Hurricane Sandy's wake-up call
Climate chaos rears its head even as pols look away
Published: November 7, 2012
The costs keep mounting.
Also mounting is evidence of just how severe the problem has become, and why it is only likely to accelerate if concerted action isn't taken quickly.
A September editorial in The Washington Post did a good job of explaining exactly what's going on:
"The Arctic is getting warmer faster than almost anywhere else on Earth. The latest evidence came in an announcement from the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center saying that, as of Aug. 26, the Arctic sea ice cover shrunk to 1.58 million square miles this summer, the smallest area since satellite measurements began in 1979. ...
"Over the past three decades, the average extent of the Arctic sea ice has declined by 25 to 30 percent, and the rate of decline is accelerating. In the past, older, thicker ice would drift away and be replaced by seasonal ice. But now more of the older ice is melting in the Arctic, a phenomenon that had been relatively rare. Also, less seasonal ice is replacing it."
What's even more unnerving is something scientists refer to as the "feedback effect," which is associated with this change.
As the Arctic ice cap recedes, more water is exposed. Instead of sunlight being reflected off of that ice, it is absorbed by greater expanses of ocean water, thereby accelerating the warming process.
"The implications of this are profound," the Post's editorial board warns, " not only as an indicator of global climate change but also of changes in sea levels, freshwater, the Earth's energy balance, the biosphere and the livelihoods of millions of people.
"Climate change is happening, yet humans have been terribly slow to curb fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases and cause the atmosphere to warm. The United States, caught in political gridlock and lacking consensus on the global-warming threat, has failed to take the lead. The latest reports of the shrinking Arctic ice should shock Congress and the president into more aggressive action, but both branches of government have been timid in the face of one of the great challenges of our age — and one that will haunt future generations."
Those who try to deny that man is responsible for rising temperatures and extreme weather benefit when doubt is sown. The last thing the fossil fuel industry wants to see is certainty regarding global warming, and so big coal and oil (and their proxies at so-called think tanks and the like) do their best to promote the idea that what's going on is the result of some natural cycle of planetary cooling and heating.
Those cycles certainly exist.
But that doesn't mean the abundance of greenhouse gases man has been pumping into the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate since the start of the Industrial Revolution isn't beginning to have a devastating impact on the world's climate.
How many more Hurricane Sandys will it take before America's leaders treat this problem with the urgency it deserves?
And how much longer will the rest off us accept their inaction and silence?
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