Employees of the Fish & Wildlife Service have been told not to discuss global warming at upcoming international meetings in Norway and Russia. Since at least one of these meetings concerns how polar bears are being affected by the changing climate, this is going to be hard to do. Employees of NASA have been given the same directive.

NASA scientists complained about this, a compromise was finally reached in which the scientists are allowed to talk about climate change as long as they make it clear that they are speaking for themselves, and not for NASA. Around a year ago, Michael Griffin, the NASA administrator, sent this directive to 12 other agencies as well, with the suggestion that they also follow this policy.

NASA’s mandate is the exploration of space, but because of the many satellites that orbit the earth, they monitor changes here as well, and can clearly see evidence of climate change like melting glaciers.

When glaciologist Lonnie Thompson returns to Peru’s Qori Kalis glacier early this summer, he expects to find that half of the ice he saw during his visit there last year has vanished, and his recent observations that suggest that the entire glacier may likely be gone within the next five years, providing possibly the clearest evidence so far of global climate change.

Since 1974, Thompson has made the trek to the Quelccaya ice cap at least 27 times, monitoring its slow but accelerating retreat. Ancient plant beds have been newly uncovered as the ice retreats. The first were discovered in 2002, more are uncovered each year, and carbon dating indicates that most have been buried for at least 5,000 years. They indicate that the current retreat of the ice exceeds any other retreat in at least the last 50 centuries.

Thompson says, “We’re talking about huge amounts of ice and water going into the ocean in this one single case?About 5,000 years ago, we had perhaps 300 million people living on the planet, now there are more than 6.5 billion covering the globe. If you change the climate for many of these people, where will they go?”

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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