Planet Earth in Imminent Danger
Serious Threat From 'Global Warming'Two centuries have passed since the start of the Industrial Revolution and the human population hasincreased six-fold and economic activity an estimated fifty-fold. The sheer number of people on theplanet andthe intensity of economic activity are having profound effects on the long-term globalclimate, threatening to disrupt vast biological, geochemical, and social systems in future decades.This is a FACT.
Carbon dioxide levels today are nearly 30% more than they were prior to the industrialrevolution. What is truly unprecedented about current carbon dioxide levels is the speed inwhich they have risen. In the millions of years of known geological history, the Earth has neverexperienced such a rapid rise. There is no doubt that we have caused this change to the atmospherefrom burning fossil fuels.
And the planet
getting hotter. Although local temperatures do fluctuate naturally,the average global temperature over the past 50 years has increased at the fastest rate in recordedhistory. And experts think the trend is accelerating: the three hottest years on record have alloccurred since 1998. Scientists say that unless we curb global warming emissions, averagetemperatures could be 3 to 9 degrees higher by the end of the century.
Global warming is already causing damage.
In 2003, extreme heat waves caused more than20,000 deaths in Europe and more than 1,500 deaths in India. And in what scientists regard asan alarming sign of events to come, the area of the Arctic's perennial polar ice cap is decliningat the rate of 9% every decade.
In the U.S.A. in 2002, Colorado, Arizona and Oregon endured their worst wildfire seasonsever. In the same year drought created severe dust storms in Montana, Colorado and Kansas,and floods caused extensive damage in Texas, Montana and North Dakota. Since theearly 1950s snow accumulation has declined 60% and winter seasons have shortened insome areas of the Cascade Range in Oregon and Washington."An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and otherchanges in the climate system." - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2001What causes global warming? Carbon dioxide and other air pollution that is collecting in theatmosphere like a thickening blanket, trapping the sun's heat and causing the planet to warm up.Aeroplanes - primarily U.S. planes burning high-octane oil - are the largest source of pollution.Coal-burning power-plants are the second largest source of carbon dioxide pollution - theyproduce 2.5 billion tons every year. Cars, the third largest source, create nearly 1.5 billion tons of Co2 annually.
Manifestations of global warming include
Heat waves and periods of unusually warm weather. Severe droughts causingdramatic water shortages.
Arctic and Antarctic warming, melting glaciers, raising the sea-level and causing coastalflooding. Many areas, and some entire countries, will disappear underwater.
Massive tidal waves like the tsunami of Boxing Day 2004 which devastated areasaround the Indian Ocean causing the loss of over150,000 lives.
Incidence of many diseases will surge as the earth’s atmosphere heats up.
Forests, farms and cities will face troublesome new pests and more mosquito-borne diseases.
Disruption of habitats such as coral reefs and alpine meadows could drive manyplant and animal species to extinction, with knock-on ecosystem effects.Some of the ways that Earth may respond to global warming could be gradual, others couldbe rapid. By continuing to add 'greenhouse gases' to the air, we may be surprised by somenasty changes.
And as the Arctic warms, huge amounts of methane now frozen under the ocean and landcould escape into the air. Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphereand these added emissions could cause the Earth to warm even faster than expected. Parts of the Antarctic ice sheet rest precariously on the sea floor and, as the sea warms, the ice could becomedestabilised, break up, and melt. Sea level would rise even faster thancurrently predicted.
Warmer water temperatures will lead to changes in the course of major oceancurrents. Their paths determine the distribution of ocean temperatures and nutrients that sustainmarine life. If the currents were to change direction, entire marine ecosystems couldbe disrupted.
Climate change is with us now. A decade ago, it was conjecture. Now the future unfoldsbefore our eyes.
Canada's Inuit peoples see this happening in disappearing Arctic ice and permafrost.The shantytown dwellers of Latin America and Southern Asia see it in lethal storms and floods.Europeans see it in disappearing glaciers, forest fires and fatal heat waves. Scientists see it in treerings, ancient coral and bubbles trapped in ice cores. These reveal that the world has not beenas warm as it is now for a millennium or more. The three warmest years on record have alloccurred since 1998; 19 of the warmest 20 since 1980. And Earth has probably never warmedas fast as in the past 30 years - a period when natural influences on global temperatures, such as