Southeastern europe was struck by an unprecedented heat wave this week, with temperatures reaching 107 in Romania and 111 in Greece. The extraordinary heat led Romanian authorities to tell government workers to stay at home, as hundreds of fires broke out across the country. Power outages were reported throughout Greece. The heat wave, caused by an invasion of hot air from the Sahara desert south of the Mediterranean, extended from Italy where temperatures were over 100 in Rome, to Turkey, where temperatures of 104 were being reported. Many areas were reporting record temperatures. Tuesday was the hottest day in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 114 years, with the temperature reaching 104 degrees.

Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, chief scientist of the environmental research organization Environmental Defense, has said that earth has been in a warming trend for the past 140 years, but “in the past 25 years, the rate of warming further accelerated…The acutal number is approximately 0.35degrees per decade. And if you look forward over the coming decades, the rate of increase could double again.”

This year, widespread coral bleaching has been reported across the western Carribbean, destroying vast areas of pristine reefs around Belize, which were healthy just twelve months ago. In addition, polar warming has been accelerating even faster. Northern polar melt is expected to reachunprecedented proportions this summer, and the effect of the flood of fresh water that will result on flows of crucial ocean currents is unknown. If ocean circulation changes, a period of climactic chaos will result.

Dr. Oppenheimer said, “The last time it was as warm as it probably will be by the end of this century, globally speaking, was several million years ago. There is no way we can know for sure that that’s a world we can safely cope with.”

On May 27, 2000, the Board of Directors of Exxon/Mobil turned back shareholder resolutions aimed at getting the massive company to recognize the peril of global warming. Exxon/Mobil upheld the position of many business and political leaders, including Governor George Bush, that we should continue to take a “wait and see” approach to this problem. Meanwhile companies like Shell Oil, Phillips Petroleum, Ford and Daimler/Chrysler made their positions clear: global warming is a serious problem, if not an emergency, and business and government should work together to solve it.

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