Recent satellite data from the U.S. Space agency NASA indicate that sea ice in the Arctic and Greenland is melting at a faster rate than previously projected. VOA's Paul Sisco has the story.
Climate scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, outside Washington, say the Arctic Ocean could be mostly ice free in late summer 2013.
"The sea ice is decreasing faster than all the models predicted," says Jay Zwally, the ice satellite project scientist at NASA Goddard, "We not only have the warming of the atmosphere, we have a warming of the ocean that is affecting this. It has been surprising to everybody, this decrease in area. This is a marked departure, and this is suggesting to us that maybe we are getting at this tipping point."
"If you push something like a glass to a certain point, and leave go, it will come back; but if you push it too far, past a tipping point, then it is gone," he explains.
"Now what is happening in the Arctic Ocean is the sea ice is getting thinner; it is decreasing in area. This opens up the ocean to more heating from the sun, so it is very likely that the Arctic Sea ice is now at this tipping point, where even if the climate doesn't warm any more, stays as it is, most of the sea ice will decrease and disappear at the end of the summer."
"Up through 2006, in September we've been losing ice at the rate of a little more than nine percent per decade,” says Mark Serreze, a senior researcher at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. “That's equivalent to about 100,000 square kilometers per year, which is quite a bit. What's happened in 2007 has just sent an exclamation point to this."
|NASA satellite image shows Arctic over the last 30 years
This satellite image from NASA shows the average sea ice in the Arctic over the last 30 years. The green area indicates the melt at the end of last summer.
Zwally says there is clear indication that the remaining is thinning. "The key thing is that this area that is remaining is now thinner," he said. "There used to be a lot of ice here that was three- four, five, six meters thick, and most of that is gone."
All climate models have variability and the possibility that melting trends may lead to results less severe than predicted.
"The other possibility is that it could be worse than the models predict and this is an example, a specific example of the sea ice in the Arctic where what is happening, what we see with the satellite is actually worse than the models predicted," he adds, and he says those models are supported by ground based observations and measurements.
Global Warming 01 (NASA Climate Report on Global Warming-Gerald Dickens)
The Five Basic Commandments for Saving the Planet
Global Warming 02 (Special: Supreme Master Ching Hai on the Environment & Climate Change I)
Global Warming 03 (Special: Supreme Master Ching Hai on the Environment & Climate Change II)
Global Warming 04 (Special: Supreme Master Ching Hai on the Environment & Climate Change III)
Global Warming 05 (Global Climate Change: A Global Response)
Global Warming 06 (Global Climate Change: A Planetary Emergency)
Global Warming 07 (Latest Evidence of Global Warming)
Global Warming 08 (Methane Gas from Arctic Lakes and NASA Climate Report on Global Warming)
Global Warming 09 (United Nations Report on Livestock and Global Warming)
Global Warming 10 (Global Warming-Time To Act)
Global Warming 11 (NASA Climate Report on Global Warming)
EARTHLINGS (2005) Runtime:104 min
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (2006) Runtime:100 min
THE 11TH HOUR (2007) Runtime:95 min
A New Global Warming Strategy: Vegetarianism
How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes by Noam Mohr
Global warming poses one of the most serious threats to the global environment ever faced in human history. Yet by focusing entirely on carbon dioxide emissions, major environmental organizations have failed to account for published data showing that other gases are the main culprits behind the global warming we see today. As a result, they are neglecting what might be the most effective strategy for reducing global warming in our lifetimes: advocating a vegetarian diet.
Global Warming and Carbon Dioxide
The environmental community rightly recognizes global warming as one of the gravest threats to the planet. Global temperatures are already higher than they’ve ever been in at least the past millennium, and the increase is accelerating even faster than scientists had predicted. The expected consequences include coastal flooding, increases in extreme weather, spreading disease, and mass extinctions.
Unfortunately, the environmental community has focused its efforts almost exclusively on abating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Domestic legislative efforts concentrate on raising fuel economy standards, capping CO2 emissions from power plants, and investing in alternative energy sources. Recommendations to consumers also focus on CO2: buy fuel-efficient cars and appliances, and minimize their use. ,
This is a serious miscalculation. Data published by Dr. James Hansen and others show that CO2 emissions are not the main cause of observed atmospheric warming. Though this may sound like the work of global warming skeptics, it isn’t: Hansen is Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies who has been called “a grandfather of the global warming theory.” He is a longtime supporter of action against global warming, cited by Al Gore and often quoted by environmental organizations, who has argued against skeptics for subverting the scientific process. His results are generally accepted by global warming experts, including bigwigs like Dr. James McCarthy, co-chair of the International Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II.
