Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Warms your heart, Part One

So yesterday another one of those global meetings about global warming began, this one at a resort in Cancun, Mexico because of course you can't expect all these important people to meet any place less than 5-star.

This meeting, however, is just a bit different: Instead of the grand pronouncements of sweeping optimism about how some incredibly significant new agreement was in the making, this one seems to be starting from the idea that real progress on a final, binding international agreement to actually control greenhouse gas emissions is going nowhere. Talk has turned to
debating how to mobilize money to cope with what's coming — as temperatures climb, ice melts, seas rise and the climate that nurtured man shifts in unpredictable ways.
That is, the focus has shifted from prevention to mitigation and the hope is not for agreements or solutions but for "incremental progress" on side issues such as establishing accounting rules both for "fast-start finance" aid promised to poor countries to help with mitigation and for nations such as China and India to report on their efforts to slow their emissions growth (not, note, to reduce emissions but to reduce their rate of growth).

This is going on even as the evidence that global warming is not only real but that its effects are already visible just keeps growing.

- In August, NOAA reported on Arctic sea ice, which had reached its minimum extent for the year. That extent was 22% below the 1979-2000 average and the 14th consecutive August with below-average sea ice extent. In September the sea ice extent was the third smallest in the last 30 years; the three smallest September extents have come in the last four years. Tens of thousands of walruses came ashore in northwest Alaska because the sea ice they normally rest just wasn't there.

The agency's annual Arctic Report Card, based on the work of 69 researchers in eight countries, reported that temperatures in the Arctic had been running over 70F. (over 40C.) above normal for the first nine months of 2010. It also said that glaciers and ice caps in the region continued to lose mass an an increasing rate, the temperature in permafrost is rising, and Greenland was experiencing record temperatures and continued ice and glacier loss. It said a "."

- In October
[t]he government's National Climate Data Center reported Monday that the January-September period is tied with 1998 for the warmest first nine months on record.
- Also in October, a new study out of the National Center for Atmospheric Research concluded that
[t]he United States and many other heavily populated countries face a growing threat of severe and prolonged drought in coming decades.... [W]arming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years, possibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.

Using an ensemble of 22 computer climate models and a comprehensive index of drought conditions, as well as analyses of previously published studies, the paper finds most of the Western Hemisphere, along with large parts of Eurasia, Africa, and Australia, may be at threat of extreme drought this century.

- NOAA maintains a list of 11 indicators of climate change, chosen because "we would unambiguously expect them to increase or decrease if the world were warming." Seven would be expected to increase, four to decrease. All 11 clearly show evidence of warming

Well, just last week there came a twelfth:
A first-of-its-kind NASA study is finding nice cool lakes are heating up — even faster than air.

Two NASA scientists used satellite data to look at 104 large inland lakes around the world and found that on average they have warmed 2 degrees (1.1 degree Celsius) since 1985. That's about two-and-a-half times the increase in global temperatures in the same time period.
University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver called the data "another brick in the wall." What some of the folks gathered at Cancun need is a brick to the head.

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