Tuesday, March 14, 2006

3/14 FHPN Evidence of climate change faster than modeled mounts from Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland

"FHPN," "Fair, Honest, Principled News," is a regular feature which gives links and excerpts from selected recent key stories, often focused on a single theme, with my bold italicized comments. 3/11 "Digests of my previous posts for busy people" link gives blog's core ideas.

This edition of "FHPN" focuses on climate change and water wars. Stories in the mainstream media of new evidence of much faster-than-expected significant climate change are mounting at a stunning rate in the past month. If these stories are important to you, then may I suggest that you pass along the link to this edition of FHPN to your friends and colleagues. Rather than make my usual comment after each story, I do so after the last one. The 3/13 edition of FHPN focused on China, India, and the U.S. link

For some sites you can either register or delete cookies to access multiple articles.

3/14 IndependentUK "Climate change 'irreversible' as Arctic sea ice fails to re-form" link "Sea ice in the Arctic has failed to re-form for the second consecutive winter, raising fears that global warming may have tipped the polar regions in to irreversible climate change far sooner than predicted ... Scientists are now convinced that Arctic sea ice is showing signs of both a winter and a summer decline that could indicate a major acceleration in its long-term rate of disappearance. The greatest fear is that an environmental "positive feedback" has kicked in, where global warming melts ice which in itself causes the seas to warm still further as more sunlight is absorbed by a dark ocean rather than being reflected by white ice ..."Coupled with recent findings from Nasa that the Greenland ice sheet may be near a tipping point, it's pretty clear that the Arctic is starting to respond to global warming."... the Arctic ice cover is thought to be a key moderator of the northern hemisphere's climate. It helps to stabilise the massive land glaciers and ice sheets of Greenland which have the capacity to raise sea levels dramatically ... "Climate models did predict a retreat of sea ice in the Barents Sea but not for a few decades yet, so it is a sign that the changes that were predicted are indeed happening, but much faster than predicted.""

3/14 Reuters "Global warming gases at highest levels ever: UN" link "Greenhouse gases blamed for global warming and climate change have reached their highest ever levels in the atmosphere, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday ... WMO officials also indicated that a near record year-on-year rise in CO2 levels for 2005 recorded by U.S. monitors -- well above the average for the past 10 years -- would not come as a major surprise. "Global observations coordinated by WMO show that levels of carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, continue to increase steadily and show no signs of leveling off," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. Carbon dioxide, which the WMO says accounts for 90 percent of warming over the past decade, is largely generated by human activity involving the burning of fossil fuels -- including in industry, transport and domestic heating. Scientists warn emissions must be slowed and reduced if the earth is to avoid climatic havoc with devastating heat waves, droughts, floods and rising sea-levels sinking low-lying island states and hitting seaboard cities like New York and London."

3/3 GuardianUK "Antarctic ice sheet decline startles scientists: Losses contradict earlier climate forecast; New calculations based on satellite readings" link "The Antarctic ice sheet, which contains 90% of the world's ice, has lost significant mass in the past few years. The discovery comes as a surprise to scientists, who thought that the continent would gain ice this century because of increased snowfall in a warming climate. A research team from the University of Colorado used satellite data to estimate that the ice sheet is losing up to 36 cubic miles of ice every year. By comparison, a city the size of Los Angeles uses one cubic mile of fresh water every year. "This is the first study to indicate the total mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet is in significant decline," said Professor Isabella Velicogna of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (Cires) ."

3/3 LAT "Antarctica Cannot Replace Ice Loss: Study finds continent is shrinking faster than it can grow. Experts say changes to the global water cycle could hasten the pace of sea-level rise" link "The ice sheets of Antarctica — the world's largest reservoir of fresh water — are shrinking faster than new snow can fall, scientists reported Thursday in the first comprehensive satellite survey of the entire continent ... This month, an independent research team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge reported that the Arctic glaciers of Greenland were melting twice as fast as five years ago, adding an extra 38 cubic miles of fresh water to the Atlantic Ocean every year. Taken together, the findings suggest that a century of steady increases in global temperatures is altering the seasonal balance of the world's water cycle, in which new snow and ice neatly offset thaw and rainfall runoff every year to maintain the current level of the seas. If so, experts say, increasing global temperatures — the 10 warmest years on record all occurred after 1990 — may be hastening the demise of the polar icecaps and estimates of the pace of sea-level rise could be too low."