The focus solely on CO2 is fueled in part by misconceptions. It’s true that human activity produces vastly more CO2 than all other greenhouse gases put together. However, this does not mean it is responsible for most of the earth’s warming. Many other greenhouse gases trap heat far more powerfully than CO2, some of them tens of thousands of times more powerfully. When taking into account various gases’ global warming potential—defined as the amount of actual warming a gas will produce over the next one hundred years—it turns out that gases other than CO2 make up most of the global warming problem.
Even this overstates the effect of CO2, because the primary sources of these emissions—cars and power plants—also produce aerosols. Aerosols actually have a cooling effect on global temperatures, and the magnitude of this cooling approximately cancels out the warming effect of CO2. The surprising result is that sources of CO2 emissions are having roughly zero effect on global temperatures in the near-term!
This result is not widely known in the environmental community, due to a fear that polluting industries will use it to excuse their greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the Union of Concerned Scientists had the data reviewed by other climate experts, who affirmed Hansen’s conclusions. However, the organization also cited climate contrarians’ misuse of the data to argue against curbs in CO2. This contrarian spin cannot be justified.
While CO2 may have little influence in the near-term, reductions remains critical for containing climate change in the long run. Aerosols are short-lived, settling out of the air after a few months, while CO2 continues to heat the atmosphere for decades to centuries. Moreover, we cannot assume that aerosol emissions will keep pace with increases in CO2 emissions. If we fail start dealing with CO2 today, it will be too late down the road when the emissions catch up with us.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that sources of non-CO2 greenhouse gases are responsible for virtually all the global warming we’re seeing, and all the global warming we are going to see for the next fifty years. If we wish to curb global warming over the coming half century, we must look at strategies to address non-CO2 emissions. The strategy with the most impact is vegetarianism.
Methane and Vegetarianism
By far the most important non-CO2 greenhouse gas is methane, and the number one source of methane worldwide is animal agriculture.
Methane is responsible for nearly as much global warming as all other non-CO2 greenhouse gases put together. Methane is 21 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2. While atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have risen by about 31% since pre-industrial times, methane concentrations have more than doubled. Whereas human sources of CO2 amount to just 3% of natural emissions, human sources produce one and a half times as much methane as all natural sources. In fact, the effect of our methane emissions may be compounded as methane-induced warming in turn stimulates microbial decay of organic matter in wetlands—the primary natural source of methane.
With methane emissions causing nearly half of the planet’s human-induced warming, methane reduction must be a priority. Methane is produced by a number of sources, including coal mining and landfills—but the number one source worldwide is animal agriculture. Animal agriculture produces more than 100 million tons of methane a year. And this source is on the rise: global meat consumption has increased fivefold in the past fifty years, and shows little sign of abating. About 85% of this methane is produced in the digestive processes of livestock, and while a single cow releases a relatively small amount of methane, the collective effect on the environment of the hundreds of millions of livestock animals worldwide is enormous. An additional 15% of animal agricultural methane emissions are released from the massive “lagoons” used to store untreated farm animal waste, and already a target of environmentalists’ for their role as the number one source of water pollution in the U.S.
The conclusion is simple: arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products. Simply by going vegetarian (or, strictly speaking, vegan), , , we can eliminate one of the major sources of emissions of methane, the greenhouse gas responsible for almost half of the global warming impacting the planet today.
Advantages of Vegetarianism over CO2 Reduction
In addition to having the advantage of immediately reducing global warming, a shift away from methane-emitting food sources is much easier than cutting carbon dioxide.
First, there is no limit to reductions in this source of greenhouse gas that can be achieved through vegetarian diet. In principle, even 100% reduction could be achieved with little negative impact. In contrast, similar cuts in carbon dioxide are impossible without devastating effects on the economy. Even the most ambitious carbon dioxide reduction strategies fall short of cutting emissions by half.
Second, shifts in diet lower greenhouse gas emissions much more quickly than shifts away from the fossil fuel burning technologies that emit carbon dioxide. The turnover rate for most ruminant farm animals is one or two years, so that decreases in meat consumption would result in almost immediate drops in methane emissions. The turnover rate for cars and power plants, on the other hand, can be decades. Even if cheap, zero-emission fuel sources were available today, they would take many years to build and slowly replace the massive infrastructure our economy depends upon today.
Similarly, unlike carbon dioxide which can remain in the air for more than a century, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years, so that lower methane emissions quickly translate to cooling of the earth.
Third, efforts to cut carbon dioxide involve fighting powerful and wealthy business interests like the auto and oil industries. Environmental groups have been lobbying for years to make fuel-efficient SUVs available or phase out power plants that don’t meet modern environmental standards without success. At the same time, vegetarian foods are readily available, and cuts in agricultural methane emissions are achievable at every meal.
