A recent AP report (10/17) indicates that the Tundra, worldwide, is warming up. Caribou are on the decline as they have a hard time dealing with change and shrubs are taking hold in was once a permanent frozen wasteland. In the article NOAA said that the change was is rapid and occurring from Alaska to Siberia. This past year sea ice saw a reduction of 23%. As shrubs begin to take a foothold in the Tundra, the area warms even further as the darker earth absorbs more heat.
On the other side of the globe, residents of Ghoramara are fleeing rising sea levels as two islands are being swallowed by the sea. They have landed on the Sunderbans and are the first of what is being called “climate change refugees.”
Back on the home front, the city of Atlanta is down to a 90 day water supply. With no plans in place for getting more water, we may see climate refugees here in the good old US of A. According to state officials, Lake Lanier, which supplies water for some 3 million residents, may well go dry in the next three months. A dry summer and no hurricane activity have brought the region to a major crisis. If a La Nina develops the situation may get even worse
Water is also of great concern in India and China. According to an ANI article, the snows of the Himalayas are melting at an alarming rate. Some 500 million people in South Asia and 250 million people in China may also find themselves with dry faucets. One model run by the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment indicates that the North Pole may be free of ice by 2070.
An important thing to keep in mind is that many of these models are not capable of keeping pace with rapid changes in the climate. Few were able to take into account the thawing of the Tundra and the release of methane gas and now they have to take into account the greening of the Tundra. The fact that there still has been no real breakthrough in greenhouse gas reduction plans does not bode well.
The upcoming climate change meeting in Bali in December may be “make or break” for the planet. While the U.S. will attend the session, the Bush Administration is still rejecting the idea of mandatory limits of greenhouse gases, pushing instead for voluntary curbs. The problem is the point is being missed. While there is no question that we must reduce greenhouse gasses, climate change is happening now. The effects are being felt now and they only promise to get worse. Yes, we must try to stop making it worse, but we must plan now to deal with the effects that are already happening. We have no real plans for Atlanta; we do not know the impact of a thawing Tundra: glaciers and sea ice are disappearing at a more rapid rate than projected by most models and we have done nothing to deal with these issues.
Most experts had predicted that climate change would mostly affect third world countries. With 43% of the U.S. under a drought and Atlanta about to go dry, this may very well not be the case. Where will the dollars come from to quench a thirsty Atlanta? What will have to cut to pay the bill? We still have not managed to address the issues from Hurricane Katrina so what makes us think we can deal with other looming disasters? Perhaps there should be a Summit of the States here at home and some real planning can get started.