E/The Environmental Magazine‘s recent book Feeling the Heat: Dispatches From the Frontlines of Climate Change (Routledge) gathers the evidence that global warming is no longer a theory, but has become part of people’s everyday lives as rising waters, droughts, agricultural losses and other related effects disrupt centuries-old patterns. Most recently, the Southeastern U.S. and Caribbean have suffered devastating effects from Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan, although scant mention has been made in the wall-to-wall media coverage about how such an increasing frequency of severe storms may be related to global climate change.
In fact, much of the accumulating evidence of global warming is not making it through our major media filters. As Al Gore reported in his New York Times review of Feeling the Heat contributor Ross Gelbspan’s book Boiling Point, “Gelbspan presents a devastating analysis of how the media have been duped and intimidated by an aggressive and persistent campaign organized and financed by coal and oil companies. He recounts, for example, a conversation with a top television network editor who was reluctant to run stories about global warming because a previous story had ‘triggered a barrage of complaints from the Global Climate Coalition [a fossil-fuel industry lobbying group] to our top executives at the network.’”
Despite these political concerns, support for the position that global warming science is “inconclusive” is rapidly dissolving. For the record, the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), representing 2,000 climate scientists, found “a discernible human influence” on global climate. IPCC said that doubling greenhouse gas emissions could warm the planet by two to six degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years. This compares to a one-degree rise over the last century.
New evidence that climate change is upon us arrives daily, and since this column is our most timely forum, we can offer some new dispatches from just the last couple of months.
Mussels on the Move
Mussels have been found growing on the seabed just 800 miles from the North Pole in a likely sign of global warming. The blue mussels, which normally favor warmer waters off France or the eastern United States, were discovered off Norway’s Svalbard archipelago in waters that are covered with ice most of the year.
“The climate is changing fast,” said Geir Johnsen, a professor at the Norwegian University for Science and Technology who was among experts who found the bivalves. Molluscs are a “very good indicator that the climate is warming,” he said. “It seems like the mussels we found are two to three years old,” he told Reuters. Such shellfish have not been recorded off the islands since Viking times 1,000 years ago during another warm period.
U.N. scientists say the Arctic is now warming faster than any other region because of human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released from burning fossil fuels in cars, factories and power plants.
German scientists probing global warming said recently they had detected a major temperature rise this year in the Arctic Ocean and linked this to a progressive shrinking of the region’s sea ice.
Temperatures recorded this year in the upper 500 meters (1,625 feet) of sea in the Fram Strait—the gap between Greenland and the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen—were up to 0.6 C (1.08 F) higher than in 2003, they said in a press release. The rise was detectable to a water depth of 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), “representing an exceptionally strong signal by ocean standards,” the release said.
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) — Europe is warming up more quickly than the rest of the world, and cold winters could disappear almost entirely by 2080 as a result of global warming, researchers predicted.
Heat waves and floods are likely to become more frequent, threatening the elderly and infirm, and three quarters of the Swiss Alps’ glaciers might melt down by 2050, the study prepared by the European Environment Agency (EEA) said.
“This report pulls together a wealth of evidence that climate change is already happening and having widespread impacts, many of them with substantial economic costs, on people and ecosystems in Europe,” EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade said in a statement.
Source: Reuters, via MSNBC: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5748169/
Alpine Crisis Looms
For generations, Europe’s premier winter playground, a region of mighty peaks and stunning scenery, has been visited by millions every year. But, with climate change taking a grip on the continent, the Alps are set to become a battleground between developers and conservationists. On one side, businessmen are preparing to build a new generation of ski resorts among the highest peaks and glaciers. They say global warming poses such a threat that they can only save the sport by going upwards. Their plans include resorts in France and Austria at above 3,350 metres (11,000 feet).
Source: The Guardian at: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1307893,00.html
The Impact on Deep-Sea Biodiversity
Deep-sea ecosystems (at depths of more than 1000 meters) comprise more than 60 percent of the Earth’s surface, and are substantial reservoirs of global biodiversity. Climate changes are expected to induce significant modifications in biodiversity on a global scale, yet little is known on the impact of recent climate changes on the deep-sea environment. In the forthcoming issue of Ecology Letters, Danovaro, Dell’Anno and Pusceddu demonstrate that an extensive climate anomaly, which occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean, caused a significant deep-sea biodiversity change. These results indicate that temperature shifts of 0.05-0.1 degrees Centigrade in the deep sea are sufficient to induce significant changes in species richness and functional diversity.
They conclude that deep-sea fauna is highly vulnerable to environmental alteration, and that very minor temperature shifts in deep-water masses can rapidly and significantly alter both structural and functional deep-sea biodiversity. This study provides new elements towards a better understanding of the potential large-scale consequences of climate change
Source: EurekAlert at: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2004-08/bpl-eft081904.php
(CNN) — Hurricane Frances may only be the first in a series of large, powerful storms to march across the Atlantic in coming years. The arrival of hurricanes like Charley and Frances within weeks of each other is an anomaly, but some meteorologists say more storms like Frances—both very intense and very large—are possible.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increasing trend toward greater activity in the Atlantic Basin and increased strength in storms,” said Marshall Shepherd, a research meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “[That] has been leading us to believe that we are going to start seeing more intense hurricanes. That may be bearing itself out right now.”
A combination of natural cycles and warming ocean temperatures from global warming may be fueling the destructive storms.
In the interest of fairness, I scoured the web for recent evidence that global warming is not happening, but didn’t come up with much. The Global Climate Coalition site offered this tidbit from a Boston Globe op-ed piece: “We should tune out the alarmists. We should keep the human effect in perspective. We should remember that climate change is natural. Mostly, we shouldn’t panic.” Unfortunately, all the “news” on the site was from 2001, as the industry-supported Global Climate Coalition is now defunct, and the site is a ghost.