From The Washington Post, Monday, January 10, 2011:
Flying over the Arctic Circle, the Coast Guard C130 rumbled as it alternated between 500 and 2,500 feet, its high-tech equipment quietly observing the thickness and stretch of ice along Alaska’s northern border.
Cold air rushed through the open cargo door as some musk oxen and the occasional walrus passed below.
Like the rest of the 2.5-million-square-foot area at the top of the world, this chunk of the U.S. Arctic is melting quickly because of accelerated climate change. The prospect of newly thawed sea lanes and a freshly accessible, resource-rich seabed has nations jockeying for position. And government and military officials are concerned the United States is not moving quickly enough to protect American interests in this vulnerable and fast-changing region.
“We’re not doing OK,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nahshon Almandmoss as he flew the massive plane on the nine-hour flight from Kodiak to the northern border then down along the coast through the Bering Strait. “We definitely don’t have the infrastructure available to operate for an extended period of time in the Arctic in the summer, much less in the winter when it’s more critical for logistical purposes.”
The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has identified the Arctic as an area of key strategic interest. The U.S. military anticipates the Arctic will become “ice-free” for several summer weeks by 2030, possibly as early as 2013.
Continue reading: As Arctic melts, U.S. ill equipped to tap resources
From The Associated Press, Wednesday, December 15, 2010:
Two groups of scientists are suggesting a sliver of hope for the future of polar bears in a warming world.
A study published online Wednesday rejects the often used concept of a “tipping point,” or point of no return, when it comes to sea ice and the big bear that has become the symbol of climate change woes. The study optimistically suggests that if the world dramatically changed its steadily increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, a total loss of critical summer sea ice for the bears could be averted.
Another research group projects that even if global warming doesn’t slow – a more likely near-future scenario – a thin, icy refuge for the bears would still remain between Greenland and Canada.
A grim future for polar bears is one of the most tangible and poignant outcomes of global warming. Four years ago, federal researchers reported that two-thirds of the world’s polar bear habitat could vanish by mid-century. Other experts foresee an irreversible ice-free Arctic in the next few years as more likely.
The new study, which challenges the idea of a tipping point, says rapid ice loss could still happen, but there’s a chance that the threatened bears aren’t quite doomed.
Continue reading: Scientists: It’s not too late yet for polar bears
From Alaska Dispatch, Sunday, December 12, 2010:
A series of warmer summers and drier springs in Interior Alaska has forced wildfires to burn deeper into the region’s ancient peat, releasing far more carbon dioxide into the air than previously thought, according to a new study by a team of scientists.
The longer-burning fires, and longer burn season, has dramatically increased the release into the atmosphere of carbons stored over eons by Alaska’s black spruce ecosystem, a dynamic that threatens to accelerate global warming even more.
The result may be a climate game-changer.
Alaska’s boreal forests — long thought to be one of the Arctic’s main carbon sinks and a stabilizing influence against global warming — have begun to spew out more greenhouse gas than they take in, according to a study by University of Guelph plant biologist Merritt Turetsky, of Ontario, Canada, and six other researchers.
“Essentially this could represent a runaway climate change scenario in which warming is leading to larger and more intense fires, releasing more greenhouse gases and resulting in more warming,” said lead author Turetsky, in a release about the study, to be published in Nature Geoscience. “This cycle can be broken for a number of reasons, but likely not without dramatic changes to the boreal forest as we currently know it.”
Continue reading: Are Alaska’s wildfires accelerating global warming?
From Scientific American, Tuesday, November 30, 2010:
Give us all a reverence for the Earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory.
The prayer was recited regularly by a young Sally Bingham growing up in San Francisco.
Only years later, as an ordained Episcopal Church priest, did Bingham realize something was amiss with the childhood supplication.
“There was this terrible hypocrisy,” she said. “This disconnect between what we said we believed in and how we behaved.”
This bothered her for years until 1998 when, in her 50s, she finally took action.
Bingham founded what today is Interfaith Power and Light, a national campaign promoting “a religious response to global warming” that works with 10,000 congregations in 38 states.
“Climate change is one of the most challenging moral issues of our time,” she said in an Earth Day sermon at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral where she is now Reverend Canon for the Environment.
Faith communities around the world are taking action – both personal and political – as the moral implications of climate change become more apparent.
Continue reading: Can Faith Slow Climate Change?
