Warming earth’s sick: scientists
The “dramatic acceleration” of Arctic climate change needs a cure
COPENHAGEN — The earth is sick and needs to go on a diet or it may die, say scientists at this week’s conference on Arctic climate change and pollution.
Sickness is the image which best describes the critical state of the warming planet, suggest the authors of a new climate change report, Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic, released May 4 in Copenhagen.
The earth is like a person in a movie theatre, who is gorging on a bag of popcorn buttered with oil and gas, they say.
Soon this bag will be empty, but the signs of indigestion are already becoming more and more evident and acute.
Just because some places in the Arctic and elsewhere experienced colder weather this past winter doesn’t mean a thing: the earth is still sick, they say.
Sometimes there may be normal years when the earth appears to have recovered, but the “attacks” won’t stop: in the Arctic, these show up as extreme events like severe storms and more snow.
The authors of the SWIPA study, who met with reporters during the conference, say they see a “dramatic acceleration” of all the warming “symptoms” or signs which previous climate change studies predicted.
For the Arctic, these include:
• increased melt of Greenland’s ice sheet, which means sea level rise will be higher than forecasts in earlier reports;
• increased summer sea ice melt in the Arctic Ocean, once predicted to be heading towards an ice-free summer state by 2100— but which may now occur as early as 2035 or 2040;
• thinner sea ice, which will melt more easily and become more dangerous for travel;
• more acidification of the Arctic Ocean water, which can prove fatal to sea life;
• increased glacial melting in all Arctic regions, which will lead to more floods, run-off and landslides;
• higher temperatures and a “profound loss” of Arctic lake ice, particularly in the High Arctic;
• shorter ice duration, with freeze-up later by 10.7 days, and break-up earlier by 8.8 days;
• more contamination released by melting ice and snow, which ends up in fish, birds, marine mammals — and people.
That’s in addition to changes in Arctic Ocean and wind currents and lower numbers of some migratory seabirds.
Scientists admit there are many uncertainties about what the future holds for the Arctic, and the entire world.
But, as they work towards a global assessment of climate change — which one scientist described as a CAT-scan for the world, we should treat the “climate change disease” not by talking about the symptoms, but by developing geo-engineering techniques to lower the earth’s temperature, for example.
By finding ways to absorb or reflect heat, geo-engineers could cool down air, land and sea temperatures.
Ideas to soak up heat include adding iron to the oceans, so more plankton can grow and eat the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, and seeding clouds with tiny particles to soak up and reflect heat.
Ideas for reflecting heat off the land include using huge, aerial sunshades, white-painted roofs white and reflective reflectors on the land to bounce sunlight back into the atmosphere, or even a using a “space hose” to create more clouds in the northern latitudes.
Controlling the size of the earth’s population could also help deal with climate change, even in the Arctic, where climate change will be more intense, scientists at the Copenhagen conference say.
That’s a because if the earth gets “fatter,” actions taken to curb warming won’t keep pace with growth and the global hunger for fossil fuel