Saturday, December 26, 2009

We’ve turned Earth’s thermostat up…

Science writer and geologist Kate Ravilious insists that there is enough proof to warrant action... NOW.

Global warming: it is a term that conjures up an unfortunately cosy picture. To those of us living in the higher latitudes, or in mountainous regions, global warming doesn’t sound too bad. A rise in temperature of a few extra degrees would reduce the heating bills, make winter much more bearable, and spare us the need to travel somewhere hot for a summer holiday. But of course, there is much more to global warming than a rise in the average temperature. The extra energy contained within hotter oceans and atmosphere will fuel more extreme weather events – floods, droughts, tornadoes and tropical storms. Meanwhile, oceans expand as they warm, and combined with melting glaciers and icecaps, sea levels will rise, flooding vast areas of land.

Already we are starting to see evidence that global warming is for real. The latest measurements show that sea level has risen more than five centimetres over the last 15 years, 80% more than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001. This rapid rise has already claimed a number of low lying islands, the first of which was the uninhabited Pacific Atoll nation of Kiribati, in 1998. By 2006, the first inhabited island disappeared beneath the waves. Once home to around 10,000 people, Lohachera Island, part of the Sunderbans, is now populated by fish, seaweed and shells. Above the waves, the summer melting of Arctic sea ice has been unprecedented in recent years.

On land, the total surface area of glaciers (excluding ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic) has decreased by around 50% since the beginning of the 19th Century. And satellite measurements show that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are both melting fast.

Meanwhile, over the course of the 20th Century, the average global temperature has risen by more than 0.7°C, with the majority of the warming occurring in the latter half of the century. The last decade has been warmer, on average, than any other decade in the previous 150 years, and 2005 was one of the hottest years since records began.

It is impossible to connect specific weather events with global warming, but evidence is growing that extreme weather is becoming more common. Such events include this year’s unusually destructive typhoon season in South East Asia, the summer heat wave across Europe in 2003 (estimated to have killed over 35,000 people), persistent droughts in South West Australia and the Mediterranean, and heavier rainfall in places like the UK. All this is irrefutable, but it still isn’t enough to convince some people that global warming is for real.

Recently a large number of emails were illegally hacked from the Climate Research Unit in the UK. Since then the carefully selected phrases from these private email correspondences between eminent climate scientists have been leaked out to the media, aiming to demonstrate that climate change scientists have been manipulating their data, and that the whole idea of climate change is one big hoax. It is incredible that the climate change sceptics were able to find only a smattering of comments amongst the thousands of emails they trawled (dating back to 1996) to provide some support to their view.

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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2009

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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