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Global Warming Wrap-up for 2004

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  • mtneuman@juno.com
    Global Warming Wrap-up for 2004 Friday, 31 December 2004 by Michael T. Neuman Madison Independent Media Center Wisconsin, US Summary: In 2001, the the United
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 2, 2005
      Global Warming Wrap-up for 2004
      Friday, 31 December 2004
      by Michael T. Neuman
      Madison Independent Media Center
      Wisconsin, US

      Summary: In 2001, the the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on
      Climate Change (IPCC) produced a three-volume report on global climate
      change, concluding there is new and stronger evidence that most of the
      warming observed over the last 50 years can be attributed to human
      activities, specifically to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and
      other "greenhouse gases".

      At the request of the White House, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
      appointed a panel of scientists to address the issue and examine the
      validity of the IPCC report. That panel produced its own report,
      concluding "there is general agreement that the observed warming is real
      and particularly strong within the past 20 years" and "the changes
      observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human

      2004 produced a number of studies further reconfirming these
      observations, yet mainstream media and various fossil fuel industry front
      groups continue to argue global warming is a phenomenon of nature, that
      it's not a significant problem, and that individuals and groups who claim
      it's a problem are no more than environmental extremists using fear
      mongering tactics to scare people. They could be no further from the
      truth, as scientific study results from 2004 attest.

      Full Text: In 2001, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
      which includes hundreds of scientists selected from all over the world,
      published a landmark three-volume report on global climate change: "IPCC
      Third Assessment Report - Climate Change 2001". Three years in
      preparation, the document was and still is considered the most
      comprehensive and up-to-date scientific assessment of global warming.
      It's stated purpose was to be "the standard scientific reference for all
      those concerned with the environmental and social consequences of climate
      change, including students and researchers in ecology, biology,
      hydrology, environmental science, economics, social science, natural
      resource management, public health, food security, and natural hazards,
      and policymakers and managers in governmental, industry, and other
      organizations responsible for resources likely to be affected by climate
      change." It contained the following conclusions:

      * "Human activities have increased the atmospheric concentrations of
      greenhouse gases and aerosols since the pre-industrial era. The
      atmospheric concentrations of key anthropogenic greenhouse gases (i.e.,
      carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and
      tropospheric ozone (O3)) reached their highest recorded levels in the
      1990s, primarily due to the combustion of fossil fuels, agriculture, and
      land-use changes."

      * "An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a
      warming world and other changes in the climate system. The increase in
      surface temperature over the 20th century for the Northern Hemisphere is
      likely to have been greater than that for any other century in the last
      thousand years."

      * "Changes in sea level, snow cover, ice extent, and precipitation are
      consistent with a warming climate near the Earth's surface. Recent
      regional changes in climate, particularly increases in temperature, have
      already affected hydrological systems and terrestrial and marine
      ecosystems in many parts of the world. Observed changes in regional
      climate have affected many physical and biological systems, and there are
      preliminary indications that social and economic systems have been

      * "There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed
      over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities. The severity
      of the adverse impacts will be larger for greater cumulative emissions of
      greenhouse gases and associated changes in climate. Overall, climate
      change is projected to increase threats to human health, particularly in
      lower income populations, predominantly within tropical/subtropical

      * "Ecological productivity and biodiversity will be altered by climate
      change and sea level rise, with an increased risk of extinction of some
      vulnerable species. Models of cereal crops indicate that in some
      temperate areas potential yields increase with small increases in
      temperature but decrease with larger temperature changes."

      * "In most tropical and subtropical regions, potential yields are
      projected to decrease for most projected increases in temperature.
      Climate change will exacerbate water shortages in many water-scarce areas
      of the world."

      * "The aggregated market sector effects, measured as changes in gross
      domestic product (GDP), are estimated to be negative for many developing
      countries for all magnitudes of global mean temperature increases
      studied, and are estimated to be mixed for developed countries for up to
      a few �C warming and negative for warming beyond a few degrees.

      * "Populations that inhabit small islands and/or low-lying coastal areas
      are at particular risk of severe social and economic effects from
      sea-level rise and storm surges. The impacts of climate change will fall
      disproportionately upon developing countries and the poor persons within
      all countries, and thereby exacerbate inequities in health status and
      access to adequate food, clean water, and other resources.

      * "Greater and more rapid climate change would pose greater challenges
      for adaptation and greater risks of damages than would lesser and slower

      * "Greenhouse gas forcing in the 21st century could set in motion
      largescale, high-impact, non-linear, and potentially abrupt changes in
      physical and biological systems over the coming decades to millennia,
      with a wide range of associated likelihoods."

