A meandering blog with no clear topic. You will find me talking about knitting, building, kids, social and economic issues, Alaska, and lots of other stuff.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

the canary in the coal mine

"The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming … and the canary has died.” - Dr Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


So, we did not have a record loss of arctic sea ice this summer as we did in 2007. No, we only had the second largest sea ice loss ever. And during a summer that was exceptionally cool and cloudy. It was cool enough this summer that most crops were several weeks behind schedule, and some things didn't produce at all up here.

I don't want to repeat the entire article linked above, but some of it, I just have to.

"The Arctic is key to the world’s climate, and Arctic changes have the potential to seriously destabilise the global climate system...The danger is that an ice-free state in the Arctic summer will kick the climate system into run-on warming and create an aberrant new climate state many, many degrees hotter. The Arctic sea-ice is the first domino and it is falling fast. Other dominos will inevitably fall unless we stop emitting greenhouse gases and cool the planet to get the Arctic sea-ice back. " [emphasis added]

So see, big deal, huh? Read on....

"And so the conclusions we reached in November 2007 were:
• Because of the dangerous knock-on effects caused by its loss, the Arctic sea ice must be restored to its normal extent as fast as possible.
• To get the Arctic sea ice back we need to cool the earth by about 0.3ºC. If we don’t, we cannot avoid very dangerous climate impacts. There is no third way. This is the new very inconvenient truth politicians seek to avoid.
• To cool the earth fast enough to get the Arctic sea-ice back quickly, we need to move to zero greenhouse gas emissions as fast as the economy can be restructured, and is environmentally safe to do so, and take about 200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the air. We also need to find environmentally-safe mechanisms to actively cool the earth while navigating this transition. [emphasis added]
• Taken together this is a staggering task in terms of the necessary scale and speed of action, but there is simply no alternative if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. "

Catastrophic climate change. We are not talking a little bit warmer. We are talking mass eradication of species, severe desertification of current agricultural land, massive releases of methane from permafrost and arctic seabeds. And to prevent it, we have to not just cut back on greenhouse gasses. We have to stop them. Get to ZERO emissions. Heck, even my woodstove emits greenhouse gasses. The article suggests:

"The climate emergency requires leadership and courage, and an imaginative capacity almost completely lacking in ... politics today. We need to inspire people with the idea of transformative action, the willingness to promote a new vision of the future and make it the number one goal of our society and economy. It requires governments to put much of the enormous wealth generated by our economy into the solving the climate crisis. "


"If politicians cannot lead, then we all must, in building a movement across society that uses the brutal reality of our position to advocate and inspire the nation to take transformative action. We can only play this game once. If we don't do enough, or at sufficient pace, in building a post-carbon economy, the climate system will get away from our capacity to correct it. Trial and error climate policy is not an option. Waiting for the market is not an option. The Arctic is our Pearl Harbor."

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