Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Climate Change: Respect Mother Earth

from http://www.ohiocathconf.org
"Many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate — carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place. This annual report is well-researched, well-respected, and well-used; it is a superb example of the timely, actionable climate information that people need from NOAA to help prepare for extremes in our ever-changing environment."  Kathryn D. Sullivan, PhD, acting director, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), on its National Climate Data Center's (NCDC)  new report, "2012 State of the Climate"  (August 2013).

  "Human activities are changing Earth’s climate. At the global level, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases have increased sharply since the Industrial Revolution. Fossil fuel burning dominates this increase. Human-caused increases in greenhouse gases are responsible for most of the observed global average surface warming of roughly 0.8°C (1.5°F) over the past 140 years. Because natural processes cannot quickly remove some of these gases (notably carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere, our past, present, and future emissions will influence the climate system for millennia." From American Geophysical Union's (AGU) "Human Induced Climate Change Requires Urgent Action" (August 2013).

These are dire reports, the first an extensively researched scientific study, the second, a call for action.  Will President Obama step up and use his "bully pulpit" to urge reform and the necessary behavioral changes required to stop the increase in carbon dioxide, warming of the planet, the melting of the polar ice caps, the rising of the seas and oceans?  Is some international body able to bring all nations to the table to save the planet from human destruction? Can the nations that have claims on the Arctic Circle, for example, a major but under-reported concern, come together?

"One giant tsunami over Florida, and that state is gone," my friend Dan, who lives in Tampa, said over coffee recently. I can see that happening, and sooner rather than later.  Whenever I fly into or out of Florida and look down from the sky, I wonder how the fragile peninsula, so overbuilt, can survive the next big hurricane, let alone a major tsunami like the ones that hit Thailand and Japan, or the recent cyclone that swept over India.    

I suppose until something like that happens, we the people and the governments of the people won't do much to hurry the prevention agenda. Kind of like Katrina over New Orleans, but even worse.  A nightmare scenario.  

Maybe it won't be wars that destroys our planet, although they do a lot of damage, but the behavior of human beings who wage war and do not respect Mother Earth enough to act now.  My brother Loren said that all the time. Respect our mother. Respect Mother Earth.  I hear his voice so clearly on this issue, his lifelong commitment to the environment, until his last breath on his last hike on the Aucilla River in northern Florida.  "Come together, right now, over me," a Beatles line for our planet, he would say.
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Another blog on the environment.
North Pole with border countries, yahoo image. Portions of 8 countries
surround the Arctic circle, which is super rich in oil and gas resources.  
THE ARCTIC: The New North Pole--It's not just about Santa Claus Anymore
The Arctic, I am learning,  is a vast untapped resource, larger than the African continent, eyed hungrily by many nations.  A quick online search of what for me is a rather esoteric subject confirms this.  It's huge. Almost unfathomable.  Santa's North Pole is one of the most unexplored, undeveloped, resources-rich regions on planet Earth. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic has 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.   It's all up for grabs.  (See Amy Crawford, Smithsonian magazine, April 2013).

Is the Arctic circle region--becoming more accessible as global warming melts the ice--an incredible opportunity for energy exploration and independence, or an environmental and geopolitical nightmare in the making?  I don't know.  But the home of Santa Claus and his toy factory has mind-boggling potential for becoming a battlefield of global proportions, not only over drilling for oil, but also over the Arctic’s true borders.  Who owns the land, the expanding ocean, the seafloor, the resources?

For doubters and naysayers about global warming, here is another fact: “We’ve never had a situation where an ocean has appeared overnight,” Crawford quotes professor  Rob Huebert, a political scientist at the University of Calgary who studies Arctic security issues.  "Arctic security issues"? Didn’t even know they existed.

Huebert continues:   “The ice kept everybody out, but now all of a sudden the ice is going to be gone.  So what happens?”

Will it be like the great 19th century exploration and exploitation battles between Russia and Britain over central Asia and India?  Will it be another version of a cold war, no pun intended, between Russia and the USA?

Russia is already claiming that much of the sea floor is an extension of Siberia’s continental shelf.  That would, the essay notes, “expand Russia’s borders to cover some five billion tons of oil and natural gas.”   

Then there’s China.  It isn’t on the border, not even geographically close, but it is the world’s largest energy consumer.  It’s not sitting idly by either, according to Crawford’s essay.  It sees the potential, and that’s why it’s investing billions in Canadian oil and gas projects.  Incredible news. Beijing has also expressed “a sudden desire” to join the once-obscure Arctic Council.  First time I’ve heard of it.   

There’s a fight brewing about the storied Northwest Passage as well, Crawford notes, a route along Arctic North America that became free of ice along the entire length for the first time in August 2007.   Good heavens.  Apparently this passage is much shorter than the usual sea route through the Panama Canal, and it could be a real boon to exporters like China.  Does the passageway belong to Canada, as it insists, or is it “an international waterway,” as the US and Europe contend? 

Will the Arctic's untapped natural resources become the world’s next huge battle in the ongoing war over oil and natural gas?

Not tomorrow, because engineers and scientists have yet to come up with the technology that can withstand the harshest polar environments. And the development expenses are enormous.  “Even as the ice melts, the Arctic will not give up its riches easily,” Crawford concludes.  

There seems to be little doubt, however, that the frigid and remote Arctic region will be hotly contested in the not-too-distant future. The fight's already begun.

It appears that the Obama administration is on it, through an Interior Department’s "high level working group" on Alaska oil and gas development and a U.S. Arctic Research Commission. There seems to be growing recognition for developing some kind of international plan for responsible development and, yes, protection.

What a daunting agenda. The future of the globe is at stake.  The Arctic is no longer just Santa's benign North Pole.  And we haven't even talked about Antarctica, whose polar ice is melting at an alarming rate, causing oceans to rise.

    
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