      * "The projected rate and magnitude of warming and sea-level rise can be
      lessened by reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

      * "The greater the reductions in emissions and the earlier they are
      introduced, the smaller
      and slower the projected warming and the rise in sea levels."

      * "Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to stabilize their atmospheric
      concentrations would delay and reduce damages caused by climate change."

      * "Greenhouse gas emission reduction (mitigation) actions would lessen
      the pressures on natural and human systems from climate change."

      * "Mitigation actions to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of
      greenhouse gases at
      lower levels would generate greater benefits in terms of less damage."

      About the same time as the IPCC was releasing its landmark 2001 third
      climate assessment report, the Bush administration was announcing the
      U.S.'s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol agreement, a document
      negotiated and endorsed by the Clinton administration in 1997. The Kyoto
      Protocol sets caps on aggregate greenhouse gas emissions from the more
      developed countries of the world, which are also those that emit the most
      greenhouse gases on a per capita basis. President Bush cited the
      potential for economic harm in reducing fossil fuel burning and
      uncertainty in "the science" of global warming as reasons for his
      reneging on the agreement.

      On May 11, 2001, the White House requested "assistance" from the National
      Academy of Sciences (NAS) "in identifying the areas in the science of
      climate change where there are the greatest certainties and
      uncertainties," and the NAS's views on whether there are any substantive
      differences between the IPCC Reports and the IPCC summaries.

      The NAS appointed a panel of scientists to address the Bush
      administration's request and evaluate the IPCC report and its
      conclusions. The panel produced its own report: "Climate Change Science:
      An Analysis of Some Key Questions (2001)", which asserted the following:

      * "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of
      human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean
      temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes
      observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human
      activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these
      changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced
      warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through
      the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by computer model
      simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include increases in
      rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid regions to
      drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on the
      magnitude of the warming and the rate with which it occurs."

      * "The IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50
      years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas
      concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific
      community on this issue."

      * "There is general agreement that the observed warming is real and
      particularly strong within the past 20 years", and "the changes observed
      over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities".

      A listing of findings published in scientific journals and government and
      university web sites from January 2004 to December 2004 follows.

      January 8

      Global warming over the next half-century could put more than a million
      species of plants and animals on the road to extinction, according to an
      international study. A quarter of all species of plants and land
      animals, or more than a million in all, could be driven to extinction,
      said Chris Thomas, professor of Conservation Biology at England's
      University of Leeds ... more than one-third of 1,103 native species
      studied in six regions around the world could vanish or plunge to near
      extinction by 2050 as climate change turns plains into deserts or alters
      forests. Among the already threatened species that could go extinct are
      Australia's Boyd's forest dragon, Europe's azure-winged magpie and
      Mexico's Jico deer mouse.

      The researchers concede there are many uncertainties in both climate
      forecasts and the computer models they used to forecast future
      extinctions. But they said their dire conclusions may well come to pass
      if industrial nations do not curtail emissions of greenhouse gases that
      trap heat in the atmosphere.

      February 2

      The highest layers of the Earth's atmosphere are cooling and contracting,
      most likely in response to increasing levels of greenhouse gases at the
      lower levels which trap the heat below, according to a new study by
      scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory.

      In a paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics, Dr.
      John Emmert and his colleagues, Drs. Michael Picone, Judith Lean, and
      Stephen Knowles, report that the average density of the thermosphere has
      decreased by about 10% during the past 35 years. The thermosphere is the
      highest layer in the atmosphere, and begins at an altitude of about 90 km
      (56 mi).

      February 24

      The permafrost in the bogs of subarctic Sweden is undergoing dramatic
      changes. The part of the soil that thaws in the summer, the so-called
      active layer, has become thicker since 1970, and the permafrost has
      disappeared altogether in some locations. This has lead to significant
      changes in the vegetation and to a subsequent increase in emission of the
      greenhouse gas methane. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon
      dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

      March 29

      The Antarctic Peninsula is undergoing greater warming than almost
      anywhere on Earth and the Peninsula's Larsen Ice Shelf, the third largest
      ice shelf in Antarctica, has experienced catastrophic decay since the mid

      April 6

      Loggerhead sea turtles along Florida's Atlantic coast are laying their
      eggs about 10 days earlier than they did 15 years ago, a change that a
      University of Central Florida researcher believes has been caused by
      global warming.

