Tuesday, May 21, 2013
TREVETT — Recent observations and developments in climate science show urgent new information about our planet's unexpectedly rapid response to warming.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dwight Swisher (e-mail: email@example.com) is a resident of Trevett.
For those who love their children and grandchildren, this message is meant as an urgent wake-up call.
There is broad agreement in the atmospheric, climate and geologic science communities today that the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, considered by most as the "authoritative word" on climate change, grossly underestimated the rate of climate change.
We have "on the ground" confirmation that the world has passed a climate tipping point. The danger lies in a broad public misunderstanding of the time frame remaining for urgent, effective action.
The current loss of Arctic ice sheets was not predicted for almost another 100 years (tinyurl.com/4zroh9h).
New weather patterns are accelerating this melting (tinyurl.com/37sqzfr). The absence of Arctic ice northwest of Greenland leaves warmed water that remains open into midwinter.
This has affected the Arctic low pressure and is changing the weather patterns of the entire Northern Hemisphere.
Changes in the Arctic low pressure in turn are responsible for Western Europe and the southeastern United States having seen enduring cold and strong winter weather the past two winters.
Converse to this, northeastern Canada has experienced record winter warmth (tinyurl.com/4l6gch8).
Greenland is experiencing an accelerating melt of its ice sheets and glaciers.
Year-round open water will accelerate the loss of Greenland ice. Western Antarctic ice is also melting far faster than predicted.
New knowledge from recent geologic studies has confirmed that historical global warming events occurred (relatively) much quicker than previously thought.
Sea levels rose as much as 7 meters per 100 years during the last warming event. (That's about 2.3 feet per decade, folks).
New definitions of "danger" are emerging: A plus-2-degree Celsius increase is now seen as "dangerous and unsustainable," but also provably unavoidable. The increase to plus-4 C is still seen as "highly likely if the world continues on its present emissions path."
This level of change is deemed "extremely dangerous" (Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows, "Beyond 'Dangerous' Climate Change: Emission Scenarios for a New World," tinyurl.com/4ljn7hp).
The new expectation for plus-2 C warming is about 2030, along with an ice-free Arctic in summer and plus-4 C as soon as 2060 to 2070. (You will have to read the articles yourself for a full explanation of these new definitions.)
We cannot now stop the loss of Arctic ice, and likely cannot stop most of the Iceland glacial loss; we've pushed the Earth past that tipping point.
If we pass plus-2 C, we should expect the sea level to rise at a rate of 2.5 to 3 feet every 20 years.
Our entire coastal ecosystem will not adapt to habitat loss at those rates and will collapse. No more fish, no more lobster, no more beaches, no more tourism.
The scale of disruption and the cascade of ecosystem collapse seem surreal to imagine, but knowledge behind this prediction is now well-founded.
We dare not go there. The natural processes that re- balance our planet take millennia! Those of us who are over 50 will not live to see more than just the beginning of this damage, but it is now certain that our children will.
It is our grandchildren who will face extremely dangerous climate change if we don't act quickly and effectively.
From the weather extremes of the past year -- and still ongoing -- we've learned that there are real costs, both human and capital, to extreme weather. Is this climate change in action?
Two new studies published on Feb. 16 in the journal Nature conclude definitively that this extreme weather is directly related to climate change.
The point I am making is the trend. As we have also seen during the past three to five years, the new weather patterns I've previously mentioned have directly contributed to weather extremes in Europe, Russia, Canada and the United States.
It is very late to take action, but not too late -- yet. We've been in overshoot since 1988.
It will require a concerted, worldwide effort to demand, in the name of the future of humanity, prompt and effective action.
We must urgently and unceasingly press the world's governments to work together on this, and to listen to the loud and clear voice of science. It is late enough that every year counts.
Join in this effort, please. Learn more, and speak out on this issue wherever you can.
– Special to The Press Herald