Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bye Bye Birdie

There is a well attended renewable energy conference in town, and yesterday, the plenary session attendees were treated to a well researched report on how renewable energy can reduce CO2 in the geographic state of the United States to the levels that some experts believe will help in stopping its most rapid advance.

Given today's news, that would seem like a pretty good idea.

Global Warming Could Wipe out Most Birds
World Wildlife Fund
November 14, 2006

NAIROBI - Unchecked climate change could drive up to 72 per cent of the world's bird species into extinction but the world still has a chance to limit the losses, conservation group WWF said in a report on Tuesday.

From migratory insect-eaters to tropical honeycreepers and cold water penguins, birds are highly sensitive to changing weather conditions and many are already being affected badly by global warming, the new study said.

"Birds are the quintessential 'canaries in the coal mine' and are already responding to current levels of climate change," said the report, launched at a United Nations conference in Kenya on ways to slow warming.

"Birds now indicate that global warming has set in motion a powerful chain of effects in ecosystems worldwide," WWF said.

"Robust evidence demonstrates that climate change is affecting birds' behaviour -- with some migratory birds even failing to migrate at all."

In the future, it said, unchecked warming could put large numbers of species at risk, with estimates of extinction rates as high as 72 per cent, "depending on the region, climate scenario and potential for birds to shift to new habitats".

It said the "more extreme scenarios" of extinctions could be prevented if tough climate protection targets were enforced and greenhouse gas emissions cut to keep global warming increases to less than 2 degrees C (1.6 F) above pre-industrial levels." more

And here is another story about the melting of the ice caps and how the latest research shows that the Earth's climate could change quickly, and violently.

Melting ice turns up the heat
The Sydney Morning Herald
Fred Pearce
November 11, 2006

RICHARD ALLEY's eyes glint as we discuss how fast global warming could cause sea levels to rise. The scientist sums up the state of knowledge: "We used to think that it would take 10,000 years for melting at the surface of an ice sheet to penetrate down to the bottom.

Now we know it doesn't take 10,000 years, it takes 10 seconds."

That highlights why scientists are panicky about the sheer speed and violence with which climate change could take hold. They are realising that their old ideas about gradual change - the smooth lines on graphs showing warming and sea-level rise and gradually shifting weather patterns - are not how the world's climate system works.

The conventional view holds that sea levels will start to rise as a pulse of warming works its way gradually from the surface through the two kilometre- and three kilometre-thick ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica and melts them. The ice is thick and the heat will penetrate slowly. So we have hundreds, probably thousands, of years to make our retreat to higher ground.

Recent research, however, shows that idea is wrong. Glaciologists forgot about crevasses.

What is actually happening is that ice is melting at the surface and forming lakes that drain down into the crevasses. In 10 seconds, the water is at the base of the ice sheet, where it lubricates the join between ice and rock. Then the whole ice sheet starts to slide downhill towards the ocean.

"These flows completely change our understanding of the dynamics of ice sheet destruction," says Alley.

"Even five years ago we didn't know about this."


Our complex society relies on our being able to plant crops and build cities, knowing that the rains will come and the cities will not be flooded by incoming tides. When that certainty fails, as when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans last year, even the most sophisticated society is brought to its knees." more

Last night, at the Vision Dinner,

I tried to get the group to drop their present view

and to understand our situation,

deeply, and at our cores.

The British Met folks from Hadley certainly did their part.

We didn't get it.

But at least we tried.

I just heard a couple of song birds outside.

They probably don't know that they are canaries.

And we don't know we are in a mine.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sobering thoughts. I sent it on to another list where the effect of feral cats on the bird populations are being cussed and discussed.

8:51 AM  
Blogger oZ said...

thanks FM. With the fish story last week and the bird story this week, you would think that the American Media would pick the climate change story up.

The haven't.

But they will.

According the the UK Hadley folks Tony Blair now says that climate change is more of challenge to our security than terrorism.

8:51 AM  

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