|Abrupt Global Climate Change
The great exterminator
Perhaps the single most important reason for Californians to demand a halt to clear-cutting is abrupt global climate change. Until very recently scientists the world over were in general agreement that our planet would be experiencing climatic changes that would occur over a period of a century or more. But with todays more accurate scientific data and faster sharing of that data, scientists have created a new model: Abrupt Climate Change. A clear message is coming from climate change science: There is overwhelming agreement that our climate is becoming increasingly hostile more rapidly then expected and that much more must be learned, and quickly if we are to have sufficient choices to make a difference.
Hurricanes have become increasingly more powerful and deadly as well as more frequent. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma hit record speeds becoming briefly the first category 6 hurricane. A year earlier South America suffered its first hurricane in recorded history. Flooding and mud slides from tropical storms have created record damage and have taken an increasing number of human life. The cost of rebuilding from this decades more powerful storms is in the trillions. Other weather extremes have led to record draughts, even affecting the amazon, causing Brazil to call a state of emergency. Occilating heat and cold, wet and dry is challenging our agricultural systems, many to the point of failure. Worldwide hunger has skyrocketed.
One of the most startling recent discoveries is the evidence that the ocean currents, called the great Atlantic conveyor is slowing down, possibly leading to a halt of vital warmth to Britain and Europe. Some scientists warn that Britain itself may have to be abandoned within thirty years as permafrost overtakes all of its soil. Because global warming is melting ice at both poles at an alarming rate, the oceans are becoming less salty, slowing the engine that moves currents, heat and nutrients around the globe. This same warming is causing sea levels to rise which most likely will displace over a billion people in this century.
On land an equally dramatic change is occurring. Earths permafrost regions are melting, releasing enormous amounts of methane into our atmosphere. All across the northern tundras of Asia, Europe and north America, permafrost is rapidly becoming slush, releasing up to 40% of our planets ancient methane back into the atmosphere. This release in turn creates more warming in an affect called a feed-back loop. Scientists had been warning that once a certain amount of release occurred, known as a tripping point, the chain reaction could not be stopped.
But this is not the only tripping point that our environment has revealed. In 2003 Europe suffered its warmest summer on record. To the amazement and alarm of record keepers, the trees in the region appear to have reversed their photosynthesis, giving off more carbon dioxide then they uptake. This startling revelation indicates that under lengthy intensive heat waves forests switch from being net absorbers of carbon dioxide to being net producers of carbon dioxide.
And the 2005 season was the worst ever recorded for arctic sea ice melt. This statistic supports the increasing accepted theory that there is now a third known tripping point. Sea Ice reflects solar radiation, and heat, back into space. As it melts and breaks apart dark blue seawater, the darkest on the planet, is exposed to the sun. This dark blue water then absorbs the solar radiation and heat further heating the planet which in turn melts more ice. Most climate change scientists now agree that a trip point may have been reached as the sea ice melt is a feed-back loop in the works.
Governments world-wide have been coordinating policy since the early 90s in an attempt to slow the climate changes which most scientists agree are being driven by human causes, most notably the release of green-house gases into our atmosphere. Two global summits, the Kyoto and the Rio summit brought most industrial nations together in a plan to reduce greenhouse emissions and to create policies to soften the global warming. Ironically, the United States, who contributes more than 50% of the worlds green house gases has actually snubbed these governments and the science. It is clear that the United States has put growth and profit about the future of our species. The Bush administration denied even the need to curb US emissions saying that global warming was yet unproven. Only recently did president Bush admit that humans may be fueling the problems. But current US policy continues to snub the concerns of the world.
The uncertainty of what is happening to our planet is even more evident as we look back on the last ten years, the warmest years in recorded history. Scientists are only beginning to understand the processes that create warming and cooling at the same time. United states environmental policy, which should be an intelligent reaction to this long term uncertainty, instead has reflected the greed and destruction of short term profit. Along with surface science being uncertain is the correlation to subsurface activities. Science is focusing on the link between our rapidly changing climate and the increase of catastrophic earthquakes and other volcanic activity. The Tsunami that struck Asia in 2005 killing nearly 200,000 resulted from a record quake in the region.
Then there is the decades long debate over ozone depletion. Though governments like the united states continue to deny sound scientific data, skin cancers are at epidemic proportions world-wide. Jacques Cousteau in the late 1980s warned that the subcontinents phytoplankton, the very bottom and foundation of the worlds food chain was headed for imminent collapse, mostly due to ozone depletion. His grave concerns were that humanity itself, along with most of the worlds species would make a rapid fall into extinction if governments didn't react decisively within 10 years. That deadline is five years behind us.
Environmentalists and scientists alike have pointed out that our forests are the lungs of our planet, putting oxygen back into the atmosphere as they uptake carbon-dioxide. Logging policies have contributed greatly to the increase of carbon dioxide, chief among green-house gases and delicately deadly to the human physiology. Carbon Dioxide levels are fast approaching the 400 parts per million level, about 10 years away, where scientists are warning our species will begin dumbing down. In just one generation from now, children may be born without the oxygen necessary to grow even to todays intelligence. Scientists also warn that soon beyond the 400 parts per million, the entire human system may begin shutting down.
In the face of all this evidence and global concern, can California, can the united states afford to continue trading our forests, and possibly our planet, for the billions of dollars that line the pockets of a handful of powerful individuals and corporations? Most scientists agree that the health of our forests are inextricably tied to climatic changes.
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