Friday, February 08, 2008
Take A Tip From Me
There is neither heaven nor earth,
Life is fleeting.
Awake each one!
Don't waste this life!
---The Evening Gatha
On the day you were born, you begin to die. Do not waste a single moment more.
---Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
In the striking photo by Roger Braithwaite of the UNEP, a stream of melt water cascades off the Greenland Ice Sheet.
I'm afraid my pun in the title shows poor taste. There is nothing appropriate to laugh about as the United States finally begins to realize the facts of The Warming. Just last week I still was being mocked by 2 industrial tech teachers at my school, but surely even they are beginning to wake up. Disasters like the tornadoes across the South the other day are the kinds of things it takes in this country to get something done. But even then we'll try to rationalize and put it off. It looked to me as if CNN was broadcasting hours of live coverage of the devastation yesterday, but did any news anchor introduce a segment on violent weather we can expect from Climate Change? We aren't much for preemptive action...unless it's shock and awe somewhere else based on "bad intelligence."
My wife sent out a heads-up on Wednesday that actually provides a bit of optimism, despite the frightening aspects of the report. What cheered me up is that it came from MSNBC, where Americans are not used to seeing this kind of thing I think. It speaks of Nine Tipping Points that we grimly approach with continued carbon emissions at our increasing rate. We learn that "tipping" no longer can be taken lightly. The report begins~~~
Nine 'tipping elements' for warming listed
Arctic sea ice and Greenland are top 'candidates for surprising society'
MSNBC staff and news service reports
updated 10:00 a.m. ET, Wed., Feb. 6, 2008
Concerned that humans might push Earth into major climate shifts, a team of experts has published a study that lists nine "tipping elements," or areas of concern for policymakers.
Arctic sea-ice and the Greenland Ice Sheet, both of which have shown significant melt, were regarded as the most sensitive tipping elements with the smallest uncertainty.
"Society may be lulled into a false sense of security by smooth projections of global change," the scientists at British, German and U.S. institutes wrote in a report saying there were many little-understood thresholds in nature.
"The greatest and clearest threat is to the Arctic with summer sea ice loss likely to occur long before, and potentially contribute to, Greenland Ice Sheet melt," they wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The experts coined the term "tipping element" to describe those components of the climate system that are at risk of passing a "tipping point," which was defined as a critical threshold at which a small change in human activity can have large, long-term consequences for the Earth’s climate system.
"These tipping elements are candidates for surprising society by exhibiting a nearby tipping point," the authors added.
"Many of these tipping points could be closer than we thought," said lead author Timothy Lenton, of the University of East Anglia in England.
"Our findings suggest that a variety of tipping elements could reach their critical point within this century under human-induced climate change," he added. "The greatest threats are tipping of the Arctic sea-ice and the Greenland ice sheet, and at least five other elements could surprise us by exhibiting a nearby tipping point."
If you click that MSNBC link, you see not only an opportunity to view the video, but also slideshows and other interactive features. They've also set up a message board to discuss these issues. This is new in a country preparing to elect a new president, and yet questioning candidates very little about environmental concerns. They tell us the economy is our big issue. Well, the UK Telegraph yesterday related to market questions with the startling headline~~~
Why the price of 'peak oil' is famine
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
International Business Editor
Last Updated: 1:22am GMT 07/02/2008
Vulnerable regions of the world face the risk of famine over the next three years as rising energy costs spill over into a food crunch, according to US investment bank Goldman Sachs.
"We've never been at a point in commodities where we are today," said Jeff Currie, the bank's commodity chief and closely watched oil guru.
Global oil output has been stagnant for four years, failing to keep up with rampant demand from Asia and the Mid-East. China's imports rose 14pc last year. Biofuels from grain, oil seed and sugar are plugging the gap, but drawing away food supplies at a time when the world is adding more than 70m mouths to feed a year.
"Markets are as tight as a drum and now the US has hit the stimulus button," said Mr Currie in his 2008 outlook. "We have never seen this before when commodity prices were already at record highs. Over the next 18 to 36 months we are probably going into crisis mode across the commodity complex.
Are we beginning to get the picture that it's all connected? That time is of the essence? Is recession too mild a word?
Unfortunately some think matters are even worse. In December Prof. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Science, declared we're past the tipping point. Hansen delivered warnings to Congress 20 years ago.
Here is a summary of the main points:
Climate tipping points have been passed. These include large ice sheet disintegration, significant sea level rises and species loss. These tipping points were passed when we exceeded 300-350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a point passed decades ago.
The Arctic will soon be ice-free in the summer.
There is already enough carbon in Earth's atmosphere to lose Arctic sea ice cover and for massive ice sheets such as in Greenland to eventually melt away, and ensure that sea levels will rise several feet (meters) in coming decades.
Climate zones such as the tropics and temperate regions will continue to shift, and the oceans will become more acidic, endangering much marine life.
"We have passed that (Greenland) and some other tipping points in the way that I will define them," Hansen said in an email. "We have not passed a point of no return. We can still roll things back in time — but it is going to require a quick turn in direction."
"We either begin to roll back not only the emissions [of carbon dioxide] but also the absolute amount in the atmosphere, or else we're going to get big impacts." "We should set a target of CO2" that's low enough to avoid the point of no return. The CO2 tipping point for many parts of the climate is around 300 to 350 parts per million, Hansen estimated.
"We have to figure out how to live without fossil fuels someday," Hansen said. "Why not sooner?
People must not only cut current carbon emissions but also remove some carbon that has collected in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution
Bill McKibben responded in the Washington Post a few days later. In his article he explains what all this carbon particle talk is about...and why we need to care.