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Musings and Meanderings
Monday, November 01, 2004
A 144-page report, which is due to be officially released a week after Tuesday’s elections, says the accelerated warming of the globe – which it blames mostly on the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by the industrial age – is transforming the Arctic region dramatically.
The Arctic “is now experiencing some of the most rapid and severe climate change on Earth,” according to the report, which was obtained by the New York Times and the Washington Post this weekend, apparently from European sources that wanted to publicize its findings before Tuesday. “Over the next 100 years, climate change is expected to accelerate, contributing to major physical, ecological, social and economic changes, many of which have already begun,” the report stated, adding that greenhouse gas emissions have clearly become “the dominant factor” in the Arctic’s changing climate.
It confirms earlier studies that the Arctic has warmed and is warming at a much faster rate than the Earth as a whole. While the Earth has warmed by roughly one degree Fahrenheit over the past century – that is, the bulk of the industrial age – temperature increases in the Arctic area have been as much as ten times greater.
That warming has produced dramatic, across-the-board effects on both the climate and the land. Once solid tundra or permafrost has turned ever soggier, while animal, fish, and plant species that have thrived in the region for millennia are either moving northward or dying out. The report predicted that polar bears, ice-loving seals and indigenous people who rely on the two large mammals for food are likely to be devastated by the changes, particularly the melting of sea ice throughout the Arctic.
“The major message is that climate change is here and now in the Arctic,” Dr. Robert Corell, a U.S. oceanographer who directed the assessment, told the Times.
Not all of these changes are due solely to changes in temperature; also cited are a number of other human-caused factors, including overfishing, growing human population, and rising levels of ultra-violet radiation from the depleted ozone layer, as contributing to the change.
“The sum of these factors threatens to overwhelm the adaptive capacity of some Arctic populations and ecosystems,” according to a section of the report quoted by the Times.
But the consequences of what is happening to the Arctic are certain to be global in scope, according to Gunnar Palsson, the chairman of the Arctic Council, who told the Post the region should be seen as “sort of a bellweather” for the rest of the planet. “In order to contain these problems, we cannot think in terms of regional solutions.”
Indeed, the melting of Arctic ice, which is taking place at a faster-than-anticipated pace, could have dire consequences on coastal areas as a result of the resulting rise in sea levels.
The melting of the two-mile-high icepack on Greenland by itself will send sea level as much as 25 feet higher, washing away low-lying islands in the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean and heavily populated coastal areas from Bangladesh to New Orleans and the Mississippi delta.
This piece liberally lifted from a Yahoo web site. It's not my prose.