Countries that pollute the least will suffer the most from global warming.
The newly formed Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in Britain predicts that some countries will warm up more than twice as much as others during the coming century. The Director, Mike Hulme, says, “What is critical about our report is that for the first time it shows individual countries how much warming to expect and how the burden of climate change will be distributed across the world.”
A string of Asian countries, from Kazakhstan to Saudi Arabia, already among the hottest and driest in the world, will experience some of the biggest increases. Several, including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iran, have suffered famine this year. Drought in countries in West Africa will also get worse. The biggest temperature rises will be in Russia and Canada.
The six countries that will experience the least warming are Ireland, England, New Zealand, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. Almost without exception, the nations that are most threatened by global warming produce the smallest amounts of greenhouse gasses.
One group that is already feeling the effects of climate change are the Inuit people of northern Canada. While one of our Presidential candidates stopped talking about the environment during his campaign, and the other one claims he doesn?t know if global warming is real, and while the U.S. refused to cooperate with other countries at the Global Climate Conference in the Netherlands, the people who live in Manitoba know all about the climate shift.
“We are seeing changes with longer falls and earlier springs,” agreed Mayor Mike Spence, who has lived all of his 40 years here. Nostalgic for childhood winters, he said, “Back in the 60?s and early 70?s, it seemed like we got a storm a day.”
In Inuit communities up the coast towards Hudson Bay, mothers have complained that their children are developing a summer skin rash for which there is no name in their language. Nurses at the hospital there identified the rash as sunburn.
“The temperatures were a lot lower when I was growing up,” longtime resident Christopher Hart said. “We used to go snowmobiling through the end of May. Now, we will be lucky if we get to go in early May.”
Old time boat operators can tell you how the shipping season has expanded since the port opened in 1929. The first ship to dock there in July was in 1950. From 1980 to 1996, July dockings remained rare. But starting in 1997, the first ships of the season have always docked in July, and there were a record-breaking eleven this year.
Over the last 30 years, the expanse of sea ice remaining in the Hudson Bay in July has decreased by one-third, according to satellite survey research by the Canadian Ice Service, a federal agency. A study published recently in the journal Science says records kept by managers of the Hudson Bay Company indicate that 19th century fur traders faced about 3 more weeks of river ice than river users today.
“Climate change is a two-edge sword,” said Gary Doer, Manitoba?s premier. “It helps the port. But for those of us who like to see the beauty of the belugas and the polar bears, we would like to see it stop.”
The bears are hungry, because the ice floes break up about 3 weeks earlier than they used to. That means there are 3 fewer weeks for them to fatten up on a diet of seals before their summer fast, and it makes them cranky.
Wildlife wardens, armed with noisemakers, tranquilizer guns and baited bear traps, patrol a polar bear exclusion zone. “Polar Bear Alert” signs warn visitors of the dangers of walking unarmed on the tundra in the midst of hungry bears. In 1998, when the bay froze 3 weeks later than normal, calls to the town hot line 675-BEAR nearly doubled, hitting 115.
Sources: New Scientist, Nov. 11 and 25, 2000; The New York Times, Nov. 12, 2000
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