The Year of Feedback
University of Wales
Here is the kind of story that we should be seeing in the geographic state of the United States.
It is in The Independent. Here is a little part of it, but it is worth a full read.
Review of the Year: Global Warming
By Steve Connor
The Independent UK
Friday 29 December 2006
Our worst fears are exceeded by reality.
It has been a hot year. The average temperature in Britain for 2006 was higher than at any time since records began in 1659. Globally, it looks set to be the sixth hottest year on record. The signs during the past 12 months have been all around us. Little winter snow in the Alpine ski resorts, continuing droughts in Africa, mountain glaciers melting faster than at any time in the past 5,000 years, disappearing Arctic sea ice, Greenland's ice sheet sliding into the sea. Oh, and a hosepipe ban in southern England.
You could be forgiven for thinking that you've heard it all before. You may think it's time to turn the page and read something else. But you'd be wrong. 2006 will be remembered by climatologists as the year in which the potential scale of global warming came into focus. And the problem can be summarised in one word: feedback.
During the past year, scientific findings emerged that made even the most doom-laden predictions about climate change seem a little on the optimistic side. And at the heart of the issue is the idea of climate feedbacks - when the effects of global warming begin to feed into the causes of global warming. Feedbacks can either make things better, or they can make things worse. The trouble is, everywhere scientists looked in 2006, they encountered feedbacks that will make things worse - a lot worse.
Next year, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its fourth assessment on the scale of the future problems facing humanity. Its last assessment, published in 2001, had little to say on the subject of climate feedbacks, partly because, at that time, they were such an unknown quantity. This year, scientists came to learn a little more about them, and they didn't like what they learnt.
During the past two decades, the IPCC has tended to regard the Earth's climate as something that will change gradually and smoothly, as carbon dioxide and global temperatures continue their lock-step rise. But there is a growing consensus among many climate scientists that this may be giving a false sense of security.
They fear that feedback reactions may begin to kick in and suddenly tip the climate beyond a critical threshold from which it cannot easily recover.
Climate feedbacks could turn the Earth into a very different planet over a dramatically short period of time. It has happened in the past, scientists say, and it could easily happen in the future given the unprecedented scale of the environmental changes caused by man. more
A Vision of the Future
The single most momentous environmental image of 2006 was a holiday snap. Of sorts. It showed typical European package tourists on a nice sandy beach in Tenerife. Until a few minutes before the picture was taken, on August 3 on Tejita beach in Granadilla, it had been a day of utter normality for these tourists.
Then something very different erupted on to the scene.
From the sea came a boat. Out of it fell pitiful figures - exhausted, terrified, dehydrated, starving. They were African migrants who, out of desperation, had risked the long voyage from the African coast to the Canaries; for the Canaries are part of Europe, a place of hope and opportunity.
What did the tourists do?
They did the decent thing.
They rushed to the aid of fellow men and women. "
But will they offer such a welcome when the boat people are not just a boatload, but a whole country- or region-load? For that is coming. As climate change takes hold this century, agriculture may fail in some of the poorest and most densely populated parts of the world.
Sir Crispin Tickell, Britain's former Ambassador to the UN, who is one of the most far-sighted of environmental commentators, pointed out as long ago as 1990 that global warming is likely to create environmental refugees in the hundreds of millions. We have paid little attention to his warning.
But if you look at the picture taken on Tejita beach, you can see something even more dramatic than the fact that the ordinary European holidaymaker has a lifestyle most Africans can only dream of. You can see the future, starting to happen."
And then the future becomes now with this story.
Disappearing world: Global warming claims tropical island
For the first time, an inhabited island has disappeared beneath rising seas.
24 December 2006
Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.
As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.
Eight years ago, as exclusively reported in The Independent on Sunday, the first uninhabited islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented." more
Will we be as decent as the tourist on Tejida Beach?
Or will we build walls and armies to protect us?
If you thought Climate Change was not a problem for you,
just a problem for your children,
2006 was the Year of Feedback
What it is About
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