Earth Headed for Global Warming Catastrophe
- This is what will happen if we don't get more carfree cities in America,
and elsewhere, like now!
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Earth Headed for Global Warming Catastrophe
by Michael T. Neuman
04 Oct 2005
Summary: A leading worldwide climate research institute in Hamburg,
Germany predicted last week that the Earth is heading for a climate
catastrophe in the next 100 years, with sea ice in the North Pole
region predicted to completely melt in summer and extreme weather
events increasing in both frequency and strength.
The study is being followed up this week by the release of a report
from the UK's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
to the presidency of the European Union, on the impact of climate
change on migratory species. The report details and predicts major
losses in many of the world's animal populations with continued
The releases come on the heels of another release issued by National
Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), a part of the Cooperative Institute
for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado,
Boulder, which has reported that summer Arctic sea ice fell far below
average for the fourth year, with winter ice seeing sharp declines,
and spring melts beginning much earlier that even 10 years ago.
Meanwhile, the U.S. mainstream media and government continue to
abdicate their responsibility to appropriately inform and alert
Americans to the growing threat of global warming, as well as the
need for timely and responsive change to slow global warming through
massive reductions in fuel burning and other greenhouse gas releasing
Text: According to the climate prediction calculations of scientists
at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, over the next
century the climate will change more quickly than it ever has in the
recent history of the earth.
Researchers from the institute said computer simulation at the German
High Performance Computing Center for Climate and Earth System
Research has shown that average global temperature would increase
rise by 4.1� Celsius (�C) by 2100, or roughly 7 times the
global average surface warming rate over the 20th century of 0.6�C.
Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse
gases originating from human activities including fossil fuel burning
are changing the radiation budget of the earth. The accumulation of
such gases in the atmosphere is predicted to continue rising for the
As a consequence of the higher buildup of greenhouse "heat-trapping"
gases in the atmosphere, the global mean temperature rises. The
scientists expect that under certain conditions, sea ice in the
arctic will completely melt. In Europe, summers will be drier and
warmer, and this will affect agriculture. The winters will become
warmer and wetter. Another consequence of the heated atmosphere will
be extreme events like heavy precipitation with floods. Sea level
could rise on average by as many as 30 centimeters.
Expressing concern at the findings, Klaus Toepfer, who heads of the
United Nations Environment Program, said that the study's results
underlined the need to address the issue immediately, especially in
wake of recent anomalies shown by the weather throughout the world.
The Max Planck Institute for Meteorology is one of the leading
worldwide climate research facilities. The results of the research
were presented to media representatives at a press conference held
September 29, 2005 in Hamburg.
The National Snow and Ice Date Center (NSIDC) says Arctic
temperatures have increased significantly in recent decades. Compared
to the past 50 years, average surface air temperatures from January
through August, 2005, were 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 5.4 degrees
Fahrenheit) warmer than average across most of the Arctic Ocean. In
Alaska last week, satellite images released by two US universities
and the space agency NASA revealed that the amount of sea-ice cover
over the polar ice cap has fallen dramatically over the past four
The persistence of near-record low extents leads the group to
conclude that Arctic sea ice is likely on an accelerating, long-term
This summer, the legendary Northwest Passage through the Canadian
Arctic from Europe to Asia was completely open except for a 60-mile
swath of scattered ice floes. In earlier centuries, whole expeditions
were lost as their crews tried to beat through thick ice and bitter
cold. The Northeast Passage, north of the Siberian coast, was
completely ice-free from August 15 through September 28.
Global sea level is strongly influenced by atmospheric and ocean
water temperatures. Aside from precipitation, the melting of large
ice sheets over land (Greenland, Antarctic, mountain glaciers) and
thermal expansion of sea water are cited as the two main reasons why
increasing sea levels are predicted with global warming.
Since the ocean is able to store large amounts of heat, the sea level
will continue to rise even after the concentrations of the different
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are not increasing any more.
Regional differences in the sea level changes are caused by changes
of the ocean circulation and the hydrologic cycle (precipitation
minus evaporation). In the high southern latitudes changes of the sea
level during the 21st century are comparatively small; in the Arctic
Ocean, however, sea level rises more than twice as much relative to
the global mean, due to an increasing fresh water influx from rivers
Almost mirroring predictions made by the Union of Concerned
Scientists for various regions of the U.S., the Max Planck Institute
for Meteorology predicts summers in Europe will be drier and warmer,
while winters will become warmer and wetter. It is expected that the
sea ice in the North Pole region will completely melt in the summer.
