Saturday, March 3, 2007

Global Warming even worse than expected! When will our candidates speak up?

Der Spiegel has received the not-yet-published draft of the second part of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. It's worse than you think! Global warming is happening even faster than was thought, and the damage is even worse than was expected!

Among the evidence:
* Glacial lakes are increasing in both size and number, potentially leading to deadly floods
* Permafrost in mountainous regions and at high latitudes is warming increasing the danger of land slides.
* As the temperature of rivers and lakes rises, their thermal stratification and water quality is changing.
* River currents, affected by melting glaciers and ice, are speeding up during the spring.
* Springtime is starting earlier, causing plants to bloom earlier and changing the migrations of birds.
* Many plants and animals are expanding their habitats into mountainous regions and higher latitudes that are becoming milder.
And among the expected effects:
The UN climate panel expects "increasing deaths, injuries and illness from heat waves, floods, storms, forest fires and droughts." The draft summary for policymakers details "heat-related mortality" especially in Europe and Asia.

Several hundred million people in densely populated coastal regions -- particularly river deltas in Asia -- are threatened by rising sea levels and the increasing risk of flooding. More than one-sixth of the world's population lives in areas affected by water sources from glaciers and snow pack that will "very likely" disappear, according to the report.
Even in seemingly small ways, the evidence continues to accumulate. Today's New York Times reports that:
Warmer-than-usual winters are throwing things out of kilter, causing confusion among maple syrup producers, called sugar makers, and stoking fears for the survival of New England’s maple forests.

“We can’t rely on tradition like we used to,” said Mr. Morse, 58, who once routinely began the sugaring season by inserting taps into trees around Town Meeting Day, the first Tuesday in March, and collecting sap to boil into syrup up until about six weeks later. The maple’s biological clock is set by the timing of cold weather.

For at least 10 years some farmers have been starting sooner. But last year Mr. Morse tapped his trees in February and still missed out on so much sap that instead of producing his usual 1,000 gallons of syrup, he made only 700.
On February 23, Minnesota Public Radio reported that:
Duluth researchers say Lake Superior is quickly warming, even faster than the climate around the lake. They think they know why. But what's unclear, is what a warmer lake will mean to the plants and animals that call Lake Superior home.
On February 21, Reuters reported that:
The Inuit of Arctic Canada and Alaska are bearing the brunt of global warming and their way of life is in peril, an international human rights body will be told next month.

Inuit activists hope a hearing on Arctic climate change by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will lead to reduced emissions and will help to protect the culture of the northern native people.
And on February 16, AFP reported:
World temperatures in January were the highest ever recorded for that month of the year, US government scientists said.

"The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the highest for any January on record," according to scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climate Data Center in Asheville, N.C.
It is time for our Presidential candidates to get real about climate change! It is time for them to stop simply acknowledging the scientific evidence while criticizing the Bush Administration for ignoring it! It is time for an end to applause lines and a beginning to explanations of what they plan to do about it! No issue is more important, not even the war! The potential consequences of Global Warming and Climate Change dwarf those of any other political issue humanity has ever faced!

On February 7, the editors of the leading scientific journal, Nature, succinctly explained that of current efforts to address climate change:
The trouble is, none of this is even close to being sufficient to meet the challenge.
And they identified a key reason why:
Even the most progressive governments continue to put the issue of climate change on the back seat behind their fundamental commitment to strong economic growth, which is needed to ensure political survival (in developed countries) and to enable human dignity (in developing countries).
But while it may considered politically suicidal to honestly address the short-term economic sacrifices that we will have to make, the long-term costs of not making them will be many times worse! In testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sir Nicholas Stern, senior advisor to the British government on the economic impact of climate change, explained that:
...from an economic perspective alone, the US cannot afford to wait to take action. "If we don't act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be the equivalent to losing at least five per cent of GDP each year now and forever," concluded his report. "If a wider range of risks is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20 per cent of GDP or more."
So, that ought to allay any criticism from those too timid to face the real costs- the human and environmental costs! There are no excuses! It's time to talk tough!

The United Nations Foundation has already produced a comprehensive report: Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding The Unmanageable And Managing The Unavoidable.

Have any of our candidates read it? Have any spoken about it?

We decry our candidates' lack of political courage, when it comes to Iraq, but the real act of political courage, the real act of leadership will be to talk honestly and aggressively about addressing Global Warming and Climate Change. My vote will go to the candidate who most convinces me on this single issue! We must demand answers! It's time for them to speak up! We're waiting!

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