Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Walk to Work

Originally uploaded by procsilas

If you're interested in how rapid climate change is affecting the planet at the moment, have a read of this article from NASA's Earth Observatory site.

"Goés and his team traced their way backward from what they thought was a mistake (in their calculation of ocean nitrate levels) to a surprising discovery of how complexly connected Earth’s land surface, oceans, atmosphere and living creatures are - declining snow cover and a hotter Eurasian land mass; greater temperature difference between land and ocean; stronger monsoon winds across the Arabian Sea; greater upwelling of deep, nutrient-rich water; and bigger blooms of phytoplankton. The intricacy is amazing."

Major changes in snow cover of the Himalayas are thought to have indirectly increased phytoplankton levels in the Arabian Sea by 350% causing massive fish deaths in oxygen depleted waters.

The article also speculates "that the runaway decline in Eurasian snow cover since 1997 may be strengthening Southwest monsoon rainfall in regions where the rains are strongly tied to the Arabian Sea winds, such as along the western coast of India...(this)...could mean more intense rain and more frequent floods in Southwest Asia."

However, "The most immediate threat ... is the snow cover decline itself. Many people in India, Pakistan, and China depend on snow melt for water, and the snow is in decline. If glaciers continue to melt at the present rate, many high-altitude lakes could start overflowing ... the melting of glaciers and warming of the ground can destabilize mountain slopes and trigger dangerous landslides. Eventually drought could prevail in regions where snow and glaciers are unable to persist."

And all this from a trend in decreasing snow cover which commenced as recently as 1997.


Patry Francis said...

The frightening thing is that it might be too late to walk to work; the frustrating thing is that the powers that be continue to choose greed over an honest assessment of the problem.

Jonathan Wonham said...

Thanks Patry. Well, it's never too late to walk to work...

In the UK at the moment, laws are being passed to stop smoking in public places. Over the last thirty years there has been a major shift in public opinion that has tipped the balance and meant that the new laws can be put in place.

The public was slow to wake up to the issue of lung cancer. They will undoubtedly be slow to wake up to the issue of climate change. When they do, governments will start to act.

Until then, individuals can act by studying and drawing attention to the problem. The more people know and understand, the more likely it is that something will change as regards CO2 output.

Governments rarely lead the way. They generally spend a lot of time trying to find out what will make them popular with their citizens. Increasing petrol prices is not one of them.

The problem is that society has developed a sort of dependency on oil. An addiction, if you like. At the end of the day, it will be up to individuals to cure themselves of this addiction. If governments can help them do that, all the better.

Personally, I have become concerned that climate change will start to have serious impacts not only in the lifetimes of my children, but in my own lifetime. If that point can be put across to people, they will start to be concerned.