Since 2002, satellite records have also revealed that springtime
melting is beginning unusually early in the areas north of Alaska and
Siberia. The 2005 melt season arrived even earlier, beating the mean
melt onset date by approximately 17 days, this time throughout the
The reports show a remarkable consistency with "Earlier in the Year
Snowmelt Runoff and Increasing Dewpoints for Rivers in Minnesota,
Wisconsin and North Dakota", by Twin Cities area hydrologist Patrick
J. Neuman, who found the date of first annual snowmelt in 3 major
river basins in the Northern Great Plains and the headwaters of the
Upper Mississippi River System has jumped back 3 weeks, on average,
in the last 50 years.
The trend in sea ice decline, lack of winter recovery, early onset of
spring melting, and warmer-than-average temperatures suggest a system
that is trapped in a loop of positive feedbacks, in which responses
to inputs into the system cause it to shift even further away from
normal, claims Roger Barry of the National Snow & Ice Data Center
located at the University of Colorado.
One of these positive feedbacks centers on increasingly warm
temperatures. Serreze explained that as sea ice declines because of
warmer temperatures, the loss of ice is likely to lead to still-
further ice losses. Sea ice reflects much of the sun's radiation back
into space, whereas dark ice-free ocean absorbs more of the sun's
energy. As sea ice melts, Earth's overall albedo, the fraction of
energy reflected away from the planet, decreases. The increased
absorption of energy further warms the planet.
"Feedbacks in the system are starting to take hold," argues NSIDC
Lead Scientist Ted Scambos. Moreover, these feedbacks could change
our estimate of the rate of decline of sea ice. "Right now, our
projections for the future use a steady linear decline, but when
feedbacks are involved the decline is not necessarily steady�it
could pick up speed."
"Almost everywhere on earth, the forestry industry will have to
husband different types of trees than it has until now", says Dr.
Erich Roeckner, the project leader of the model calculations in
Of even more significance than the impacts of global warming on
forestry will be the impacts on the world's animal populations. A
report that's being presented to the UK Presidency of the European
Union this week in Aviemore, Scotland by the UK Department for the
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs finds that: four out of five
migratory birds listed by the UN face problems ranging from lower
water tables to increased droughts, spreading deserts and shifting
food supplies in their crucial "fuelling stations" as they migrate;
one-third of turtle nesting sites in the Caribbean - home to
diminishing numbers of green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles -
would be swamped by a sea level rise of 50cm (20ins); shallow waters
used by the endangered Mediterranean monk seal, dolphins, dugongs and
manatees will slowly disappear; whales, salmon, cod, penguins and
kittiwakes are being affected by shifts in distribution and abundance
of krill and plankton, which has declined in places to a hundredth or
thousandth of former numbers because of warmer sea-surface
temperatures; and fewer chiffchaffs, blackbirds, robins and song
thrushes are migrating from the UK due to warmer winters while egg-
laying is also getting two to three weeks earlier than 30 years ago,
showing a change in the birds' biological clocks.
John Keogak, 47, an Inuvialuit from Canada's North-West Territories,
hunts polar bears, seals, caribou and musk ox. "The polar bear is
part of our culture," he said. "They use the ice as a hunting ground
for the seals. If there is no ice there is no way the bears will be
able to catch the seals." He said the number of bears was decreasing
and feared his children might not be able to hunt them. He
said: "There is an earlier break-up of ice, a later freeze-up. Now
it's more rapid. Something is happening."
Stranded polar bears are drowning in large numbers as they try to
swim hundreds of miles to find increasingly scarce ice floes. Local
hunters find their corpses floating on seas once coated in a thick
skin of ice.
It is a phenomenon that frightens the native people that live around
the Arctic. Many fear their children will never know the polar
bear. "The ice is moving further and further north," said Charlie
Johnson, 64, an Alaskan Nupiak from Nome, in the state's far
west. "In the Bering Sea the ice leaves earlier and earlier. On the
north slope, the ice is retreating as far as 300 or 400 miles
Last year, hunters found half a dozen bears that had drowned about
200 miles north of Barrow, on Alaska's northern coast. "It seems they
had tried to swim for shore ... A polar bear might be able to swim
100 miles but not 400."
"Global warming is a reality for the Inuit. They see major changes
affecting their lifestyle, with earlier springs, warmer summers and
later falls", says Arctic explorer Will Steger. "They used to dry
their meat and fish in the summer, but now it gets so warm that the
meat rots. There also is the migration of southern species
�animals, fish, even insects.
And now there is evidence that polar bears are facing an unusual
competitor - the grizzly bear. As the sub-Arctic tundra and
wastelands thaw, the grizzly is moving north, colonizing areas where
they were previously unable to survive. Life for Alaska's polar bears
is rapidly becoming very precarious.
