The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Warming hits 'tipping point'

Warming hits 'tipping point'

Siberia feels the heat It's a frozen peat bog the size of France and Germany combined, contains billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas and, for the first time since the ice age, it is melting

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Thursday August 11, 2005
The Guardian

A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today.

Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

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The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" - delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures.

The discovery was made by Sergei Kirpotin at Tomsk State University in western Siberia and Judith Marquand at Oxford University and is reported in New Scientist today.

The researchers found that what was until recently a barren expanse of frozen peat is turning into a broken landscape of mud and lakes, some more than a kilometre across.

Dr Kirpotin told the magazine the situation was an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He added that the thaw had probably begun in the past three or four years.

Climate scientists yesterday reacted with alarm to the finding, and warned that predictions of future global temperatures would have to be revised upwards.

"When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it's unstoppable. There are no brakes you can apply," said David Viner, a senior scientist at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"This is a big deal because you can't put the permafrost back once it's gone. The causal effect is human activity and it will ramp up temperatures even more than our emissions are doing."

In its last major report in 2001, the intergovernmental panel on climate change predicted a rise in global temperatures of 1.4C-5.8C between 1990 and 2100, but the estimate only takes account of global warming driven by known greenhouse gas emissions.

"These positive feedbacks with landmasses weren't known about then. They had no idea how much they would add to global warming," said Dr Viner.

Western Siberia is heating up faster than anywhere else in the world, having experienced a rise of some 3C in the past 40 years. Scientists are particularly concerned about the permafrost, because as it thaws, it reveals bare ground which warms up more quickly than ice and snow, and so accelerates the rate at which the permafrost thaws.

Siberia's peat bogs have been producing methane since they formed at the end of the last ice age, but most of the gas had been trapped in the permafrost. According to Larry Smith, a hydrologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, the west Siberian peat bog could hold some 70bn tonnes of methane, a quarter of all of the methane stored in the ground around the world.

The permafrost is likely to take many decades at least to thaw, so the methane locked within it will not be released into the atmosphere in one burst, said Stephen Sitch, a climate scientist at the Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter.

But calculations by Dr Sitch and his colleagues show that even if methane seeped from the permafrost over the next 100 years, it would add around 700m tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere each year, roughly the same amount that is released annually from the world's wetlands and agriculture.

It would effectively double atmospheric levels of the gas, leading to a 10% to 25% increase in global warming, he said.

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said the finding was a stark message to politicians to take concerted action on climate change. "We knew at some point we'd get these feedbacks happening that exacerbate global warming, but this could lead to a massive injection of greenhouse gases.

"If we don't take action very soon, we could unleash runaway global warming that will be beyond our control and it will lead to social, economic and environmental devastation worldwide," he said. "There's still time to take action, but not much.

"The assumption has been that we wouldn't see these kinds of changes until the world is a little warmer, but this suggests we're running out of time."

In May this year, another group of researchers reported signs that global warming was damaging the permafrost. Katey Walter of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, told a meeting of the Arctic Research Consortium of the US that her team had found methane hotspots in eastern Siberia. At the hotspots, methane was bubbling to the surface of the permafrost so quickly that it was preventing the surface from freezing over.

Last month, some of the world's worst air polluters, including the US and Australia, announced a partnership to cut greenhouse gas emissions through the use of new technologies.

The deal came after Tony Blair struggled at the G8 summit to get the US president, George Bush, to commit to any concerted action on climate change and has been heavily criticised for setting no targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,12374,1546824,00.html


But fear not! The Washington Times, Fox News, and our own beloved Roy Blunt are fighting the good fight to make sure we are not snookered by this so-called "global warming" nonsense. From The Daily Howler:

GLOBAL CLOWNING: Don’t worry—Dennis Miller will recite this one too. In this morning’s Washington Times, James Lakely engages in consummate clownistry as he “reports” Gore’s address on global warming:

LAKELY (pgh 1): Former Vice President Al Gore delivered a speech on the theory of global warming yesterday, the coldest day in New York City in decades, calling President Bush a “moral coward” for adhering to policies that put the planet in catastrophic peril of overheating.

(2) The speech, sponsored by the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, came when the mercury was expected to dip to minus 1 in New York City, shattering a record low temperature that has stood for 47 years, and notching just a few degrees higher than the coldest day ever recorded there.

Pitiful, isn’t it? Nothing about global warming theory says there will be no cold days in New York. But Lakely throws dim-witted feed to the herd. Can’t you hear what he’s actually saying? We think we can hear him: Hey, rubes!

Indeed, Lakely gives a perfect example of the conservative press corps’ rapidly evolving, propagandistic style of “reporting.” He quotes two experts on global warming—both of whom say what a Big Nut Gore is. After that, he quotes a major pol. And he’s been to Clown College too:

LAKELY: House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said it was “fitting that Mr. Gore chose one of the coldest days of the year to spread false information about the Bush administration's record on global warming.”

“Mother Nature didn’t agree with his message, and neither do I,” the congressman said. “Al, it’s cold outside.”
Don’t worry: In Hollywood, Miller is honing the message. After all, he even saw Brit recite it last night. Yep! A Pander Bear was going polar on last evening’s Special Report:
HUME: In a case of unfortunate timing, former Vice President Al Gore was in New York City today attacking the Bush administration’s policies on global warming. Gore called President Bush, quote, a “moral coward on the environment.” He said evidence of the warming problem is undeniable.

GORE (on tape): I really don’t think there is any longer a credible basis for doubting that the earth’s atmosphere is heating up because of global warming.

HUME: As Gore spoke, New Yorkers were freezing in 18-degree weather with a wind chill of one degree. And forecasters were saying that tonight could be the coldest January 15 in 47 years.

That was Hume’s entire report! Increasingly, your discourse is managed by clowns. Disaster is one sure result.

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