The "Primitivist" Henri Rousseau painted "The Dream" in 1910. It hangs in Manhattan's MOMA
Climate Crisis Update: On Lake Baikal, They Know, In the Torres Islands, They Know, But in Beltwayistan, It is Business as Usual
By Richard Power
Yes, it is difficult to comprehend.
In the vast stretches of Siberia, Lake Baikal, the planet's largest, deepest, oldest lake, is changing. Baikal holds 20% of the Earth's fresh water and could hold all of the USA's fresh water. It was supposed to be one of the last bodies of water that would be impacted by climate change; but it is already getting warmer.
And far away and to the south, in the vast stretches of the South Pacific, the Torres Islands are succumbing to the rising sea-level.
The planet's leading scientists have once again fine tuned their message and escalated the degree of its urgency. We have to get down to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide and we have got to do it by 2012.
And yet, the US presidential campaign grinds on nonsensically, with global warming presented as little more than a side issue. It is certainly not mentioned in the same breath with health care or the economy or Iraq; and yet it overshadows them all.
Let's be clear, this is a national emergency, this is a global emergency.
Here are brief excerpts from the stories mentioned. Please share them with your friends, and your candidates, and your newscasters, and your business leaders, and your elected representatives.
There’s a number — a new number — that makes this point most powerfully. It may now be the most important number on Earth: 350. As in parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
A few weeks ago, NASA’s chief climatologist, James Hansen, submitted a paper to Science magazine with several coauthors. The abstract attached to it argued — and I have never read stronger language in a scientific paper — that “if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm.”
Hansen cites six irreversible tipping points — massive sea level rise and huge changes in rainfall patterns, among them — that we’ll pass if we don’t get back down to 350 soon; and the first of them, judging by last summer’s insane melt of Arctic ice, may already be behind us. ... And we have, at best, a few years to short-circuit them — to reverse course. Here’s the Indian scientist and economist Rajendra Pachauri, who accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year (and, by the way, got his job when the Bush administration, at the behest of Exxon Mobil, forced out his predecessor): “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.” Bill McKibben, Civilization’s Last Chance, LA Times, 5/11/08
Russian and American scientists have discovered that the rising temperature of the world's largest lake, located in frigid Siberia, shows that this region is responding strongly to global warming. ...
The lake contains 20 percent of the world's freshwater, and it is large enough to hold all the water in the United States' Great Lakes. It is the world's deepest lake as well as its oldest; at 25 million years old, it predates the emergence of humans. ...
The scientists conclude that the lake now joins other large lakes, including Superior, Tanganyika and Tahoe, in showing warming trends.
"But," they note, "temperature changes in Lake Baikal are particularly significant as a signal of long-term regional warming.
"This lake was expected to be among those most resistant to climate change, due to its tremendous volume and unique water circulation."
No one on Murray had ever seen such a high tide before. Other islands in the Torres Strait, which lies between the far north-eastern tip of the Australian mainland and Papua New Guinea, have witnessed similar scenes in recent years. Houses, roads and graveyards have been flooded, and the locals believe they know the reason: climate change.
The low-lying islands that dot the sparkling waters of this region are facing similar challenges to South Pacific nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu. But while the plight of those countries is well known and is regularly discussed in the international arena, few people outside Australia have even heard of the Torres Strait. Even Australians would have difficulty locating it on the map, and the remote islands – accessible only by light plane – receive few visitors. KATHY MARKS, Independent, 5/5/08
Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.
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Center for American Progress Action Fund's Mic Check Radio has released a witty and compelling compilation on the Top 100 Effects of Global Warming, organized into sections like "Global Warming Wrecks All the Fun" (e.g., "Goodbye to Pinot Noir," "Goodbye to Baseball," "Goodbye to Salmon Dinners," "Goodbye to Ski Vacations," etc.), "Global Warming Kills the Animals" (e.g., "Death March of the Penguins," "Dying Grey Whales," "Farewell to Frogs," etc.) and yes, "Global Warming Threatens Our National Security" (e.g., "Famine," "Drought," "Large-Scale Migrations," "The World's Checkbook," etc.) I urge you to utilize Top 100 Effects of Global Warming in your dialogues with friends, family and colleagues.
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