Already listed as "critically endangered", only about 700 mountain
gorillas, including the distinctively marked adult male silverbacks,
migrate within the cloud forests of the volcanic Virunga mountains of
the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. After a
century of human persecution it faced extinction. Now its unique but
marginal mountain forests - already heavily reduced by forestry - are
shrinking, because of climate change. It will be forced to climb
higher for cooler climates, but will effectively run out of mountain.
Across Africa, habitats are shifting as temperatures rise, or
disappearing in droughts, affecting the migrations of millions of
wildebeest, and savannah elephant and Thomson's gazelle.
The number of male green turtles is falling because of rising
temperatures, threatening their survival. Turtle nests need a
temperature of precisely 28.8C to hatch even numbers of males and
The migration of the sperm whale, one of the earth's largest mammals,
made famous by Herman Melville's epic Moby-Dick, is closely linked to
the squid, its main food source. Squid numbers are affected by warmer
water and weather phenomena such as El Ni�o. Adult male sperm
up to 20 m long like cold water in the disappearing ice-packs. Warm
water cuts sperm whale reproduction because food supplies fall.
Around the Galapagos Islands, a fall in births is linked to higher
sea surface temperatures. Plankton and krill, key foods for many
cetaceans such as the pilot whale, have in some regions declined 100-
fold in warmer water.
Europe's most senior ecologists and conservationists are meeting in
Aviemore, in the Scottish Highlands, this week for a conference on
the impact of climate change on migratory species, an event organized
by the British government as part of its presidency of the European
Union. Aviemore's major winter employer - skiing - is a victim of
warmer winters. Ski slopes in the Cairngorms, which once had snow
caps year round on the highest peaks, have recently been closed down
when the winter snow failed. The snow bunting, ptarmigan and
dotterel - some of Scotland's rarest birds - are also given little
chance of survival as their harsh and marginal winter environments
The report being presented this week in Aviemore reveals this is a
pattern being repeated around the world. In the sub-Arctic tundra,
caribou are threatened by "multiple climate change impacts". Deeper
snow at higher latitudes makes it harder for caribou herds to travel.
Faster and more regular "freeze-thaw" cycles make it harder to dig
out food under thick crusts of ice-covered snow. Wetter and warmer
winters are cutting calving success, and increasing insect attacks
The same holds true for migratory wading birds such as the red knot
and the northern seal. The endangered spoon-billed sandpiper, too,
faces extinction, the report says. They are of "key concern". It says
that species "cannot shift further north as their climates become
warmer. They have nowhere left to go ... We can see, very clearly,
that most migratory species are drifting towards the poles."
"The habitats of migratory species most vulnerable to climate change
were found to be tundra, cloud forest, sea ice and low-lying coastal
areas", the report states. "Increased droughts and lowered water
tables, particularly in key areas used as 'staging posts' on
migration, were also identified as key threats stemming from climate
In many areas, it is the increase in extreme weather events that has
posed the greatest environmental as well as economic threat.
Scientists nationwide have recently compiled evidence suggesting the
intensity and frequency of hurricanes are related to global warming.
Several studies recently published by the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and Georgia Tech's School of Earth and Atmospheric
Sciences show that there is a significant statistical relationship
between the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the past few
decades and the overall rising temperature of the ocean.
The decimation Hurricane Katrina has brought to Louisiana,
Mississippi and parts of Alabama has sparked increasing scientific
concerns about the threat of global warming to the United States.
According to the National Climate Data System, Hurricane Katrina was
one of the strongest storms to impact the coast of the United States
during the last 100 years. Katrina's losses, in terms of human lives
and social-economic property loss, have yet to be fully tabulated. As
of Monday, the death toll in Louisiana alone stood at 964.
Yet many people in the U.S. remain uninformed or misinformed about
the threat of global warming and the urgency of dramatically reducing
greenhouse gas emissions from all sources in the U.S., which emits
fully one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gases from human
activity. The American corporation funded media and government at all
levels in the U.S. have abdicated their responsibilities to properly
inform citizens of the United States of the growing crisis of global
warming and the need for swift and magnanimous action to slow it
before the grave threats associated with it become reality. Corporate
controlled media and government in the U.S. have become overly
influenced by lobbyists for the oil, coal and fossil fuel dependent
industries who have a vested interest in not slowing down fuel
burning. As a result, many Americans have been misled into believing
the severity of the global warming problem is less than what the
scientific community has been predicting since 1995 when the
International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its first
report that recognizes the problem.
"Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are
- Chinese proverb