Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Maybe Somebody Should Do Something...

as Atrios keeps saying about the economy. But this stuff cuts even deeper. The environment is nature's capital – and without capital, forget capitalism. Unfortunately, we seem to be depleting our capital rather rapidly.

Exhibit A is this AP story entitled "Study reveals long-term rise in sea level:"
It will lead to land loss, more flooding, and saltwater invading bodies of fresh water, said lead researcher Benjamin Horton, whose team examined sediment from North Carolina’s Outer Banks. He directs the Sea Level Research Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania... 
“This is a very important contribution because it firmly establishes that the rise in sea level in the 20th century is unprecedented for the recent geologic past,’’ said Miller, who was not part of the research team. Miller said he recently advised Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey that the state needs to plan for a sea level rise of about 3 feet by the end of the century.
Yes, and I'm sure Governor Christie will get right on that. Much of the AP story seems to have been cribbed from this press release from the National Science Foundation. But unlike the AP reporter, the NSF didn't bury the lead:
The rate of sea level rise along the U.S. Atlantic coast is greater now than at any time in the past 2,000 years--and has shown a consistent link between changes in global mean surface temperature and sea level.
Exhibit B comes from the legacy media in Anchorage, who pass on a report from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program via their colleagues at Petroleum News, entitled "Arctic warming even faster than predicted, scientists say"
Overall loss of snow and ice cover will likely heighten the warming trend, mainly because the white snow and ice tend to reflect heat from sun, rather than allowing the heat to be absorbed by the darker land or ocean water. Scientists now think that Arctic sea-ice cover will all but disappear in the summer by mid-century... 
The warming of soils may increase the release of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, with these greenhouse gases potentially further accelerating the global warming. 
The release of freshwater into the Arctic Ocean from melting ice could impact global ocean currents and climate systems, while the release of water from Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland ice cap could raise global sea levels from between 3 feet and 5 feet by 2100, the report says.
If you squint, you might be able to discern a connection between those two stories. And just to be clear, even a three-foot rise would be absolutely devastating to humanity, and is well beyond what we were expecting even just a few years back.

Which brings us to Exhibit C, a report from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean. I know you don't want to hear this, but please read on. The headline in this Guardian account is "Shocking state of seas threatens mass extinction, say marine experts:"
Fish, sharks, whales and other marine species are in imminent danger of an "unprecedented" and catastrophic extinction event at the hands of humankind, and are disappearing at a far faster rate than anyone had predicted, a study of the world's oceans has found. 
Mass extinction of species will be "inevitable" if current trends continue, researchers said.
The key words there are "if current trends continue." If you JGRTWT (or try this more detailed write-up in the Independent), it's pretty devastating. But for those of you who have just unstuck your foreheads from your keyboards, please note what one of the report's co-authors has to say:
The challenges for the future of the oceans are vast, but unlike previous generations we know what now needs to happen. The time to protect the blue heart of our planet is now, today and urgent.
So okay then, we know what needs to happen. Surely we're going to take the necessary steps to address this crisis, right? Welll... 
Spending caps proposed by Republicans would make it "virtually impossible" to enact climate legislation for a decade or longer, according to an analysis released yesterday.
You may now resume beating your head on your desk. Apparently the GOP thinks it's more important to save our grandchildren from taxation to cover George Bush's wars than to save them from mass extinctions and climate catastrophe.

Oh well, if we have to go out, let's go out singing. Mr Ochs?

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