2/17 LAT "Ice Dumped by Greenland's Glaciers Triples in 10 Years: Scientists say 'wake-up call' study indicates that sea level could climb even more quickly than current projections" link "Greenland's vast glaciers are dumping ice into the ocean three times faster than they did 10 years ago because of increasing temperatures, suggesting that sea level could rise even more quickly than current projections. The study, published today in the journal Science ... "The models we had were not terribly alarming about Greenland," said Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State University who was not involved in the research. "This paper is a real wake-up call."... The Greenland ice cap is the third-leading contributor to the [sea level] rise. It ranks behind the melting of mountain glaciers and the expansion of ocean water because of higher temperatures. That 100-year estimate may have to be revised upward to reflect a greater increase from Greenland's glaciers."

3/10 LAT "Bering Sea Climate Is Shifting: Scientists say sea life is fighting to survive as the water warms up and ice melts sooner. The changes are profound and may be irreversible" link "scientists reported Thursday in the journal Science. By pulling together a broad range of observations and surveys, an international research team concluded that it is witnessing the transformation of an entire ecosystem in a region home to almost half of U.S. commercial fish production. All in all, the researchers said, the Arctic climate of the northern Bering Sea is in full retreat, yielding to the sub-Arctic system of the south. The changes are profound and perhaps irreversible, even if cold weather eventually returns, the researchers said. "It really is changing," said University of Tennessee ecologist Lee W. Cooper, a coauthor of the Science study. "We can see the impact." ... Overall, the Arctic is warming at twice the average global rate."

3/6 Reuters "Global warming evidence grows -U.N. expert" link "Evidence that humans are to blame for global warming is rising but governments are doing too little to counter the threat, the head of the United Nations climate panel said on Monday. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), also said that costs of braking climate change in coming decades might be less than forecast in the IPCC's last report in 2001. "If one looks at just the scientific evidence that's been collected it's certainly becoming far more compelling. There is no question about it," he told Reuters of research since 2001 into a link between human emissions of greenhouse gases and rising temperatures ... The IPCC, grouping research by about 2,000 scientists, will present its next report to the United Nations in 2007. The report is the mainstay for environmental policy-making. Still, Pachauri said it was too early to draw exact conclusions."

2/27 Reuters "US greenhouse gas growth rate rose in 2004: EPA" link "The growth rate of U.S. emissions of gases blamed for global warming rose in 2004, as the country burned more fossil fuel for transportation and electricity, according to federal environment regulators."

3/3 GuardianUK "Forecast shows Africa to face river crisis" link "Africa's rivers face dramatic disruption that will leave a quarter of the continent severely short of water by the end of the century, according to a global warming study published today. In the first detailed assessment of climate change on the continent's waterways researchers found that watercourses on the continent are highly sensitive to shifts in rainfall patterns. Even modest decreases in rain in western Africa will see rivers lose as much as 80% of their water, triggering a surge of what the scientists call "water refugees"."

2/18 BBC "Earth 'on fast track' to warming: Greenhouse gases are being released 30 times faster than the rate of emissions that triggered a period of extreme global warming in the Earth's past" link "Greenhouse gases are being released 30 times faster than the rate of emissions that triggered a period of extreme global warming in the Earth's past. That is the conclusion of scientists who presented results at a conference in St Louis, in the US. Emissions that caused a global warming episode 55 million years ago were released over 10,000 years. Burning fossil fuels is likely to release the same amount over the next three centuries, the scientists claim...."Records of past climate change show that change starts slowly and then accelerates," he said. "The system crosses some sort of threshold.""

2/24 "World lawmakers set up global warming monitor group" link "Lawmakers and business leaders from around the world launched a campaign on Friday to push recalcitrant governments to take action on climate change. Accusing rich and poor alike of talking a good fight against but doing little, the parliamentarians from the Group of Eight rich nations and five major developing countries said their three-year goal was to force the pace."

3/2 Economist "Cold comfort" link "Both “The Weather Makers” and “Field Notes from a Catastrophe” make an analogous point—that global warming is a process that is hard to reverse. Climate change is more visible at the poles than elsewhere, for example, because ice is one of the best reflectors of sunlight, and water is one of the worst. Melt the ice and the balance between heat sent packing straight back into space and heat retained to warm the planet shifts very fast ... Both books trumpet the same central message: act now. Every year's delay in doing something about climate change will take far more than a year to put right. Once the ice is gone, it will not come back. Once the permafrost melts and the methane it contains is released, it cannot be recalled—and methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide."

