Tuesday, September 18, 2007
A report this weekend about Lake Superior is both surprising and a bit disconcerting. The report indicated that over the past five years, Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water on the planet, has lost 12 trillion gallons of water to evaporation. The news story went on to say that the Lake, representing some 20% of the world’s fresh water, has risen some five degrees in temperature. Once deep waters have become shallow and tankers carry such cargo as coal have had to reduce their weights by around 10% to clear the depleted waters. Local docks have become sandbars and owners are losing the ability to meet dredging costs.
So, where all of this has water gone? The latest weather news may give a clue (this is not scientific but it is related). In Sloth Korea a monsoon has taken six lives; in Southeast Asia twenty six more people have died in flooding in India and Bangladesh; in Uganda whole villages, bridges, farms and schools have been washed away by floods; 15 die in floods in Rwanda; and, of course, we have the damage caused buy Hurricane Humberto. There are also reports from Alaska of villagers fleeing floods as storms surges appear to be putting finishing touches on Kivalena, an Arctic island that will soon be lost to the sea.
The UN’s IPCC reported that within twenty five years, 5.4 billion people will be living in areas where water is scarce. Of course, this assumes that computer models are correct. Recent reports indicate that many of these models are actually wrong and that global climate events may occur at an even faster pace. New factors and relationships keep emerging that invalidate projections and events are proceeding at a more rapid pace.
In a book titled “Save Our Species,” author Robin Greenslade gives a litany of climate changes that have gotten out of control. Among the events he cites are: faster Arctic ice melt, the collapse of Thermohaline Circulation, the faster break up of Antarctica ice sheet, a semi-permanent El Nino, massive forest fires, desertification and flooding, rapid glacial retreat and more. Recent global events tend to support these assertions as floods and fires top many of the weather news stories. Fires in the western U.S., Greece and the heat waves this summer in Europe add credence to the dire predictions.
What is beyond reason is the still apparent lack of sense of urgency on the part of policy and lawmakers. Vice President Cheney still wants to debate the issue and the Bush administration as a whole, while finally coming around, is still reluctant to propose sweeping and drastic environmental and energy policy changes. The recent Vermont Federal Court ruling approving several states’ desire to regulate auto emissions is a start but again, time is of the importance and plans to reduce emissions that are still fifteen years in the future will suffice. As a whole, the American public appears to want change but there is a total lack of the sense of urgency.
If the world is to turn these apparent negative climate changes into an advantage, action needs to be taken now. The mass migration of populations to coastal cities, as reported by the UN, is a death march. Concentrating our efforts on bio fuels in the absence of a sound food policy is suicide. Time is rushing by the Nero and the fiddle story cannot be repeated if we want our children to live in a habitable world.