Monday, November 28, 2016

Climate change: More bad news

Currently we're seeing unprecedented weather in the arctic, with air temperatures 20 degrees above normal delaying the usual winter ice formation. That's bad, but the real problem is that this could push us over some tipping points in the global climate:

Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.

The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.

“The warning signals are getting louder,” said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report. “[These developments] also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger.”


In the Arctic, the tipping points identified in the new report, published on Friday, include: growth in vegetation on tundra, which replaces reflective snow and ice with darker vegetation, thus absorbing more heat; higher releases of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the tundra as it warms; shifts in snow distribution that warm the ocean, resulting in altered climate patterns as far away as Asia, where the monsoon could be effected; and the collapse of some key Arctic fisheries, with knock-on effects on ocean ecosystems around the globe.

All of which means either faster climate change or worse consequences for us or both.

This is exactly why we need organisations like NASA's Earth Sciences Division (which President-elect Trump wants to shut down): to tell us what the hell we are doing to our planet and warn us of the consequences of our actions. But I guess that's precisely why Trump and the right want to kill it off: because a few people profit by fucking up the climate for the rest of us, and they don't want us to be able to measure the true cost of their vandalism.