Friday, March 28, 2008

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

This week scientists from the British Antarctic Survey announced that the Wilkins ice sheet—a body of ice roughly the size of Connecticut—has begun to break up. The collapse of this ice sheet now seems likely within the next few years. Discussing the importance of the break up of this ice sheet, David Wilson, a member of the survey team said, “We predicted it would happen, but it's happened twice as fast as we predicted...The importance of it is it's further south than any ice shelf we've seen retreating before, it's bigger than any ice shelf we've seen retreating before and in the long term it could be a taste of other things to come if climate change continues in the Antarctic. ''

This unfortunate occurrence is hardly surprising, since scientists have been warning for some time that global warming trends are eroding the western ice sheets of Antarctica much faster than was previously expected. Indeed, Antarctica has experience an unprecedented warming over the past thirty years that have caused seven ice sheets—Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller and the Jones Ice Shelf—to collapse completely.

It is probably too late to save the Wilkins ice sheet from collapsing. But this event should be a wakeup call for all of us to start taking the threat of global warming seriously. Although the breakup of the Wilson ice sheet won’t cause sea levels to rise because it is already floating, the melting of land-based glaciers in southern Antarctica and Greenland could have profound consequences for low-lying areas of the world and possibly even for the future climate of Europe.

As I have argued repeatedly, if we want to mitigate the more harmful effects of global warming, we have to start taking dramatic action NOW. This will inevitably mean having to DRAMATICALLY alter our way of living in the United States so that our actions have less of a negative impact on the environment. I will try to spell out in more concrete terms what I think a new model of ecological living might look like in the United States in future blogs.


  1. There you go again with the scare mongering. There is no definite proof that human beings are the cause of GW. Some scientists are convinced that what we are experiencing now is a natural warming trend similar to what happened in Europe between 1000 and 1350 AD []. And even if human actions are contributing to GW, there could be some positive benefits to certain parts of the world in which warming climates could do a lot of good—Siberia, for example. The kind of ideas that you are proposing would do nothing more than drive the American economy further into recession and prevent corporations from coming up with innovative solutions to address the possible negative effects of GW.

  2. Narcissus, you are burying your head in the sand. If you studied the science, including the details of the Permian extinction when the vast majority of life went extinct 250 million years ago, it was accompanied by high levels of CO2 and methane, and temperature rises of about 11 Centigrade (nearly 20 Fahrenheit). What makes the argument over human causation not particularly relevant is the fact that modeling and other methods indicate pretty strongly the human causation, and even if there was a 10% chance of a catastrophic future that we could reduce (rather than more than 90% likelihood as UN says), we should be taking urgent actions now. These will make us change some wasteful habits, but for the most part should improve true quality of life and long-term economy. You really need to read and study before having opinions that others have fed to you. I think you are innocent enough to just accept the words of others with hidden agendas. I have read the actual science, the numbers, and many analyses. Please do the same.


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