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On February 2, 2007 in Paris the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the most disturbing scientific global warming commentary since the group was formed in the early 1990s to advise world leaders on how quickly the atmosphere and oceans are changing.
The current scientific consensus is (found in comparing AR-4 to TAR, the Third Assessment Report) based on far greater certainty that global warming is due to human actions, that the sharp rise in heat trapping gases since the 1950s is not a natural cycle, and this condition will not soon go away. The evidence is clear that actions must be taken soon because the rates at which carbon dioxide, methane and nitric oxide are increasing are unprecedented. Present levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have not been detected on earth for over 650,000 years.
Because of these facts, ocean chemistry and temperature are undergoing an accelerating change. Levels of rainfall are increasing in the polar latitudes. Heavy precipitation events occur more frequently and rapid runoff of rainwater increases the rate of erosion. In the sub-tropics there is less rainfall predicted. Given such trends, our inability to manage water, protect low-lying coastal areas and reduce the loss of topsoil should promote widespread caution.
These facts make it clear that actions needed to cap and then reduce the rate of heat trapping gas emissions will have greater impact if taken sooner, than if we stall in efforts to be more energy efficient. Because warmer oceans and land areas will persist for decades, if not centuries, institutional changes must be encouraged now to assist the most vulnerable and curb inherent inefficiencies in power consumption and transportation.
As the U. K. government's campaign is fond of saying tomorrow’s climate depends on today's actions.
Lessons from the report's summary
The immense rise and rapid increase combined with the future duration of heat retained in the oceans and air [heat radiation from carbon compounds persists because carbon may linger in the air and water for a century or more] means that 1) this is not a natural cycle and 2) the changes in climate will be with us for some time to come, even if we stop polluting this year. It will take decades–if not a century–to bring the Earth back to a pattern of climate that we experienced before the 1950s.
Authors who have seen the global warming threat and competently urge us to act sooner than later are:
“We have to live with some climate change… in the future.”
“The future still rests in our hands.”
Dr. Oppenheimer, IPCC.
Attenuated opportunities for effective wildlife protection due to rapidly changing climate
Biological diversity or the species richness, habitat variety and genetic variability of plants and animals will change regionally due to climate change. But to what extent and to what degree of damage remains difficult to know with great certainty for three related reasons. The pace of change being the swiftest in 10,000 years, and the abruptness with which the shift since 1950 has occurred, and the level at which carbon dioxide has accumulated is unprecedented in the past 650,000 years. Currently there are signs with respect to wildlife impacts in the Arctic and Antarctic, the Central American isthmus and among mountain terrains in the Great Basin where observed patterns of abundance of flora or decline in fauna provide a suggestion of what may come. But there are no predictive patterns that emerge aside from case specific responses of mammals, amphibians, butterflies or flowering plants to new temperature and rainfall patterns.
Studies clearly reveal that soil moisture, average temperature changes, frequency and abundance of precipitation, and an advance in the onset of spring in the northern hemisphere are all persistent physical patterns that do not reveal in their pronounced abruptness or accelerating rate any natural trend. Further the biotic responses associated with observed changes in the range of butterflies, or abundance of amphibian species, or sufficient prey for sea lions, penguins or polar bears indicate that an abrupt shift is underway to which large animals and older plants will have to adapt. Furthermore there is now a scientific consensus that the heat absorbed by the oceans will continue to affect the planet for some decades to come. Those influence are most likely to accelerate, if present trends continue, after 2050. These impacts, as manifest in ocean thermal expansion causing sea levels to rise, will also include a shift in the frequency and abundance of rainfall away from the tropics toward the polar latitudes. Existing studies show that some strategies among mammals are adaptive under rapid changes in thermal patterns, but other strategies are not. This means that broad generalizations fail to capture the enormity of the range and the subtle variation in adjustments now observed among species.
What appears certain is that adaptations will occur. Some competitive advantages may expand or reduce ranges and numbers of populations, as certainly the isolation from one breeding population to another will change for desert, savanna, forest, and mountain species. In addition the customary timing in the appearance of flora necessary for the breeding, feeding, or migration of specialized organisms will more likely favor the adaptive generalist in the quest for food, shelter but that reproductive success may rely on different traits that favor endogamous mating habits among animals.
By looking at current practices and proposed recommendations for wildlife and fishery conservation based on existing insect, amphibian and mammal studies, the paper presents a series of critiques of widespread complacency with respect to protection of terrain and management of water resources essential for the continuation of certain keystone, and significant indicator, or sentinel species.
We must articulate our duties and pledge to promote life's survival.
We may want to inform one another of our debt to the vast experience of organisms who by their daily actions sustain our planet, by protecting their places to live.
The necessity to act now!
Last Updated on 2, 7, 2007 .
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