From The Associated Press, Wednesday, December 7, 2010:
The lives and livelihoods of people in South Asia are at “high risk” as global warming melts glaciers in the Himalayas, sending floods crashing down from overloaded mountain lakes and depriving farmers of steady water sources, U.N. and other international experts reported Friday.
Worldwide, “since the beginning of the 1980s, the rate of ice loss has increased substantially in many regions, concurrent with an increase in global mean air temperatures,” the U.N. Environment Program said.
Glaciers in southern South America and Alaska’s coastal mountains have been losing mass faster and for longer than glaciers elsewhere in the world, it said.
The new U.N. assessment of recent glacier research was issued at annual climate talks, where delegates were expected, once again this year, to fail to reach agreement on long-term mandatory action to rein in emissions of global warming gases.
From BBC, Thursday, December 2, 2010:
Temperatures reached record levels in several regions during 2010, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says, confirming the year is likely to be among the warmest three on record.
Parts of Russia, Greenland, Canada, China, North Africa and South Asia all saw the mercury soar to record levels.
The three main temperature records show 2010 as the warmest, or joint warmest, year in the instrumental record.
The UK Met Office suggests 2011 will be cooler, as La Nina conditions dominate.
This brings colder than average water to the top of the eastern Pacific Ocean, which lowers temperatures globally.
Continue reading: 2010 sets new temperature records
From The Associated Press, Thursday, December 3, 2010:
Alaska’s fish and wildlife managers have released a state plan anticipating effects on Arctic bodies of waters, fishing industries and wildlife resources brought on by climate change.
The state is suing to overturn the federal listing of polar bears as a threatened species because of declining sea ice habitat but the 19-page report released this week begins by acknowledging that scientific and traditional evidence increasingly shows climate changing at unprecedented rates throughout the Arctic.
“We have to take a look at what could possibly occur,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, endangered species coordinator for the Department of Fish and Game.
Continue reading: Alaska acknowledges affects of climate change
From The Christian Science Monitor, Saturday, November 20, 2010:
“Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you,” a somber President Jimmy Carter said gravely into a television camera on an April night in 1977.A series of oil embargoes and OPEC price hikes had hit the nation hard. Gasoline prices had tripled. Auto-dependent Americans had sometimes waited hours in line to buy the gasoline needed to get to work. The president, in an iconic fireside chat — in a beige cardigan — two months earlier had congenially urged Americans to turn thermostats down to 65 degrees F. by day, 55 by night.
But on this night, he ratcheted up his tone: Warning of an imminent “national catastrophe” and scolding Americans for selfish wastefulness, the president declared it time for Americans to curb consumption of oil, which he said had doubled in the 1950s and again in the ’60s — time to end their dependence on imports.
“This difficult effort will be the moral equivalent of war,” he said.
Mr. Carter created the Department of Energy. He called for energy conservation and increased production of coal and solar power. He installed solar panels on the White House.
But his vision — to push America and the world into a new energy era as significant as the shift from wood to coal that fueled the Industrial Revolution — never materialized.
Continue reading: New energy: climate change and sustainability shape a new era
From Yale Environment 360, Tuesday, November 16, 2010:
The steady loss of sea ice in the eastern Arctic could produce significant changes in the region’s atmospheric circulation, possibly resulting in a period of colder winters in the planet’s northern latitudes, even as the global climate warms, according to a new study. Using computer simulations to model decreases in sea cover in the eastern Arctic, scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found what they called a “pronounced nonlinear response” of air temperatures and winds in the eastern Arctic. Specifically, the decrease in winter sea ice in the Barents-Kara Sea area, located north of Norway and Russia, may well direct colder winds over much of Europe. “These anomalies could triple the probability of cold winter extremes in Europe and northern Asia,” said Vladimir Petoukhov, a climate scientist and lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. “Recent severe winters like last year’s or the one of 2005-06 do not conflict with the global warming picture, but rather supplement it.”
From The Associated Press, Monday, November 8, 2010:
Federal scientists say they’re observing the highest rate of beak abnormalities ever recorded in wild bird populations in Alaska and the Northwest.
U.S. Geological Survey scientists say they have not been able to determine the cause and the deformed beaks could signal a growing environmental health problem.
Research biologist Colleen Handel says the prevalence of the deformities is more than 10 times above what is normally expected in a wild bird population.
Black-capped chickadees, northwestern crows, and other birds have been affected.
Scientists call it “avian keratin disorder,” in which the keratin layer of the beak becomes overgrown, resulting in elongated and often crossed beaks.
The deformities affect birds’ ability to feed and clean themselves.