      The found that as the near-shore ocean temperatures increased by nearly
      1.5 degrees Fahrenheit from 1989 to 2003, the median nesting dates for
      loggerheads gradually became earlier. In 2003, half of the turtles' nests
      were laid before June 19, compared with before June 29 in 1989.

      April 15

      A North Atlantic Ocean circulation system weakened considerably in the
      late 1990s, compared to the 1970s and 1980s, according to a NASA study.
      It is a signal of large climate variability in the high latitudes and
      could indicate reorganization of the ocean climate system, perhaps with
      changes in the whole climate system", said the study.

      April 29

      Millions of poor and minority children in America's cities likely will
      suffer even higher rates of asthma as the result of a powerful one-two
      punch of higher levels of pollen and changes in the types of molds
      spurred by global warming along with unhealthy urban air masses caused by
      the burning of fossil fuel by cars, trucks and buses, according to a
      report by Harvard researchers and the American Public Health Association

      The problem is particularly grave since asthma among pre-school children
      already is at epidemic levels, having grown 160 percent between
      1980-1994, more than twice the rate (75 percent) for the overall U.S.
      population, according to "Inside the Greenhouse: The Impacts of CO2 and
      Climate Change on Public Health in the Inner City", a report released by
      the Center for Health and Global Environment at the Harvard Medical
      School. The highest incidence of asthma cases already is found among
      low-income and African American toddlers, a large share of whom live in
      urban areas.


      May 5

      Warmer temperatures, less snow and less lake ice in recent decades have
      made Michigan's winter tourism industry one of the early victims of a
      changing climate.

      Ski-resort operators say the average length of the winter season has
      shrunk one to two weeks. "We're fortunate we can make snow," said Jim
      MacInnes, president of the Crystal Mountain ski resort near Cadillac.
      "Whether this is just an anomaly or a long-term trend it's hard for me to
      know, but I do believe global warming is a real issue."

      Michigan is not alone. Rather than a distant theoretical possibility,
      most scientists agree that global warming in the United States is a
      here-and-now reality. From the drought-parched Rocky Mountains to
      Florida's beaches to the hardwood forests of New England, early signs of
      climate change are virtually everywhere.

      Evidence that the impact of global warming is already being felt "is
      becoming overwhelming," said John Magnuson, a professor emeritus at the
      University of Wisconsin who authored a landmark study of lake ice. It
      found a 150-year warming trend throughout the Northern Hemisphere. "I
      think we're just beginning to recognize that it's happening everywhere
      and the effects are different in the different regions of the country and
      different parts of the world."

      June 16

      Governments and consumers in the United States and worldwide should take
      immediate steps to reduce the threat of global warming and to prepare for
      a future in which coastal flooding, reduced crop yields and elevated
      rates of climate-related illness are all but certain, top U.S. scientists

      At a meeting organized by AAAS and its journal, Science, the climate
      researchers argued that while some policy experts and sectors of the
      public dispute the risk, there is in fact no cause for doubt: The world
      is significantly warmer today than it was a century ago--and it's getting
      warmer. Without action now, they warned, the impact could be devastating.

      As the Earth warms, ice sheets are melting and sea levels are
      rising--island and river-delta communities already are vanishing beneath
      the waves. Native Inuit fishermen are falling through thinning Arctic ice
      they've traversed many times before. In recent decades, climate change
      claimed some 150,000 lives in 2000 and sickened many others, especially
      elderly people and very young children, according to the World Health

      September 23

      Glaciers in West Antarctica are shrinking at a rate substantially higher
      than observed in the 1990s. They are losing 60 percent more ice into the
      Amundsen Sea than they accumulate from inland snowfall.

      The study was conducted by a science team from NASA, U.S. universities
      and from the Centro de Estudios Cient�ficos in Chile. It is based on
      satellite data and comprehensive measurements made in 2002.

      The ice loss from the measured glaciers corresponds to an annual
      sea-level rise of .008 inches (.2 millimeters) or more than 10 percent of
      the total global increase of about .07 inches (1.8 millimeters) per year.

      Ice shelves in the Amundsen Sea appear to be thinning, offering less
      resistance to their tributary glaciers. Our measurements show an increase
      in glacier thinning rates that affects not only the mouth of the glacier,
      but also 60 miles (100 kilometers) to 190 miles (300 kilometers) inland,
      according to the study.

