When it comes to climate change, the answer is probably "no." Unknowncountry.com's Climate Watch warned that extreme summer ice melt this year will be accompanied by methane outgassing that will, in turn, send global temperatures much higher over the next few years than global warming models predict. This appears to be happening.
The amount of Arctic sea ice has melted to a historic low, with the area of land covered by ice at the smallest level since scientists began observing it with satellites in 1972. And new photographs taken of a vast glacier in northern Greenland have revealed the astonishing rate of its breakup. CNN quotes climatologist Shaye Wolf as saying, "This stunning loss of Arctic sea ice is yet another wake-up call that climate change is here now and is having devastating effects around the world."
On the msnbc website, Ian Johnston quotes one scientist as saying that after seeing the pictures from Greenland, he was rendered "speechless." He quotes glaciologist Alun Hubbard as saying, "The break-off last year is bigger than anything seen for at least 150 years."
Despite the fact that NASA took these satellite photos, they still insist that we do have a chance after all. Data from NASA's Terra satellite shows that when the climate warms, Earth's atmosphere is apparently more efficient at releasing energy to space than models used to forecast climate change have been programmed to "believe." On the other hand, it must be remembered that NASA is a government agency, and as such, may not want to panic us about the future (Use coupon 2012 to get $3 off through Friday, September 23rd).
NASA says that a growing body of recent research indicates that, in Earth's warming climate, there is no "tipping point," or warm temperature, beyond which polar sea ice cannot recover if temperatures come back down. Even if Earth warmed enough to melt all polar sea ice, the ice could recover if the planet cooled again.
But switching from coal to natural gas in vehicles and power plants won't do the trick: although the burning of natural gas emits far less carbon dioxide than coal, a new study concludes that a greater reliance on natural gas would fail to significantly slow down climate change. While coal pollutes terribly, it also slows down climate change by releasing comparatively large amounts of sulfates and other particles that, although detrimental to the environment, cool the planet by blocking incoming sunlight.
Atmospheric scientist Cecilia Bitz says, "The sea ice cover will continue to shrink so long as the Earth continues to warm. We don't have to hypothesize dramatic phenomena such as tipping points for this situation to become challenging."
And Ian Johnston quotes Rep. Edward Markey, former chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, as saying that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is "but one harbinger of the many changes to come."
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