20 February 2004
VERY HOT NEWS !!
Steadily increasing combustion of fossil fuels in the U.S. for energy uses -- in product manufacturing and consumption, in increased highway driving, in jet flying and commercial trucking, in lighting, in agricultural production, in heating, road construction, lawn mowing, car racing, recreational flying, motor boating, water heating, pumping and distribution of bottled water, shipping goods to China, Australia and Japan, motorcycling, and other uses of energy derived by combustion of energy sources within the U.S. -- has pumped so many billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse "heat-capturing" gases into the finite atmosphere that the average temperature level of the entire planet is now increasing, noticeably.
Rising temperatures on
the planet could ultimately threaten the very ability of Earth to continue
providing for, and sustaining, life, within as early as the close of this
century, and certainly within the next century.
Earth's temperatures are, in fact, rising, and rising dramatically, already. The
The 2004 energy bill that will soon emerge is expected to again contain huge tax exemptions for the oil, gas and coal industries, liability exemptions for the nuclear power industry, no increases in the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency(CAFE) Standards for automobiles, SUVs and trucks, and fall way short on providing enough incentives for renewable energy, new energy technology development and increased energy conservation in the industrial, commercial, residential and transportation sectors of the U.S. economy=========================================
The transportation bill provides huge indirect subsidizes the fossil fuel industry by greatly expanding the capacity of y's highway and freeway systems to accommodate increasing volumes of motor vehicles traffic.
The current version of the bill would sharply boost guaranteed funding for highways, cut guaranteed public transportation program funding, significantly weaken vital environmental and health protection laws and limit opportunities for the public, local officials and resource protection agencies to influence transportation decisions.
Of growing concern for the world environment is the problem of rising greenhouse gas accumulations in the atmosphere.
In fact, the transportation sector in the U.S. burns more fuel and emits more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, than do the entire economies of numerous countries in the world.
Meanwhile, Earth's surface temperatures continue to steadily rise, reflecting increased global warming.
Using the world's largest statistical weather database, including a network of more than 7,000 land surface observing stations, scientists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) have recently reported that 2003, 2002, 2001 and 1998 are the top four warmest years in the 124-year period that the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) has been keeping track of land and ocean surface temperatures.
NOAA's National Climate Data Center (NCDC) has concluded that 2003's globally averaged land and ocean temperature was 1.01 degrees Fahrenheit (F) above the globally averaged temperature of 56.9 for the period 1880 - 2003, which places 2003's temperature in a tie for second with 2002's globally averaged land and ocean temperature of 57.91 degrees F.
The warmest year on record is still the strong El Nino year 1998, which had a globally averaged land and ocean temperature of 58.03 degrees F.
The 2003 globally averaged temperature above land surfaces (only) was 48.8 degrees F, 1.5 degrees F above the long-term average, while 2003's globally averaged ocean temperature came in at 61.7 F, or .8 degrees F above the 1880-2003 mean for the oceans.
Humans burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) and other combustibles (wood, ethanol, dung) for energy purposes -- heating, electricity generation and use, motorized travel, locomotion and shipping, air flight -- have contributed additional hundreds of billions of tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. These "anthropogenic" (human-caused) emissions add measurably to the background (naturally occurring) greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, making the combined concentration levels of those gases (eg., carbon dioxide) increase substantially above their naturally occurring background levels.
As can be viewed graphically as the link above shows, the current levels of atmospheric CO2 are higher now than at any point during the past 420,000 years -- almost 30% higher than they were in preindustrial (before 1840) times. The concentration level of CO2, the most abundance of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the gas other GHGs are compared to, has risen from approximately 280 parts per million (PPM) in the atmosphere prior to 1900, to a concentration level today of above 375 PPM.
During the past century, global surface temperatures have increased at a rate near 1.1 degrees F/century, but this trend has increased to a rate approaching 3.6 degrees F/century during the past 25 to 30 years.
This means globally averaged temperatures have been increasing faster in the last 25 years than they had increased in the earlier 75 years, by a factor of 2-3 times.
NCDC further reports that 2003's annual temperatures over much of the contiguous United States as well as most of
A National Academy Press report ("Abrupt Climate Change:
Inevitable Surprises", National Research Council (NRC), National Academy Press, 2002) suggests a precedence already exists for "abrupt" climate changes to occur on the planet, and that such changes are not only possible, but moreover likely in the future as humans continue to alter the climate system measurably by burning too much fossil fuel and other combustibles:
"Large, abrupt climate changes have repeatedly affected much or all of the earth, locally reaching as much as 10 degrees C. (18 degrees F.) in 10 years. Available evidence suggests that abrupt climate changes are not only possible but likely in the future, potentially with large impacts on ecosystems and societies".
The NRC report continues: "Abrupt climate changes were especially common when the climate system was being forced to change most rapidly. Thus, greenhouse warming and other human alterations of the earth system may increase the possibility of large, abrupt and unwelcome
regional or global climatic events."
The report concedes that abrupt changes of the past are not fully explained yet, but that climate models typically underestimate the size, speed, and extent of those changes.
