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Earth Headed for Global Warming Catastrophe

http://madison.indymedia.org/newswire/display_any/26626

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Earth Headed for Global Warming Catastrophe
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Tuesday, 04 October 2005
by Michael T. Neuman
Email: mtneuman at juno dot com


Summary: A leading worldwide climate research institute in Hamburg,
Germany
predicted last week that the Earth is heading for a climate catastrophe
in the
next 100 years, with sea ice in the North Pole region predicted to
completely
melt in summer and extreme weather events increasing in both frequency
and
strength.

The study is being followed up this week by the release of a report from
the
UK's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to the
presidency
of the European Union, on the impact of climate change on migratory
species. The
report details and predicts major losses in many of the world's animal
populations with continued global warming.

The releases come on the heels of another release issued by National Snow
and
Ice Data Center (NSIDC), a part of the Cooperative Institute for Research
in
Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, which has
reported that summer Arctic sea ice fell far below average for the fourth
year,
with winter ice seeing sharp declines, and spring melts beginning much
earlier
that even 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, the U.S. mainstream media and government continue to abdicate
their
responsibility to appropriately inform and alert Americans to the growing
threat
of global warming, as well as the need for timely and responsive change
to slow
global warming through massive reductions in fuel burning and other
greenhouse
gas releasing sources.

Text:  According to the climate prediction calculations of scientists at
the Max Planck
Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, over the next century the climate
will
change more quickly than it ever has in the recent history of the earth.

Researchers from the institute said computer simulation at the German
High
Performance Computing Center for Climate and Earth System Research has
shown
that average global temperature would increase rise by 4.1° Celsius (°C)
by
2100, or roughly 7 times the global average surface warming rate over the
20th
century of 0.6°C.

Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases
originating from human activities including fossil fuel burning are
changing the
radiation budget of the earth. The accumulation of such gases in the
atmosphere
is predicted to continue rising for the foreseeable future.
http://www.dkrz.de/images/gallery/Emissions_800.jpg?dkrzsid=bc52981cb59a1c7855ff\ae3f467f506f

As a consequence of the higher buildup of greenhouse "heat-trapping"
gases in
the atmosphere, the global mean temperature rises. The scientists expect
that
under certain conditions, sea ice in the arctic will completely melt. In
Europe,
summers will be drier and warmer, and this will affect agriculture. The
winters
will become warmer and wetter. Another consequence of the heated
atmosphere will
be extreme events like heavy precipitation with floods. Sea level could
rise on
average by as many as 30 centimeters.

Expressing concern at the findings, Klaus Toepfer, who heads of the
United
Nations Environment Program, said that the study's results underlined the
need
to address the issue immediately, especially in wake of recent anomalies
shown
by the weather throughout the world.

The Max Planck Institute for Meteorology is one of the leading worldwide
climate
research facilities. The results of the research were presented to media
representatives at a press conference held September 29, 2005 in Hamburg.
http://www.mpg.de/english/illustrationsDocumentation/documentation/pressReleases\/2005/pressRelease200509301/index.html

The National Snow and Ice Date Center (NSIDC) says Arctic temperatures
have
increased significantly in recent decades. Compared to the past 50 years,
average surface air temperatures from January through August, 2005, were
2 to 3
degrees Celsius (3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than average
across most
of the Arctic Ocean. In Alaska last week, satellite images released by
two US
universities and the space agency NASA revealed that the amount of
sea-ice cover
over the polar ice cap has fallen dramatically over the past four years.
http://nsidc.org/news/press/20050928_trends_fig2_3.html

The persistence of near-record low extents leads the group to conclude
that
Arctic sea ice is likely on an accelerating, long-term decline.
http://nsidc.org/news/press/20050928_trends_fig1.html

This summer, the legendary Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic
from
Europe to Asia was completely open except for a 60-mile swath of
scattered ice
floes. In earlier centuries, whole expeditions were lost as their crews
tried to
beat through thick ice and bitter cold. The Northeast Passage, north of
the
Siberian coast, was completely ice-free from August 15 through September
28.
http://nsidc.org/news/press/20050928_trends_fig6.html

Global sea level is strongly influenced by atmospheric and ocean water
temperatures. Aside from precipitation, the melting of large ice sheets
over
land (Greenland, Antarctic, mountain glaciers) and thermal expansion of
sea
water are cited as the two main reasons why increasing sea levels are
predicted
with global warming.

