Climate Change Update (22 Feb 2007)

As I mentioned in my previous Update, so many effects of human-induced climate change (that is, global warming) are now appearing in the scientific literature that it is too difficult for me to keep up posting them here; I’ll point out a few that caught my attention.

Carbon dioxide levels continue to rise; this January saw a new record high at 390 parts per million. And according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this past January was the warmest January on record. Of course, global warming refers to changes in climate; it is quite possible that a month or even a year may be cooler than the preceding one; the warming trend is significant over years and decades, however. And fast-moving rivers of water are flowing under West Antarctica’s ice sheet, contributing to rapidly changing lakes; this could have major implications for the stability of the ice.

As we’ve seen, climate change will have (and is having) major impact on Earth’s ecosystems. A new study suggests that a species of turtle would see significant population losses.

But before I go further, I would like to address a common misconception. People sometimes express doubt that we could “destroy the Earth” through global warming or any other such process. The Earth has been through major changes before. And as a Live Science article discusses, they’re right. Life on Earth has created some pretty hefty changes in the past. But the problem is, a significant amount of life did not survive those changes (and much of those species that survived were able to do so because they could adapt and evolve to the slowly changing conditions). As I’ve pointed out before, the Earth will survive global warming just fine. It is human civilization or our species itself that is at risk.

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