Keep the Oil in the Soil, from page 15 What Does the World Look Like With the Current Copenhagen Pledges? Well… 3.9 degrees Celsius hotter by 2100. A group of scientists at MIT and other universities have developed a Climate Interactive Scorecard to determine CO2 levels in the future. Inputting the pledges at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, they predict a 3.9C rise in temperature. If they base this on “potential commitments,” this would be 2.9C degrees. This of course would be above the two degrees Celsius limit increase and bad news for our food supply, weather patterns, and species extinction.
Evidence of Climate Change in Nature We don’t need climate modeling anymore to tell us something is amiss. The evidence is right in front of us. Changes have been seen, from dying coral reefs to shifting species habitats to our new Arctic Passage. The effects of global warming are “accelerating at a pace that goes beyond the scenarios and models we’ve been using.” — Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, October 2007
endangering the entire ocean food chain. In April 2010, long-time oyster farmers from the Pacific Northwest experienced death of all their oyster larvae. With help from scientists at the University of Oregon, they found the problem was due to the acidified seawater pumped into their hatchery in Tilamook, Oregon, preventing calcification of the shells. Oceans are already suffering a 90% decline in fish from the sea due to overfishing.
Spring Has Sprung An extensive review article in Nature January 2003 demonstrated that seasons are shifting due to climate change. “These analyses reveal a consistent temperature-related shift, or ‘fingerprint,’ in species ranging from molluscs to mammals, and from grasses to trees. Indeed, more than 80% of the species that show changes are shifting in the direction expected on the basis of known physiological constraints of species. Consequently, the balance of evidence from these studies strongly suggests that a significant impact of global warming is already discernable in animal and plant populations.” This is evident in the Bark Beetle invasion in pines, in North America, which is decimating forests.
Oceans Away! Oceans have absorbed large amounts of CO2, creating acidification of the seawater. Since the industrial revolution, the ocean’s acidity has increased by 30%. The increased acidity destroys coral reefs, dissolves shells, and prevents reproduction. The entire food chain is disrupted. There is growing alarm that harm has already been done and that in 20 years or less at the current rate of emissions, we will profoundly affect everything from crabs to coral,
Are You Having a Meltdown? The massive ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are shrinking. The almost complete disappearance of the Canadian ice shelves on Ellesmere Island are well-documented changes. As the frozen tundra melts, methane, a potent greenhouse gas, which was trapped below, is now escaping into the atmosphere. Glaciers are rapidly retreating. The most dramatic example of glacier retreat is the
loss of large sections of the Larsen Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. In a 35-day period beginning on January 31, 2002, about 3,250 km2 (1,250 sq mi) of shelf area disintegrated. 80% of Bolivia’s glaciers will be gone by 2015. Unfortunately, this means no water for the inhabitants below.
Rapid CO2 Emissions Reductions Needed Although the urgency of climate change is not as obvious to us as a fire or a cardiac arrest, if we don’t leap into action, the changes soon will be irreversible. The rate of increase in CO2 has gone up exponentially in the last 30 years. Carbon dioxide has an atmospheric lifetime of 50 to 200 years before it is absorbed by a sink or is involved in another chemical reaction. The carbon we emit today will continue to accumulate for a long time. Scientists are now saying we need more stringent commitments on the order of 80% reduction in CO2. The National Academy of Sciences released on May 19, 2010 a series of reports that emphasized the urgency of climate change and why the U.S. should act now to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases. One central point was this: “The longer the nation waits to begin reducing emissions, the harder and more expensive it will likely be to reach any given emissions target.”
Be Part of the Solution Global warming is upon us. We are all in this boat together. We have a common destiny. To get back down to 350ppm and keep the oil in the soil, it will take working together to change our behavior, habits, and ultimately our culture. We have to get smaller, more local,
PAGE 16 | THE BULLETIN | SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010