Meanwhile, the large fossil fuel industries in the U.S. hired public relations firms and think tanks to employ PR tactics through the mass media and public forums, and in meeting privately with White House officials, which were designed to purposefully downplay the severity of the global warming problem, confuse people about its causes, and to effectively underestimate the likely hood of occurrence of global warming and the magnitude of public threat created by continuing to burn increased quantities of fossil fuels throughout the United States.
Physical and biological evidence of the warming global temperatures of the planet from too much fossil fuel burning can be found on all the continents, in ocean water temperatures increases, in record melting rates of mountain glaciers located throughout the world and record thinning of Antarctic and
More frequent and longer lasting heat waves and periods of increasing humidity are also forecast with increased buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the resulting increased warming of the troposphere (the lower 5-6 miles of the atmosphere where most of the greenhouse gases will naturally preside). For example, most of
Two of the more obvious signs of global warming are: (1) rates of ice and snow melting increase over the year, and (2) the geographic extent (acres) of snow and ice melting increases from year to year.
In both 2002 and 2003, the Northern Hemisphere registered record low ocean ice cover. NASA's satellite data show the Arctic region warmed more during the 1990s than during the 1980s, with
On the opposite end of the globe, sea ice floating near
On Greenland, once-stable glaciers are now melting. The Jakobshavn Glacier on the island's southwest coast is thinning four times faster now than it did during most of the twentieth century. Each year,
Antizana Glacier in
Scientists say glaciers are melting so fast in parts of
The Patagonia Icefields of Chile and Argentina, the largest non-Antarctic ice masses in the Southern Hemisphere, are thinning at an accelerating pace and now account for nearly 10 percent of global sea-level change from mountain glaciers, according to a new study by NASA and Chile's Centro de Estudios Cientificos.
The Patagonia Icefields (2,140 sq. mi.) lost ice at a rate equivalent to a sea level rise of 0.04 millimeters per year during the period 1975 through 2000. This is equal to nine percent of the total annual global sea-level rise from mountain glaciers, according to the 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Scientific Assessment. From 1995 through 2000, however, that rate of ice loss from the icefields more than doubled, to an equivalent sea level rise of 0.1 millimeters per year.
percent, and glacial ice has declined in volume by more than half since 1850.
Researchers at the University of Alaska recently surveyed 67 major glaciers and found the rate of melting in the last five years is rapidly growing
This summer saw the biggest melt yet in Alaska's sea ice, and winter in the interior was unprecedentedly mild - for the Arctic.
Global warming will also contribute to higher levels of air pollution and increased health risks, because warmer temperature adds to ozone formation, a dangerous air pollutant at ground level. High ozones levels are especially risky to elderly people and children who may have sensitive respiratory and circulatory systems, or who may be impaired by other health conditions.
Children normally spend more time outdoors than adults. They inhale more pollutants per pound of body weight. Their bodies, lungs and immune systems are still developing. When they are active in sports they are breathing harder which increases the amount irritants received in their lungs.
Exposure to pollution at an early age puts children's' health at risk for years into the future. Not only will the higher temperatures from more heat extreme periods increase the risks from pollution, but more pollution itself results from an increasing number of motor vehicle miles driven and flown, because of the associated increased fuel burning along highways and in the vicinity of airport runways.
Three-hundred-fifty million pounds of smog-producing chemicals (nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds) are released by airplanes landing and taking off from
Humans won't be the only animals adversely impacted by increased amounts of fuel burning in transportation and other fuel burning sources. Recent research shows the warming likely to occur in the Southern Hemisphere will cause hundreds or even thousands of plant and animal extinctions in the
A study by Paleo-Ecologist Mark Bush from the Florida Institute of Technology predicts that those species which can migrate readily, such as birds and butterflies, may be the least affected; however, species that are less mobile will be vulnerable to extinction.
Climate change could drive a million of the world's species to extinction as soon as 2050, another scientific study says. Lead author professor Chris Thomas, of the
The United Nations says the prospect is also a threat to the billions of people who rely on such essential goods and services as food, shelter and medicines -- all from nature.
" December 5 issue of the journal "Science"'s "State of the Planet" series, the authors conclude that industrial emissions have been the dominant influence on climate change for the past 50 years, "overwhelming natural forces".
The likely result is more frequent heat waves, droughts, extreme precipitation events, and related impacts, e.g., wildfires, heat stress, vegetation changes, and sea-level rise, which will be regionally dependent.
If societies could successfully cut emissions and stabilize carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, temperatures would still increase by an estimated 0.9 F over a period of decades, Karl and Trenberth warn, claiming the reason is that greenhouse gases are slow to cycle out of the atmosphere.
In a NCAR release on the study, Carlye Calvin states that unless this is done soon, the world will face the fastest rate of climate change in at least the last 10,000 years, which could potentially alter ocean current circulations and radically change existing climate patterns.
Reports are showing now that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's earlier predictions that sea level could rise by nearly 1 meter during this century may be understating the problem, since ice is melting much faster now than reported earlier, suggesting that the actual sea level rise might be much higher.
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