Also, polls show that concern about global warming is widespread, and environmental activists often feel helpless to do anything about it. Unless they happen to be buying a car or major appliance, most people wanting to make a difference are given little to do aside from writing their legislators and turning off their lights. Reducing or eliminating meat consumption is something concerned citizens can do every day to help the planet.
Finally, it is worth noting that reductions in this source of greenhouse gas have many beneficial side effects for the environment. Less methane results in less tropospheric ozone, a pollutant damaging to human health and agriculture. Moreover, the same factory farms responsible for these methane emissions also use up most of the country’s water supply, and denude most of its wilderness for rangeland and growing feed. Creating rangeland to feed western nations’ growing appetite for meat has been a major source of deforestation and desertification in third world countries. Factory farm waste lagoons are a leading source of water pollution in the U.S. Indeed, because of animal agriculture’s high demand for fossil fuels, the average American diet is far more CO2-polluting than a plant-based one.
- First of all, remember God, and pray for
- Second, abstain from all animal products.
- Third, refrain from harming
any living being, be it human or animal. That is, respect and honor all life.
- Fourth, protect
and preserve the environment and resources: Be frugal in all.
- Fifth, change to renewable
Save Earth Recipe Book
Vegetarian Starter Kit
Climate change flyer (Front PDF)
Climate change flyer (Back PDF)
What will climate change do to our planet? - degree-by-degree guide
If global warming continues at the current rate, we could be facing extinction. So what exactly is going to happen as the Earth heats up? Here is a degree-by-degree guide
Ice-free sea absorbs more heat and accelerates global warming; fresh water lost from a third of the world's surface; low-lying coastlines flooded
"Most striking of all," says Lynas, "was seeing how people behaved once the veneer of civilization had been torn away. Most victims were poor and black, left to fend for themselves as the police either joined in the looting or deserted the area. Four days into the crisis, survivors were packed into the city's Superdome, living next to overflowing toilets and rotting bodies as gangs of young men with guns seized the only food and water available. Perhaps the most memorable scene was a single military helicopter landing for just a few minutes, its crew flinging food parcels and water bottles out onto the ground before hurriedly taking off again as if from a war zone. In scenes more like a Third World refugee camp than an American urban centre, young men fought for the water as pregnant women and the elderly looked on with nothing. Don't blame them for behaving like this, I thought. It's what happens when people are desperate."
Chance of avoiding one degree of global warming:
Europeans dying of heatstroke; forests ravaged by fire; stressed plants beginning to emit carbon rather than absorbing it; a third of all species face extinction
Not only coastal communities will suffer. As mountains lose their glaciers, so people will lose their water supplies. The entire Indian subcontinent will be fighting for survival. "As the glaciers disappear from all but the highest peaks, their runoff will cease to power the massive rivers that deliver vital freshwater to hundreds of millions. Water shortages and famine will be the result, destabilizing the entire region. And this time the epicentre of the disaster won't be India, Nepal or Bangladesh, but nuclear-armed Pakistan."
Chance of avoiding two degrees of global warming:
93%, but only if emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced by 60% over the next 10 years
Carbon release from vegetation and soils speeds global warming; death of the Amazon rainforest; super-hurricanes hit coastal cities; starvation in Africa
As the land burns, so the sea will go on rising. Even by the most optimistic calculation, 80% of Arctic sea ice by now will be gone, and the rest will soon follow. New York will flood; the catastrophe that struck eastern England in 1953 will become an unremarkable regular event; and the map of the Netherlands will be torn up by the North Sea. Everywhere, starving people will be on the move - from Central America into Mexico and the US, and from Africa into Europe, where resurgent fascist parties will win votes by promising to keep them out.
Chance of avoiding three degrees of global warming:
poor if the rise reaches two degrees and triggers carbon-cycle feedbacks from soils and plants.
Runaway thaw of permafrost makes global warming unstoppable; much of Britain made uninhabitable by severe flooding; Mediterranean region abandoned
One of the most dangerous of all feedbacks will now be kicking in - the runaway thaw of permafrost. Scientists believe at least 500 billion tonnes of carbon are waiting to be released from the Arctic ice, though none yet has put a figure on what it will add to global warming. One degree? Two? Three? The pointers are ominous.
Chance of avoiding four degrees of global warming:
poor if the rise reaches three degrees and triggers a runaway thaw of permafrost.
