Monday, November 12, 2012

Climate Change is the Greatest Threat to Life on Earth

Today's EXPLORING NATURE podcast was devoted to climate change. Hurricane Sandy brought this issue to the fore. There is no more urgent issue than climate change. Worry about whether Iran develops a nuclear weapon pales next to climate change, which will have devastating consequences for the entire planet if governments don't address it. The two governments that most urgently need to address climate change are the United States and China. Yet we have some politicians and the fossil fuel industries that refuse to recognize the seriousness of climate change. They are stuck in denial and in an anti-science attitude that endangers all life on Earth.

The science and signs of climate change are out there. The scientific community has been in agreement about climate change for some 40 years. The changes are accumulating rapidly, more rapidly than originally predicted. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2000 to 2009 was the warmest decade ever recorded. If people keep on adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the current rate, the average temperature around the world could increase by 4 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100.

Increased temperature affects the oceans, weather patterns, snow, ice, plants and animals, including people. As the top layer of the ocean gets warmer, hurricanes and other tropical storms grow stronger with faster winds and heavier rain. That's what we saw with Sandy.

Since the 1980s, the U.S. has experienced more intense single-day storms that are dumping a lot more rain or snow than usual.

In the past century, there has been about a foot of sea level rise in the New York City area, and this figured in hurricane Sandy with the storm surge added to the normal tidal surge, producing devastating flooding for New York and New Jersey.

Melting sea ice is also a factor and will continue to be a factor in the world's coastal areas where so many large cities are located. Arctic sea ice reached its lowest seasonal minimum since satellite data began to be kept in 1979.

Summer 2012 was the third hottest on record.

The trends of wilder weather and greater temperature extremes are expected to continue. Exactly what climate scientists have been predicting for more than 20 years is happening. Everyone needs to pay attention and pressure their governments to do something about it while we still can.

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