Monday, January 22, 2007
Hard Rain Journal 1-22-07: Climate Crisis Update -- At Five Minutes to Midnight, Europe at Risk
Image: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
Climate change stands alongside the use of nuclear weapons as one of the greatest threats posed to the future of the world, the Cambridge cosmologist Stephen Hawking has said.
Professor Hawking said that we stand on the precipice of a second nuclear age and a period of exceptional climate change, both of which could destroy the planet as we know it...
"As we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and a period of unprecedented climate change, scientists have a special responsibility, once again, to inform the public and to advise leaders about the perils that humanity faces," Professor Hawking said. "As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effects, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on Earth.
Steve Connor, Hawking Warns: We Must Recognize the Catastrophic Dangers of Climate Change, Independent/UK, 1-18-07
For those last stubborn holdouts still skeptical about the existence of global warming--e.g., CNN's chief corporate fascism advocate Glenn Beck, who broadcast another of his denial tirades last week--and to those who exalt the warmer weather as preferable to a snowy winter, consider the impacts on our fellow creatures. Last April an early spring in Wyoming's Teton Range caused horseflies to arrive early. The young Redtail hawks, who were still unfeathered, were devoured in their nests by the voracious bloodsuckers. Not a single baby Redtail survived to fledge in the Jackson Hole valley….The recent disruptions to animal and plant behavior are evident to anyone except for ideologically blinded right-wing flat-earthers and Exxon/Mobil's political and media toadies like Michael Crichton, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., For the Last, Stubborn Holdouts on Global Warming, Huffington Post,
Hard Rain Journal 1-22-07: Climate Crisis Update -- At Five Minutes to Midnight on the "Doomsday Clock," Europe is at Risk
By Richard Power
According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' "Doomsday Clock," it is five minutes to Midnight:
The world is nudging closer to nuclear or environmental apocalypse, a group of prominent scientists warned Wednesday as it pushed the hand of its symbolic Doomsday Clock closer to midnight. The clock, which was set two minutes forward to 11:55, represents the likelihood of a global cataclysm. Its ticks have given the clock's keepers a chance to speak out on the dangers they see threatening Earth.
It was the fourth time since the Soviet collapse in 1991 that the clock ticked forward amid fears over what the scientists describe as "a second nuclear age" prompted largely by standoffs with Iran and North Korea. But urgent warnings of climate change also played a role. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which sets the clock, was founded in 1945 as a newsletter distributed among nuclear physicists concerned about nuclear war, and midnight originally symbolized a widespread nuclear conflict. The bulletin has grown into an organization focused more generally on manmade threats to human civilization. "The dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons," said Kennette Benedict, director of the bulletin. RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Doomsday Clock Moves Closer to Midnight, Associated Press, 1-17-07
Hopefully, this adjustment of the "Doomsday Clock" cancels out the obscenely (and willfully) ignorant remarks of Chrysler "chief economist" Van Jolissaint:
Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched a fierce attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their "Chicken Little" attitudes to global warming....Mr Jolissaint was speaking at a private breakfast where the chief economists of the "Big Three" US car firms presented their forecasts for auto industry sales this year. Most of the audience - which was mainly made up of parts suppliers - seemed to nod in agreement with Mr Jolissaint. Neither Ford's chief economist Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, nor General Motors' chief economist Mustafa Mohatarem, who were on the panel with Mr Jolissaint, questioned his assertion.
Steve Schifferes, Chrysler questions climate change, BBC,
But the question remains, how can Jolissaint, and those like him, sleep at night?
This Climate Crisis Update is organized into two parts.
First, three stories that highlight Europe at risk; second, three stories on Big Picture Developments:
Europe at Risk
Will Europe be sundered into a Nordic paradise and a Mediterranean wasteland?
Although much well-deserved attention is given to global warming's direct, devastating and imminent impact on Africa, evidence of the danger to Europe is increasing.
The stakes are very high -- for all of us.
Europe is not only one of the world's economic engines, at this point in human history, flawed as it is, it is also the guardian of humanity's conscience.
Receding Alpine glaciers are appearing a sure telltale of global warming. In Switzerland, 84 out of 85 glaciers under observation became shorter in 2006.
The hot summers and the lack of precipitation in recent years will accelerate the melting process even more, scientists say….
Glacier retreat can lead to the formation of lakes, typically in the recently de-glaciated area in front of a glacier. Such lakes are often dammed by large moraines consisting of loose glacial sediments. The potential instability of moraine dams makes the lakes prone to water outbursts, with potentially devastating effects on the steep yet densely populated Alpine valleys.