Methane from ocean floor accelerates global warming; ice gone from both poles; humans migrate in search of food and try vainly to live like animals off the land
"Where no refuge is available," says Lynas, "civil war and a collapse into racial or communal conflict seems the likely outcome." Isolated survivalism, however, may be as impracticable as dialing for room service. "How many of us could really trap or kill enough game to feed a family? Even if large numbers of people did successfully manage to fan out into the countryside, wildlife populations would quickly dwindle under the pressure. Supporting a hunter-gatherer lifestyle takes 10 to 100 times the land per person that a settled agricultural community needs. A large-scale resort to survivalism would turn into a further disaster for biodiversity as hungry humans killed and ate anything that moved." Including, perhaps, each other. "Invaders," says Lynas, "do not take kindly to residents denying them food. History suggests that if a stockpile is discovered, the householder and his family may be tortured and killed. Look for comparison to the experience of present-day Somalia, Sudan or Burundi, where conflicts over scarce land and food are at the root of lingering tribal wars and state collapse."
Chance of avoiding five degrees of global warming:
negligible if the rise reaches four degrees and releases trapped methane from the sea bed.
Life on Earth ends with apocalyptic storms, flash floods, hydrogen sulphide gas and methane fireballs racing across the globe with the power of atomic bombs; only fungi survive
"First, a small disturbance drives a gas-saturated parcel of water upwards. As it rises, bubbles begin to appear, as dissolved gas fizzles out with reducing pressure - just as a bottle of lemonade overflows if the top is taken off too quickly. These bubbles make the parcel of water still more buoyant, accelerating its rise through the water. As it surges upwards, reaching explosive force, it drags surrounding water ?up with it. At the surface, water is shot hundreds of metres into the air as the released gas blasts into the atmosphere. Shockwaves propagate outwards in all directions, triggering more eruptions nearby."
The eruption is more than just another positive feedback in the quickening process of global warming. Unlike CO², methane is flammable. "Even in air-methane concentrations as low as 5%," says Lynas, "the mixture could ignite from lightning or some other spark and send fireballs tearing across the sky." The effect would be much like that of the fuel-air explosives used by the US and Russian armies - so-called "vacuum bombs" that ignite fuel droplets above a target. According to the CIA, "Those near the ignition point are obliterated. Those at the fringes are likely to suffer many internal injuries, including burst eardrums, severe concussion, ruptured lungs and internal organs, and possibly blindness." Such tactical weapons, however, are squibs when set against methane-air clouds from oceanic eruptions. Scientists calculate that they could "destroy terrestrial life almost entirely" (251m years ago, only one large land animal, the pig-like lystrosaurus, survived).
It has been estimated that a large eruption in future could release energy equivalent to 108 megatonnes of TNT - 100,000 times more than the world's entire stockpile of nuclear weapons. Not even Lynas, for all his scientific propriety, can avoid the Hollywood ending. "It is not too difficult to imagine the ultimate nightmare, with oceanic methane eruptions near large population centres wiping out billions of people - perhaps in days. Imagine a 'fuel-air explosive' fireball racing towards a city - London, say, or Tokyo - the blast wave spreading out from the explosive centre with the speed and force of an atomic bomb.
Buildings are flattened, people are incinerated where they stand, or left blind and deaf by the force of the explosion. Mix Hiroshima with post-Katrina New Orleans to get some idea of what such a catastrophe might look like: burnt survivors battling over food, wandering far and wide from empty cities."
Chance of avoiding six degrees of global warming: zero if the rise passes five degrees, by which time all feedbacks will be running out of control
Helping to Save the Planet -
Worldwide Environmental Organizations
Viewers can contact the following organizations for Save the Planet information:
David Suzuki Foundation
Global Action Network
Toronto Vegetarian Association
United Earth Organization (UEOG)
Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter
Stop Global Warming – One Bite at a Time
The Student Conservation Association
The Vegetarian Resource Group of Tucson (VRGT)
Do It Yourself (DIT)
AVI Associazione Vegetariana Italiana,
Il Centro Internazionale di Ecologia della Nutrizione (NEIC)
Societá Scientifica di Nutrizione Vegetariana
Gluaiseacht For Global Justice
Norsk Vegetar Forening
Ananda Marga Center
Fundacja Zmienmy Swiat (Change the World Foundation)
Klimathotet.net (The Climate Threat)
Svensk mat- och miljöinformation (Swedish Food and Environmental Information)
Rättvismat.nu (Righteous Food)
Australia Concervation Foundation
ACT Vegetarian Society
The Australian Vegetarian Society
Earth First Australia
Friends of the Earth Australia
Vegetarian Society Wellington
Korean Veggie Society for Earth
Nutrition Ecology International Center