From Scientific American:
Hurricane Sandy has emboldened more scientists to directly link climate change and storms, without the hedge. On Monday, as Sandy came ashore in New Jersey, Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, tweeted: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is [the] storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.”
Raymond Bradley, director of the Climate Systems Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, was quoted in the Vancouver Sun saying: “When storms develop, when they do hit the coast, they are going to be bigger and I think that’s a fair statement that most people could sign onto.”
A recent, peer-reviewed study published by several authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concludes: “The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923.”
Greg Laden, an anthropologist who blogs about culture and science, wrote this week in an online piece: “There is always going to be variation in temperature or some other weather related factor, but global warming raises the baseline. That’s true. But the corollary to that is NOT that you can’t link climate change to a given storm. All storms are weather, all weather is the immediate manifestation of climate, climate change is about climate.”
Today is the first day of Fall in the northern hemisphere. As we usher in the first day of fall after a summer of record heat and drought, not only will the fall foliage be endangered, but a planetary emergency of epic proportions also awaits us as scientists have announced no sea ice will be left in a decade if we continue on the path we’re on:
“Between 1979 and 2012, we have a decline of 13 percent per decade in the sea ice, accelerating from six percent between 1979 and 2000,” said oceanographer Wieslaw Maslowski with the US Naval Postgraduate School, speaking at the Greenpeace event.
“If this trend continues we will not have sea ice by the end of this decade,” said Maslowski.
One consequence of the melt is the slow but continuous rise in the ocean level that threatens coastal areas.
Another result is the likely release of large amounts of methane — a greenhouse gas — trapped in the permafrost under Greenland’s ice cap, the remains of the region’s organic plant and animal life that were trapped in sediment and later covered by ice sheets in the last Ice Age.
Methane is 25 times more efficient at trapping solar heat than carbon dioxide, and the released gases could in turn add to global warming, which in turn would free up more locked-up carbon.
Some see the Arctic melt as a business opportunity — a chance to reach the oil and gas riches under the seabed, and a path for ships to shorten the distance between ports and saving time and fuel.
According to the US Geological Survey, within the Arctic Circle there are some 90 million barrels of oil — 13 percent of the planet’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas.
The accelerating rate of climate change not only endangers the ecosystem, but also endangers businesses and democracies. This isn’t hyperbole, folks. It’s high time we all start leading more environmentally conscious lives as individuals invested in planetary citizenship.