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Not as Bad as Predicted

But scientists don't know why not - It's hotter than ever, and we may have to choose between reducing global warming and solving the problems of the recession. Scientists predict more drought in the Southwest as temperatures rise, but they also can't figure out why things aren't as bad right now as their predictions said they would be.

Based on a study of seasonal rainfall variations in the desert Southwest between 56,000 and 11,000 years ago as recorded in cave stalagmites, geoscientist Stephen Burns thinks the rapidly growing Southwest could become even more arid as global temperatures rise. Based on his studies, he see evidence that, as the polar jet stream shifts northward in response to climate warming. Further, when the polar jet stream retreats toward the pole, winter precipitation in the Southwest decreases, reducing recharge to underground aquifers. Since this is one of the fastest-growing areas in the US, it is likely to have water worries in the future.

Despite heavy industrialization, with continued CO2 emissions, the earth has warmed up much less than it would have been expected to during the last 100 years. Researcher Stephen Schwartz wants to know why this is.

PhysOrg.com reports that the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases added to the earth's atmosphere since we began burning fossil fuels on a large scale would be expected to result in a global temperature rise of almost 4 degrees Fahrenheit, which less much more than the 1.4 degree increase that we have actually had. Schwartz thinks that this may be because Earth's climate is less sensitive to greenhouse gases than we've assumed or because reflection of sunlight by haze particles in the atmosphere may be offsetting some of the expected warming. We may even do this artificially.

But we may be running out of time: The New Economics Foundation of the UK says that Continuing global economic growth "is not possible" if nations are to reverse climate change. BBC News quotes NEF policy director Andrew Simms as saying, "We urgently need to change our economy to live within its environmental budget."

BBC quotes environmentalist Victoria Johnson as saying, "Magic bullets, such as carbon capture and storage, nuclear or even geo-engineering, are potentially dangerous distractions from more human-scale solutions. At the moment, magic bullets are getting much of the funding and political attention, but are missing the targets. Our research shows that to prevent runaway climate change, this needs to change."

To learn more, here, here and here.

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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