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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Racheting Up Global Warming: A Hidden Game-Ender Still to Come

Global warming has been so difficult to slow down through political means at least in part due to the fact that most of the action has been going on in the Arctic Ocean and the surrounding permafrost land (which, it turns out, is not so permanently frozen after all), far from almost all of the world’s population. In short, what is occurring in that region is both dwarfing the impact of human-released carbon and serving as the canary in the coal mine. The implications are truly astonishing.
 
 
According to Alan Buis of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, “Climate change is already happening in the Arctic, faster than its ecosystems can adapt. Looking at the Arctic is like looking at the canary in the coal mine for the entire Earth system.”[1] If the pace of global warming outstrips the ability of the ecosystem sustaining the human race to adapt, the news of the canary at the North Pole is rather baleful. In other words, the climate may get warmer too fast to allow us mere mortals to adjust in terms of such essentials as food and water. Moreover, lest it be forgotten, the more complex the organism, the less adaptable it is to external change.
 
So what is going on up North that has Alan Buis so concerned? The answer has to do with carbon, methane and permafrost.



[1] Alan Buis, “Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?NASA News and Features, June 10, 2013. Accessed July 16, 2013.