Since the ocean is able to store large amounts of heat, the sea level
will
continue to rise even after the concentrations of the different
greenhouse gases
in the atmosphere are not increasing any more.
http://www.dkrz.de/images/gallery/Sealevel_Change_2100_800.jpg

Regional differences in the sea level changes are caused by changes of
the ocean
circulation and the hydrologic cycle (precipitation minus evaporation).
In the
high southern latitudes changes of the sea level during the 21st century
are
comparatively small; in the Arctic Ocean, however, sea level rises more
than
twice as much relative to the global mean, due to an increasing fresh
water
influx from rivers and precipitation.
http://www.dkrz.de/dkrz/science/IPCC_AR4/scenarios_AR4_Sealevel

Almost mirroring predictions made by the Union of Concerned Scientists
for
various regions of the U.S., the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
predicts
summers in Europe will be drier and warmer, while winters will become
warmer and
wetter. It is expected that the sea ice in the North Pole region will
completely
melt in the summer.
http://www.mpg.de/bilderBerichteDokumente/multimedial/bilderWissenschaft/2005/09\/Roeckner0501_engl/Web_Zoom.jpeg

Since 2002, satellite records have also revealed that springtime melting
is
beginning unusually early in the areas north of Alaska and Siberia. The
2005
melt season arrived even earlier, beating the mean melt onset date by
approximately 17 days, this time throughout the Arctic.
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a003200/a003267/index.html

The reports show a remarkable consistency with "Earlier in the Year
Snowmelt
Runoff and Increasing Dewpoints for Rivers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and
North
Dakota", by Twin Cities area hydrologist Patrick J. Neuman, who found the
date
of first annual snowmelt in 3 major river basins in the Northern Great
Plains
and the headwaters of the Upper Mississippi River System has jumped back
3
weeks, on average, in the last 50 years.
http://www.mnforsustain.org/climate_snowmelt_dewpoints_minnesota_neuman_table_fi\gure1.htm

The trend in sea ice decline, lack of winter recovery, early onset of
spring
melting, and warmer-than-average temperatures suggest a system that is
trapped
in a loop of positive feedbacks, in which responses to inputs into the
system
cause it to shift even further away from normal, claims Roger Barry of
the
National Snow & Ice Data Center located at the University of Colorado.

One of these positive feedbacks centers on increasingly warm
temperatures.
Serreze explained that as sea ice declines because of warmer
temperatures, the
loss of ice is likely to lead to still-further ice losses. Sea ice
reflects much
of the sun's radiation back into space, whereas dark ice-free ocean
absorbs more
of the sun's energy. As sea ice melts, Earth's overall albedo, the
fraction of
energy reflected away from the planet, decreases. The increased
absorption of
energy further warms the planet.

"Feedbacks in the system are starting to take hold", argues NSIDC
Lead Scientist Ted Scambos. Moreover, these feedbacks could change our
estimate
of the rate of decline of sea ice. "Right now, our projections for the
future use a steady linear decline, but when feedbacks are involved the
decline
is not necessarily steady; it could pick up speed."
http://nsidc.org/news/press/20050928_trendscontinue.html

"Almost everywhere on earth, the forestry industry will have to husband
different types of trees than it has until now", says Dr. Erich Roeckner,
the
project leader of the model calculations in Hamburg.

