Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Warms your heart, Part Two

Just as the evidence for warming continues to mount, so too does evidence of visible impacts. I mean beyond things like the loss of ice, which are taken as evidence of warming, and I don't mean future impacts, I mean present-day impacts on animals and people.

Besides the already-mentioned thousands of walruses forced onto the land in Alaska, there is the fact that
researchers said last winter's massive snowstorms that struck the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. states were tied to higher Arctic temperatures.

"Normally the cold air is bottled up in the Arctic," said Jim Overland of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle. But last December and February, winds that normally blow west to east across the Arctic were instead bringing the colder air south to the Mid-Atlantic, he said.
Others have pointed to the record-breaking heat wave in Russia thus summer and the nationwide floods in Pakistan. Meanwhile in Mexico, research points to a drying out and shrinking of farm output in some regions. At the Cancun summit,
[a]gronomists are due to report on shifting weather patterns that are destabilizing the world's food supply and access to clean water, and that could lead to mass migrations as farmers flee drought or flood-prone regions.
Meanwhile, the UK is seeing abnormally early snow and bitter cold weather.

Now, as I've said many times in the course of arguing this topic, individual weather events prove nothing in themselves: One cold snap does not disprove global warming any more than one heat wave proves it. But enough individual events gathered together can create a pattern of anomalous weather that is a sign of global warming that does impact human societies.

Even more direct, however, is the plight of low-lying island nations, who earlier this month called for
urgent funding to help combat sea level changes that are already damaging many coastal communities.

At a climate change conference in the South Pacific nation of Kiribati, President Anote Tong called for the quick release of funds to help vulnerable states deal with climate change impacts. ...

[C]oastal areas of low-lying island states are being inundated by rising sea water levels. States like Kiribati and Tuvalu in the South Pacific and the Maldive islands in the Indian Ocean are seeing coastlines, coastal villages and gardens drowned under high tides. ...

Low-lying Kiribati is suffering sea water incursion into its 32 coral atolls that reach no more than 6 feet (2 meters) above sea level....

In parts of Kiribati whole villages have had to be relocated due to severe coastal erosion, food crops have been destroyed and fresh water wells contaminated by sea water.
At the Copenhagen climate summit last year, the developed nations agreed to establish a fund of $100 billion annually to aid poor and small nations such as Kiribati deal the with impacts of global warming. To give you an idea of how much (or little) that is, it is less that three-fifths of what the US alone will spend on its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in Fiscal 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service. (See Table 1 in this report.)

So just in this list we've got animal habits, weather patterns, food supplies, access to clean water, and the coastlines of island nations all already, today, being affected by global warming. The future is already here and it's just getting started.

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