The answer to that question is not an easy one, but lately it is becoming more cut and dry (no pun intended). Interest in global warming may have peaked with the release of “An Inconvenient Truth” starring Mr. Gore, but the impact of increasing global warming emissions are far from it.
Scientist studying CO2 deposits in ancient Antartic ice samples have noticed an alarming trend. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere right now is higher than at any point in the last 650,000 years, even when considering the peak levels of the natural glaciation cycles.
An article was recently published by Sharon Begley, Newsweek’s science editor. She discusses the most recent developments concerning climate change. Exerts from the article include new estimates on the melting of Greenland. Although the IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, estimated rising sea levels from Greenland melt to be somewhere around 16 inches this century, recent satellite data suggest rising sea levels will be closer to 39 inches, (that’s one meter). This estimate itself may be shortchanging considering the feedback loops of melting and heating may behave more like exponential functions rather than linear progressions.
In addition, estimates of the amount of CO2 locked in the permafrost around the world are now higher than first thought. According to Edward Schuur of the University of Florida, the amount is around 1.6 trillion tons of CO2, or three times the amount originally accepted by the science community. 1.6 trillion tons is about twice the amount of CO2 currently in the atmosphere. Schuur estimates about 1 to 2 billion tons of CO2 can be released into the atmosphere per year. This is 3 to 6 times the amount coming from U.S. cars and light trucks every year.
A positive feedback loop has already begun, creating a cycle of melting, increased solar absorption and increased CO2 and methane gas release from the permafrost. Exacerbating these cycles is the synthesis of huge amounts of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels locked in the Earth for millions of years. If we are to curb these exponential feedback loops, the consortium of leaders meeting in Copenhagen in December better come up with some favorable politics, otherwise I’m moving to the shores of Greenland where it’s sure to be ever more pleasant.