Of even more significance than the impacts of global warming on forestry
will be
the impacts on the world's animal populations. A report that's being
presented
to the UK Presidency of the European Union this week in Aviemore,
Scotland by
the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs finds that:
four
out of five migratory birds listed by the UN face problems ranging from
lower
water tables to increased droughts, spreading deserts and shifting food
supplies
in their crucial "fuelling stations" as they migrate; one-third of turtle
nesting sites in the Caribbean - home to diminishing numbers of green,
hawksbill
and loggerhead turtles - would be swamped by a sea level rise of 50cm
(20ins);
shallow waters used by the endangered Mediterranean monk seal, dolphins,
dugongs
and manatees will slowly disappear; whales, salmon, cod, penguins and
kittiwakes
are being affected by shifts in distribution and abundance of krill and
plankton, which has declined in places to a hundredth or thousandth of
former numbers
because of warmer sea-surface temperatures; and fewer chiffchaffs,
blackbirds, robins
and song thrushes are migrating from the UK due to warmer winters while
egg-laying is
also getting two to three weeks earlier than 30 years ago, showing a
change in the birds'
biological clocks.

John Keogak, 47, an Inuvialuit from Canada's North-West Territories,
hunts polar
bears, seals, caribou and musk ox. "The polar bear is part of our
culture," he
said. "They use the ice as a hunting ground for the seals. If there is no
ice
there is no way the bears will be able to catch the seals." He said the
number
of bears was decreasing and feared his children might not be able to hunt
them.
He said: "There is an earlier break-up of ice, a later freeze-up. Now
it's more
rapid. Something is happening."

Stranded polar bears are drowning in large numbers as they try to swim
hundreds
of miles to find increasingly scarce ice floes. Local hunters find their
corpses
floating on seas once coated in a thick skin of ice.

It is a phenomenon that frightens the native people that live around the
Arctic.
Many fear their children will never know the polar bear. "The ice is
moving
further and further north," said Charlie Johnson, 64, an Alaskan Nupiak
from
Nome, in the state's far west. "In the Bering Sea the ice leaves earlier
and
earlier. On the north slope, the ice is retreating as far as 300 or 400
miles
offshore."

Last year, hunters found half a dozen bears that had drowned about 200
miles
north of Barrow, on Alaska's northern coast. "It seems they had tried to
swim
for shore ... A polar bear might be able to swim 100 miles but not 400."

"Global warming is a reality for the Inuit. They see major changes
affecting
their lifestyle, with earlier springs, warmer summers and later falls",
says
Arctic explorer Will Steger. "They used to dry their meat and fish in the
summer, but now it gets so warm that the meat rots. There also is the
migration
of southern species, animals, fish, even insects."
http://madison.indymedia.org/newswire/display/26418/index.php

And now there is evidence that polar bears are facing an unusual
competitor -
the grizzly bear. As the sub-Arctic tundra and wastelands thaw, the
grizzly is
moving north, colonizing areas where they were previously unable to
survive.
Life for Alaska's polar bears is rapidly becoming very precarious.

Already listed as "critically endangered", only about 700 mountain
gorillas,
including the distinctively marked adult male silverbacks, migrate within
the
cloud forests of the volcanic Virunga mountains of the Democratic
Republic of
the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. After a century of human persecution it
faced
extinction. Now its unique but marginal mountain forests - already
heavily
reduced by forestry - are shrinking, because of climate change. It will
be
forced to climb higher for cooler climates, but will effectively run out
of
mountain.

Across Africa, habitats are shifting as temperatures rise, or
disappearing in
droughts, affecting the migrations of millions of wildebeest, and
savannah
elephant and Thomson's gazelle.

The number of male green turtles is falling because of rising
temperatures,
threatening their survival. Turtle nests need a temperature of precisely
28.8C
to hatch even numbers of males and females.

The migration of the sperm whale, one of the earth's largest mammals,
made
famous by Herman Melville's epic Moby-Dick, is closely linked to the
squid, its
main food source. Squid numbers are affected by warmer water and weather
phenomena such as El Niņo. Adult male sperm whales up to 20 m long like
cold
water in the disappearing ice-packs. Warm water cuts sperm whale
reproduction
because food supplies fall. Around the Galapagos Islands, a fall in
births is
linked to higher sea surface temperatures. Plankton and krill, key foods
for
many cetaceans such as the pilot whale, have in some regions declined
100-fold
in warmer water.

