LICSN: Global Climate Crisis Accelerates

Dire Consequences of Current CO2 Emissions Could Last Over a Millennium. By Juliet Eilperin, WashPost, January 27, 2009. Greenhouse gas levels currently expected by mid-century will produce devastating long-term droughts and a sea-level rise that will persist for 1,000 years regardless of how well the world curbs future emissions of carbon dioxide, an international team of scientists reported on Monday. Top climate researchers from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Switzerland and France said their analysis shows that carbon dioxide will remain near peak levels in the atmosphere far longer than other greenhouse gases, which dissipate relatively quickly… At the mom ent, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere stand at 385 parts per million. Many climate scientists and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have set a goal of stabilizing atmospheric carbon at 450 ppm, but current projections put the world on track to hit 550 ppm by 2035, rising after that point by 4.5 percent a year. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, projects that if carbon dioxide concentrations peak at 600 ppm, several regions of the world — including southwestern North America, the Mediterranean and southern Africa — will face major droughts as bad or worse than the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Global sea levels will rise by about three feet by the year 3000, a projection that does not factor in melting glaciers and polar ice sheets that would probably result in significant additional sea level rises.”

World’s Glaciers Shrink for 18th Consecutive Year. By Jeremy van Loon, Bloomberg News, January 29, 2009. “Glaciers from the Andes to Alaska and across the Alps shrank as much as 3 meters (10 feet), the 18th year of retreat and twice as fast as a decade ago, as global warming threatens an important supply of the world’s water. Alpine glaciers lost on average 0.7 meters of thickness in 2007, the most recent figures available, data published Thursday by the University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service showed. The melting extends an 11-meter retreat since 1980. ‘One year doesn’t tell us much, it’s really these long-term trends that help us to understand what’s going on,’ Michael Zemp, a researcher at the University of Zurich ‘s Department of Geography, said in an interview. ‘The main thing that we can do to stop this is reduce greenhouse gases’ that are blamed for global warming. The Alps have suffered more than other regions with half of the region’s glacier terrain having disappeared since the 1850s.”

Worst Drought Ever Expected in California. By Kelly Zito, SanFranChron, January 30, 2009.” California teeters on the edge of the worst drought in the state’s history, officials said Thursday after reporting that the Sierra Nevada snowpack — the backbone of the state’s water supply — is only 61 percent of normal… In Sonoma County , water managers are expected to take a bold step Monday — telling residents to prepare for severe rationing within weeks… After two consecutive dry years and with a third on the way, Lake Mendocino , one of two main reservoirs that supply 750,000 residents in Marin and Sonoma counties, contains only 32,000 acre-feet of water – about one-third of its capacity of 90,000 acre-feet. The picture is similar around the state. Lake Shasta , the largest reservoir in California , is at 31 percent of its capacity, down from 74 percent in 2007.”

Australia Faces Worst-Ever Heat Wave. By Geoffrey Lean and Kathy Marks, London Independent, February 1, 2009. “Leaves are falling off trees in the height of summer, railway tracks are buckling, and people are retiring to their beds with deep-frozen hot-water bottles, as much of Australia swelters in its worst-ever heatwave. On Friday, Melbourne ther mom eters topped 43C (109.4F) on a third successive day for the first time on record, while even normally mild Tasmania suffered its second-hottest day in a row, as temperatures reached 42.2C. Two days before, Adelaide hit a staggering 45.6C. After a weekend respite, more records are expected to be broken this week. Ministers are blaming the heat — hich follows a record drought — on global warming. Experts worry that Australia , which emits more carbon dioxide per head than any nation on earth, may also be the first to implode under the impact of climate change. At times last week it seemed as if that was happening already.”

Rising Acidity Threatens Food Web of Oceans, Science Panel Says. By Cornelia Dean, NYTimes, January 30, 2009. “The oceans have long buffered the effects of climate change by absorbing a substantial portion of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. But this benefit has a catch: as the gas dissolves, it makes seawater more acidic. Now an international panel of marine scientists says this acidity is accelerating so fast it threatens the survival of coral reefs, shellfish and the marine food web generally. The panel’s blunt language and international backing give its assessment unusual force. It called for ‘urgent action’ to sharply reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. ‘Severe damages are imminent,’ the group said Friday in a statement summing up its deliberations at a symposium in Monaco last October. The statement, called the Monaco Declaration [PDF, 4 pp], said increasing acidity was interfering with the growth and health of shellfish and eating away at coral reefs, processes that would eventually affect marine food webs generally. Already, the group said, there have been detectable decreases in shellfish and shell weights, and interference with the growth of coral skeletons.”

Arctic’s Thawing Seas Bring Security Risks, Possible New Flashpoints for NATO. By David Stringer, AP, January 29, 2009.“NATO will need a military presence in the Arctic as global warming melts frozen sea routes and major powers rush to lay claim to lucrative energy reserves, the military bloc’s chief said Thursday. NATO commanders and lawmakers meeting in Iceland ‘s capital said the Arctic thaw is bringing the prospect of new standoffs between powerful nations. ‘I would be the last one to expect military conflict — but there will be a military presence,’ NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters. ‘It should be a military presence that is not overdone, and there is a need for political cooperation and economic cooperation.’ The opening up of Arctic sea routes once navigable only by icebreakers threatens to complicate delicate relations between countries with competing claims to Arctic territory — particularly as exploration for oil and natural gas becomes possible in once inaccessible areas.”

Melting Ice Could Push Penguins to Extinction. By Catherine Brahic, New Scientist, January 27, 2009. “A group of researchers have combined what is known about emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) ecology with forecasts from 10 leading climate change models to forecast the future of the species. It doesn’t look good. The models predict that, unless fossil fuels are phased out, there is more than a one-in-three chance that 95% of the Adélie Land colony of eastern Antarctica — the best studied emperor penguin colony [featured in the documentary, March of the Penguins] — will be gone by 2100.”

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