (even Europe—arguably a leader in control has seen a 2% increase).
The consequences are profound and powerful policy changes are necessary. Our attention must now include not just attempting to control carbon dioxide emissions, but planning for the rise in sea levels and other consequences of increased sea levels. The theater of political action must no longer be an argument about whether it is happening. We must begin planning for the change that is coming.
In coming blogs, we’ll be looking at current science on these issues and the consequences of global warming and what we can do about them.
Friday, August 9, 2012 D.R. Schneider, PhD.
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