      November 9

      A report by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, "Observed Impacts of
      Global Climate Change in the U.S.", by Camille Parmesan of The University
      of Texas at Austin and Hector Galbraith of Galbraith Environmental
      Sciences and the University of Colorado-Boulder, reviews the broad range
      of ecological changes that have occurred in response to human induced
      changes in the global and U.S. climate.

      Numerous changes have already been observed and these changes have a
      range of implications for the United States, its ecosystems, and
      biodiversity. The responses of plants and animals to a changing climate
      are indicative of their natural ability to adapt, yet future global
      warming is likely to exceed the ability of many species to migrate or
      adjust. Furthermore, one species' success in coping with climate change
      may be another species' failure. The red fox, for example, is expanding
      into the range of the arctic fox, forcing the arctic fox into an
      ever-contracting area.

      Other observed changes include a long-term trend toward an earlier
      spring, with earlier flowering and reproduction of plant and bird
      species. Butterflies on the U.S. west coast are moving north and to
      higher altitudes in search of tolerable climate conditions, with some
      populations disappearing altogether from the southern end of their
      ranges. And perhaps most alarming -- the frozen Arctic tundra is thawing,
      releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in a feedback loop that could
      ultimately accelerate global warming.

      In addition, wildlife attempting to cope with current global warming must
      also contend with myriad other challenges such as habitat fragmentation,
      invasive species, water diversion, environmental contamination, and
      over-exploitation, all of which collectively undermine their ability to

      November 24

      The International Arctic Science Committee reported that average winter
      temperatures in the Arctic are up by 4 to 7 degrees over the past 50
      years and now projected to rise by 7 to 14 degrees over the next 100

      Polar ice during the summer is projected to decline by 50 percent by the
      end of this century. Warming over Greenland will lead to substantial
      melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, contributing to global sea level rise
      at an increasing rate. Greenland's ice sheets contain enough water to
      raise the sea level by about 23 feet.

      The Arctic Assessment report said the region is warming twice as fast as
      the rest of the globe, partly because dark ground or water, once
      uncovered, soaks up more heat than ice or snow.

      November 29

      A team headed by Qiang Fu, a University of Washington atmospheric
      sciences associate professor, finds that the troposphere has been warming
      at about two-tenths of a degree Celsius, or nearly one-third of a degree
      Fahrenheit, per decade. That closely resembles measurements of warming at
      the surface, something climate models have suggested would result if the
      warmer surface temperatures are the result of greenhouse gases.

      The findings are important because, for years, satellite data
      inconsistent with warming at the surface have fueled the debate about
      whether climate change is actually occurring.

      December 14

      By 2050 heatwaves like that of 2003, which killed 15,000 in Europe and
      pushed British temperatures above 38C (100F) for the first time, will
      seem "unusually cool", the Hadley Centre for Climate Change says.

      In its report "Uncertainty, Risk and Dangerous Climate Change", it
      estimates that average temperatures will rise by 3.5C, well above the 2C
      which the EU says is the limit to avoid catastrophic global warming.

      It also says that the Greenland ice sheet could disappear, ultimately
      raising the global sea level by 7 metres. This could proceed at the rate
      of 5.5mm a year, and this with the 3mm rise caused by the thermal
      expansion of sea water would soon put large part of Britain, including
      the London docklands, under threat.

      Once that process began it would be impossible to "regrow" the ice cap,
      the report says.

      December 15

      New and updated satellite data from Greenland, the Canadian Arctic and
      Antarctica show parts of these regions are rapidly melting and
      contributing three times more water to sea level rises now than

      The melting appears to be in direct response to the surface air
      temperature warming and is occurring in months rather than in centuries
      as previously believed.

      The ice mass of Greenland's largest glacier, the Jakobshavn Isbrae, began
      its charge seaward in the early 1990s in response to warmer air
      temperatures. By the mid-1990s it was the world's fastest glacier, moving
      at an unglacial clip of seven km a year. By 1997 it began to accelerate,
      and NASA says today it travels 13 km a year, dumping enormous amounts of
      ice into the sea. In 2003 alone the Jakobshavn Isbrae contributed about
      four percent of the estimated rate of sea level rise worldwide. Canadian
      and Alaskan glaciers are undergoing similar transformations, which began
      in the late 1990s and appear to be accelerating as well.

      The Arctic's perennial sea ice is also in decline. While this floating
      ice, which lasts year-long, does not contribute to sea level rise, any
      reduction in its coverage area allows more heat from the sun to be
      absorbed by the Arctic Ocean. That leads to more sea ice loss, which in
      turn means more open ocean for the sun to warm.