Europe's most senior ecologists and conservationists are meeting in
Aviemore, in
the Scottish Highlands, this week for a conference on the impact of
climate
change on migratory species, an event organized by the British government
as
part of its presidency of the European Union. Aviemore's major winter
employer -
skiing - is a victim of warmer winters. Ski slopes in the Cairngorms,
which once
had snow caps year round on the highest peaks, have recently been closed
down
when the winter snow failed. The snow bunting, ptarmigan and dotterel -
some of
Scotland's rarest birds - are also given little chance of survival as
their
harsh and marginal winter environments disappear.

The report being presented this week in Aviemore reveals this is a
pattern being
repeated around the world. In the sub-Arctic tundra, caribou are
threatened by
"multiple climate change impacts". Deeper snow at higher latitudes makes
it
harder for caribou herds to travel. Faster and more regular "freeze-thaw"
cycles
make it harder to dig out food under thick crusts of ice-covered snow.
Wetter
and warmer winters are cutting calving success, and increasing insect
attacks
and disease.

The same holds true for migratory wading birds such as the red knot and
the
northern seal. The endangered spoon-billed sandpiper, too, faces
extinction, the
report says. They are of "key concern". It says that species "cannot
shift
further north as their climates become warmer. They have nowhere left to
go ...
We can see, very clearly, that most migratory species are drifting
towards the
poles."

"The habitats of migratory species most vulnerable to climate change were
found
to be tundra, cloud forest, sea ice and low-lying coastal areas", the
report
states. "Increased droughts and lowered water tables, particularly in key
areas
used as 'staging posts' on migration, were also identified as key threats
stemming from climate change."
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/environment/article316604.ece

In many areas, it is the increase in extreme weather events that has
posed the
greatest environmental as well as economic threat. Scientists nationwide
have
recently compiled evidence suggesting the intensity and frequency of
hurricanes
are related to global warming. Several studies recently published by the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgia Tech's School of Earth
and
Atmospheric Sciences show that there is a significant statistical
relationship
between the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the past few decades
and
the overall rising temperature of the ocean.

The decimation Hurricane Katrina has brought to Louisiana, Mississippi
and parts
of Alabama has sparked increasing scientific concerns about the threat of
global
warming to the United States. According to the National Climate Data
System,
Hurricane Katrina was one of the strongest storms to impact the coast of
the
United States during the last 100 years. Katrina's losses, in terms of
human
lives and social-economic property loss, have yet to be fully tabulated.
As of
Monday, the death toll in Louisiana alone stood at 964.

http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/articles.asp?id=34319
http://madison.indymedia.org/feature/display/26152/index.php

Yet many people in the U.S. remain uninformed or misinformed about the
threat of
global warming and the urgency of dramatically reducing greenhouse gas
emissions
from all sources in the U.S., which emits fully one-quarter of the
world's
greenhouse gases from human activity. The American corporation funded
media and
government at all levels in the U.S. have abdicated their
responsibilities to
properly inform citizens of the United States of the growing crisis of
global
warming and the need for swift and magnanimous action to slow it before
the
grave threats associated with it become reality. Corporate controlled
media and
government in the U.S. have become overly influenced by lobbyists for the
oil,
coal and fossil fuel dependent industries who have a vested interest in
not
slowing down fuel burning. As a result, many Americans have been misled
into
believing the severity of the global warming problem is less than what
the
scientific community has been predicting since 1995 when
the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its first
report
that recognizes the problem.

"Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are
headed."
- Chinese proverb
Madison IMC: http://madison.indymedia.org/

See also:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ClimateArchive/message/229
http://www.geocities.com/mtneuman/tribute_flag.html
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