3/8 WP "The Planet Can't Wait: Climate Change Is Real and Must Be Addressed Now" link "The warnings are coming ... And yet what is the U.S. government doing about global warming? Nothing. That should shock the conscience of Americans. Actually, the Bush administration's policy is worse than doing nothing. It has resisted efforts by other nations to discuss new actions that could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide before the global climate reaches a disastrous tipping point. And it muzzles administration scientists to keep them from warning about the seriousness of the issue. The administration's position is that more research is needed -- and then, as evidence grows that humans are adding to global warming, it calls for still more research. Congress is no better. Most members apparently are waiting for permission from lobbyists and campaign contributors before getting serious about climate change. Every week brings new evidence that global climate change is real and that it's advancing more rapidly than scientists had expected. This past week brought a report in Science that the Antarctic is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year. Last month researchers reported that glaciers in Greenland are melting twice as fast as previously estimated. One normally cautious scientist, Richard Alley, told The Post's Juliet Eilperin he was concerned about the Antarctic findings, since just five years ago scientists had been expecting more ice. "That's a wake-up call," he said. "We better figure out what's going on" ... History will not forgive political leaders who failed to act on this issue, and neither should voters."

2/9 USAT "Politics vs. climate reality" link "Deutsch has for months embodied the White House's earth-is-flat take on why the earth is warming, with consequences from melting glaciers to freak weather. Working in NASA's public relations, he tried to muzzle a renowned climate scientist who — like serious scientists the world over — warns that global warming is a threat requiring government intervention to curb emissions from cars, factories and more. This furthered the business-friendly Bush administration's increasingly lonely mantra that the science isn't solid enough for more than voluntary measures. But scientific consensus long ago moved on. The issue now is not whether global warming is happening, but how severe the effects will be ... That a low-level bureaucrat could overrule a prestigious scientist says worlds about how the administration balances politics against science."

3/5 BusinessOnline "The 21st century’s most explosive commodity will be...WATER: There’s plenty of it to meet the world’s needs but too much of our supply is in the wrong places" link "Water has played a central, albeit usually overlooked, role in conflicts throughout human history, far more so even than oil; and many of the wars of the 21st century will be fought over the clear, cool stuff ... The fundamental problem is that access rights to water are often badly defined. Unlike with other commodities, the institutions of modern capitalism property rights, private companies, free market prices – have rarely been applied to water, and especially not to water flows that cross different countries. The result is that countries all too often use non-commercial methods to arrange their water supplies – such as finders-keepers, war or diplomatic deals ... In most cases, the institutions needed to regulate how water resources should be used are either weak or missing altogether. One particular area of contention is the Jordan River basin, which is divided between Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Its supply of water is critical to Palestine, Israel and Jordan, and very important to Lebanon and Syria. The problem, each time, is who owns the water, how the water should be shared out between different countries and under what conditions. Partly as a result, water has also played a critical but much under-reported role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other wars in the region."

2/28 Independent "Water Wars: Climate change may spark conflict" link "Five per cent of the world's population survives on 1 per cent of its water in the Middle East and this contributed to the 1967 Arab -Israeli war. It could fuel further military crises as global warming continues. Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan rely on the River Jordan but Israel controls it and has cut supplies during times of scarcity. Palestinian consumption is severely restricted by Israel." [rest of article not available]

FHPN: Because the extensive excerpts above, and the scientists quoted in them, speak for themselves, I will keep my comment brief. Global warming and water shortages are not just about science and politics, as the mainstream media usually report. The heart of the problem is actually economic.

The globalized speculative finance system avoids paying the true economic costs of global production and development. These unpaid costs manifest themselves in climate change, environmental degradation, underinvestment in sustainable energy, stagnant real wages, attacks on benefits and pensions, substandard education, lack of clean water, malnutrition, inadequate health care, famines, exposure to natural disasters, etc., etc., etc.

Infrastructure costs, technology development, etc. are just being passed off onto future generations right now in a manic chase after the quick buck. This is not economically sustainable in the long run, and it is also morally wrong.

This is how I put it in my 2/11/06 "The Global Speculative Financial System as “Enabler” of America’s Addiction to Oil" link

"A fundamental problem of the global speculative financial system is that it is extremely heavily skewed in favor of seeking ultra-high short-term “paper” capital gains, usually through quick gimmicks and essentially using private "insider" knowledge, ultimately at the public's expense."

"Little of this highly speculative, unrelenting chase after the very big quick buck is ultimately fair and honest, nor is it economically productive and viable, relatively short-term appearances to the contrary."

"Rather, it greatly distorts the global market allocation of resources, since it results in the massive under-funding of basic, long-term projects that are the foundation for generating real wealth, but which can’t compete for capital allocation against short-term speculative capital gains offering much higher returns. Speculative finance capital, aka hot money from all sorts of unregulated private funds, is replacing sound productive long-term investments."