      December 15, 2004

      In the first ever comprehensive assessment of global warming's likely
      consequences for North American wildlife, the Wildlife Society's report,
      Global Climate Change and Wildlife in North America, finds that "there is
      sufficient evidence to indicate that many species are already responding
      to warming, and that animals and plants are already exhibiting
      discernible range changes consistent with changing temperatures.

      The report also details the disruption of essential ecological processes,
      displacement or disappearance of coastal wetlands species, significant
      loss of coastal marshes and disruption of alpine and Arctic ecosystems.
      Direct threats to many species are reported, including polar bears,
      migratory songbirds and waterfowl and alpine amphibians.

      The report is the distillation of a two-year review by a professional
      panel of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific reports examining the
      wildlife implications of global warming.

      December 15, 2004

      In one of the most comprehensive studies that plants in the Northeast are
      responding to the global warming trend, Cornell scientists and their
      colleagues at the University of Wisconsin found lilacs are blooming about
      four days earlier than they did in 1965.

      The lilacs were planted to help farmers predict planting and harvest
      dates, but have now provided scientists with a historical record of bloom

      The Cornell study also included apples and grapes at four sites in New
      York, finding blooming occurring six to eight days earlier in 2004 than
      in 1965.

      December 16

      According to a report by the World Meteorological Organization, 2004 was
      the fourth-hottest year on record, extending a trend since 1990 that has
      registered the 10 warmest years. 2004 was also the most expensive for the
      insurance industry in coping worldwide with hurricanes, typhoons and
      other weather-related natural disasters.

      Michel Jarraud, the World Meteorological Organization secretary-general,
      said the warming and increased storm activity could not be attributed to
      any particular cause, but was part of a global warming trend that was
      likely to continue.

      Scientists have reported that temperatures across the globe rose an
      average of 1 degree over the past century with the rate of change since
      1976 at roughly three times that over the past 100 years.

      December 26

      Grass has become established in Antarctica for the first time, showing
      the continent is warming to temperatures unseen for 10,000 years.
      Scientists have reported that broad areas of grass are now forming turf
      where there were once ice-sheets and glaciers.

      Recommended Action

      We need to immediately declare war on global warming, and demand our
      governmental representatives do the same. We must begin taking major and
      significant actions, both individually and collectively, to bring about
      major reductions in the rate that greenhouse gases are accumulating in
      our atmosphere, from all human activities.

      Some of the key sources of greenhouse gases are from burning fuels for
      travel in cars, diesel fuel in trucks, locomotives, ships and airplanes,
      and from burning coal and natural gas in electric power generation plants
      and residential and industrial furnaces. These sources of greenhouse gas
      emissions (predominantly carbon dioxide) add to the already present
      "natural" background levels of carbon dioxide, which is released in
      photosynthesis from plants. The additional emissions from fossil fuel
      burning have lead to higher than natural volumes of carbon dioxide gas
      being present in the atmosphere, thus increasing the ability of the
      atmosphere to "trap" more heat close to the Earth's surface.

      There are tremendous benefits in reducing fossil fuel burning, including
      protecting public health, wildlife protection, cleaning up the air and
      saving agricultural lands. We should demand our state and local
      governmental representatives begin to enact and fund the kind of programs
      and mandates that will bring about major local and state reductions in
      greenhouse gas emissions from all public and private sources, especially
      in the transportation sector, which is the largest CO2 emitting sector of
      the U.S. economy.

      One such program, recommended by the writer, can be found on the
      following web site address:

      At the national level, we need to accept the target greenhouse gas
      emission levels identified for the U.S. by the Kyoto Protocol, which was
      signed by the Vice President of the United States, and Congress,
      governors and local goverments should begin taking actions immediately
      for the U.S. to meet those targets.

      The U.S. emits the largest annual amount of greenhouse gases to the
      atmosphere so it ought be making the largest cut in its annual greenhouse
      gas emissions. It should have raised fuel efficiency standards for motor
      vehicles manufactured in the U.S. years ago, and it should now be
      enacting laws and funding programs as part of the energy bill that will
      bring about significant annual reductions in motor vehicle miles driven,
      and flown, by U.S. citizens; and major reductions in energy use from
      fossil fuel burning sources.

      Global warming is for all intents and purposes undeniable now, as is its
      primary cause -- too much fossil fuel buring in the transportation,
      industrial, commercial and residential sectors. It's time for action.
      see also: http://www.madison.com/communities/preserveourclimate

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