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March 13, 2006

North Pole CO2 Rising Up To 3 Times Faster Than In 1990 Environment

The global warming news just keeps getting worse. Things are deteriorating much faster than anyone anticipated, and the pace continues to accelerate. Now comes news that CO2 concentrations at the North Pole are rising 2.5 to 3 times faster than they were just a decade and a half ago. Guardian:

Researchers have uncovered compelling evidence that indicates Earth's most vulnerable regions — the North and South Poles — are poised on the brink of a climatic disaster.

The scientists, at an atmospheric monitoring station in the Norwegian territory of Svalbard, have found that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere near the North Pole are now rising at an unprecedented pace.

In 1990 this key cause of global warming was rising at a rate of 1 part per million (ppm). Recently, that rate reached 2 ppm per year. Now, scientists at the Mount Zeppelin monitoring station have discovered it is rising at between 2.5 and 3 ppm. [...]

In the last two decades, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen from 350 to 380 ppm and scientists warn that once levels reach 500, there could be irreversible consequences that would tip the planet toward disaster: glacier melts triggering devastating sea-level rises and spreading deserts across Africa and Asia.

Scientists and campaigners are desperate for politicians to reach agreements that will prevent the 500 ppm "tipping point" being breached in the next half-century. These new data suggest they may have a far shorter period of time in which to act.

"Fortunately, this rate of rise of carbon dioxide is not yet seen round the world," added Strom. "However, it may be that we have been the first to detect it, and that we are seeing some kind of special effect that could have widespread consequences in a few years."

One theory proposed by Strom is that heating of the oceans could be leading to the release of carbon dioxide. Other scientists suggest that as the world warms, the Arctic tundra — previously gripped by permafrost — may be giving off carbon dioxide as it melts, releasing gas from vegetation trapped within it that has now started to rot. Thus levels of the gas would increase with particular rapidity near the North Pole. [...]

"The crucial point is that you can't look at the Arctic and Antarctic in isolation,' said Professor Chris Rapley, head of the British Antarctic Survey. 'What happens there has profound consequences for the rest of the planet."

It was thought until recently that it would take up to 1,000 years for heat to penetrate the Greenland ice shield and melt it. But the latest data show that large parts of it are actually sliding in lumps into the sea. "That means it is likely to take far less time to raise sea levels," added Rapley. "And if Greenland's ice melts, [the UK] will be in trouble. There will be a seven-metre rise in the oceans. The Thames Barrier would be swamped." [Emphasis added]

The world is being turned into a giant psychology experiment, where we get to stand back and watch with horror the enormous human capacity for denial. What's it going to take for people to wake up and act? I don't want to be cynical — cynicism at a time like this is a lousy survival strategy, for one thing — but a country that can watch New Orleans get washed away and pretty much put it out of their minds is a country that's going to need one hell of a wakeup call before people really let it sink in what we're up against.

And of course we picked the absolute worst historical moment to put a bunch of anti-science know-nothings in power. It's a national disgrace. Shame on us and shame on them. They're going to have so much to answer for.

It's time for grownups to step to the fore. It's time for all of us to demand the straight scoop, even if the news is grim. What we don't know, in this case, may well kill us.

Posted by Jonathan at March 13, 2006 10:02 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Comments

I'm 43. I believe before I die one of two things, or both, will happen. One, a major and very rapid change in climate will profoundly impact the entire planet; something on the scale of an ice age. Two, when everyone finally realizes just how little crude oil and natural gas we have left, major wars will break out in a scramble to acquire the last of these precious resources. Seems out there, doesn't it? It appears on the surface to be a dismal outlook.

Look no further than the present for my theory on war. Iraq is about oil, and only oil. Iran will be too, just easier to justify. Even if Iran is making nuclear weapons, the Bush administrations primary reason for invading will be oil. Two wars started in the span of four years with the majority of [at least American] people ignorant to how little oil and gas remains. Imagine the chaos when the masses wake up and smell the coffee.

You had a recent post Jonathan about an Al Gore speech in which he talks about people going from disbelief to despair when they realize the truth about the energy situation. Was it you that suggested activism as an option (or cure) to despair? I have an additional option: accepting and embracing change.

I hope Mother Nature does her dastardly deed soon because that's the change I can easily live with. Enjoy in fact. War I can't embrace. I doubt I could even endure war if it's over earth's natural resources.

Greed and the desire for power. Adolescent egos running the world's super power with selfish intentions. No serious talks about how mankind is going to survive for the next few thousand years on finite natural resources. This is man not quite fully evolved.

I seriously doubt we're going to finish our evolution in the next 5 decades. A good slap on the wrist from Mother Nature right now just might be what we need. And most likely be the only thing that can prevent the enviable wars over energy.

Posted by: Jeff at March 14, 2006 08:48 PM