July 26, 2013 by Janet Glatz, Brunswick, Maine
With a recent upsurge in reports by environmental scientists warning of melting polar caps, rising sea levels, and the rapid release of methane gas, why is there little consensus regarding preventative action for the entire world? Could it be because of the following statement?
According to the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University, “80% of the extra impacts by value will occur in the poorer economies of Africa, Asia and South America. Inundation of low-lying areas, extreme heat stress, droughts and storms are all magnified by the extra methane emissions.” This might suggest, in my opinion, a tendency toward thinking these problems won’t affect the more powerful 20%.
Of course there are a few top level scientists and conservationists who are banging the drum as loudly as they can.
M. Sanjayan, lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy, has opined that “On virtually every measure, the environmental movement is not keeping up with the needs at hand. We don’t have a movement. We have a niche.”
If more highly developed countries are discounting the potential damage to underdeveloped areas, and expecting little or no harm to come to their stomping grounds, they should heed this warning from a group of polar scientists and economists: “Rapid thawing of the Arctic could trigger a catastrophic “economic timebomb” which would cost trillions of dollars and undermine the global financial system.”
A recent study done at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES) explains at least one key factor the models have missed, and one that may soon have global watchdogs standing at attention: “Surface meltwater draining through cracks in an ice sheet can warm the sheet from the inside, softening the ice and letting it flow faster." Just how much faster? The study goes on to state, “Previous studies estimated that it would take centuries to millennia for new climates to increase the temperature deep within ice sheets. But when the influence of meltwater is considered, warming can occur within decades and, thus, produce rapid accelerations.” Indeed, and we are seeing it happen now.
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) has recently launched an initiative called Weathering the Storm-Building Business Resilience to Climate Change. They offer these facts: “90% of S&P global 100 index companies identify extreme weather and climate change as current or future business risk. Almost two thirds, they say, are experiencing climate change impacts now or (expect they) will in the coming decade.” Of course the S&P 100 are some of the world’s richest companies. Of course they are looking out for their own interests. The question still hangs over us: What about less developed countries? Are we willing to sacrifice the majority to save ourselves?
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