Thursday, February 19, 2009

Climate Change Revs Up Beyond Earlier Predictions

The global warming pot continues to boil, as people are otherwise (understandably) preoccupied with near-term crises.

A scientist points out in the The Washington Post that increased inputs such as coal-burning factories in the developing world are intensifying climate change beyond the most recent predictions of the IPCC.

This means that the latest climate models are probably underestimating the extent of temperature extremes, sea-level rises, polar melting, and other anomalies that climatologists expect to take place in the next 50 years (or sooner, or later).

The scientific evidence is ironic, considering that it has been since the 1980s and conservative Reagan years since I have sensed so many people wrapped up in the "climate change is a hoax" personal fantasy. The "feedback mechanisms" involved with excess greenhouse gases are likely to threaten the habitability of the planet for us and other species.

These mechanisms include the melting of massive amounts of permafrost, which releases more CO2 and methane into the atmosphere than mankind could ever muster; as well as the continued acidification of the oceans, which typically are a "sink" for CO2 in the atmosphere. The more acidified the waters become, the less CO2 uptake takes place in the oceans.

Further, the "albedo" effect by which snow cover reflects heat back into space is obviously reduced the more snow recedes and uncovers more forested terrain. Trees also become net CO2 emitters when the carbon saturation of the forest reaches a certain level. The Australians and to a lesser extent the Californians have experienced the extreme weather events that in all probability will increase in frequency over the next several years.

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