Scientists of the Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glacioloy of the ETH Zürich have compiled a list of 82 glaciers which in the past have inflicted damage on persons or property. Fifty-one of these are expected to cause new damage within the next 10 to 20 years....
Research using satellite images by the University of Zürich indicates that Switzerland's glaciers lost 18 percent of their surface between 1985 and 2000, at a rate seven times faster than between 1850 and 1973. Mattias Creffier, Alps Glaciers Melting Rapidly, Inter Press Service, 1-19-07
Sandwiched between temperate Europe and African heat, Italy is on the front line of climate change and is witnessing a rise in tropical diseases such as malaria and tick-borne encephalitis, a new report says.
Italy was declared free of malaria in 1970, but it is making a comeback, said the Italian environmental organisation Legambiente. Tick-borne encephalitis, a virus which attacks the nerve system, is also on the way back. While only 18 cases had been reported before 1993, 100 have been since, mostly around Venice.
"Illnesses are arriving from Africa, while tropical animals and plants are attacking our biodiversity, droughts and flooding are on the rise, and semi-desert areas are appearing," said Legambiente's director general, Francesco Ferrante. Tom Kington, Climate change brings malaria back to Italy, Guardian, 1-6-07
Chilly northern Europe could reap big benefits from global warming, while the Mediterranean faces crippling shortages of both water and tourists by the middle of the century, according to the first comprehensive study of its effects on the continent.
Fewer in the north would die of cold, crops there would boom and the North Sea coast could become the new Riviera, an analysis to be approved by the European Commission next week shows. But the annual migration of rich northern Europeans to the south could stop – with dramatic consequences for the economies of Spain, Greece and Italy.
A sixth of the world’s tourists – 100m people annually – head south within Europe for their holidays, spreading €100bn ($130bn) of largesse with them. “The more tourists stay home or go to other destinations, the larger the distributional impact in Europe will be,” says the paper, a copy of which has been obtained by the Financial Times.
While fewer people will perish of cold in the north, tens of thousands more will die of heat in the south. As many as 87,000 extra deaths a year would occur annually by 2071, assuming a three degree centigrade temperature rise. If efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions limit the rise to 2.2 degrees, additional mortalities would be 36,000 a year.
These numbers are dwarfed by predicted deaths and economic chaos in the developing world. Andrew Bounds, Europe to suffer as the world warms up, Financial Times, 1-5-07
Big Picture Developments
A major new United Nations report shows global scientists are more convinced than ever that human activity is causing climate change, the Toronto Star has learned.
The rate of warming between now and 2030 is likely to be twice that of the previous century, it says.
And it concludes that most of the global warming since the middle of the last century has been caused by man-made greenhouse gases.
The report, to be released in Paris Feb. 2, should all but end any debate on climate change and compel governments and industries to take urgent measures to deal with it, scientists say. Peter Gorrie, Landmark UN Study Backs Climate Theory, 2,000 scientists all but end the debate: Human activity causes global warming, Toronto Star, 1-19-07
Carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere much faster than scientists expected, raising fears that humankind may have less time to tackle climate change than previously thought.
New figures from dozens of measuring stations across the world reveal that concentrations of CO2, the main greenhouse gas, rose at record levels during 2006 - the fourth year in the last five to show a sharp increase. Experts are puzzled because the spike, which follows decades of more modest annual rises, does not appear to match the pattern of steady increases in human emissions.
At its most far reaching, the finding could indicate that global temperatures are making forests, soils and oceans less able to absorb carbon dioxide - a shift that would make it harder to tackle global warming. Such a shift would worsen even the gloomy predictions of the Stern Review which warned that we had little over a decade to tackle rising emissions to avoid the worst effects of climate change. David Adam, Surge in Carbon Levels Raises Fears of Runaway Warming, 1-19-07
They burn like fire hurricanes on fronts stretching sometimes thousands of kilometres and with a ferocity that explodes trees and makes them impossible to extinguish short of rain or divine intervention.
Bushfires like those that had raged through Australia's southeast for two months and struck Europe, Canada and the western US in 2003 were a new type of "megafire" not seen until recently, a top Australian fire expert said today….
"They basically burn until there is a substantial break in the weather, or they hit a coastline," Kevin O'Loughlin, chief executive of Australia's government-backed Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, said.
"These fires can't be controlled by any suppression resources that we have available anywhere in the world." Rob Taylor, World Faces Megafire Threat – Expert, Reuters, 1-19-07
Want to participate in the effort to mitigate the impact of global warming? Download "Ten Things You Can Do"
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Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and http://www.wordsofpower.net. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.wordsofpower.net
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