Interested parties were smart to start the most recent International Polar Year, which actually lasted from 2007 to 2009. As a result, lots of study findings and papers are being issued as it wraps up. It’s not any time too soon for it. One summary study found that the Arctic and Antarctic regions are warming faster than before and as a result, more ice mass is being lost than was predicted just a short two years ago. Numerous glacier fields on Greenland and Antarctica are moving toward the ocean much, much faster than they were 10 and 20 years ago. It’s these glaciers that have many worried since they reside on land and not water. Once they move into the water, they will raise sea levels. If they’re doing that faster than climatologists currently account for in models, current predictions of sea level rise are no good. The threat to global societies is higher than most people currently think:
A 2007 IPCC report predicted a sea level rise of 7 to 23 inches by the end of the century, which could flood low-lying areas and force millions to flee. The IPY group said an additional 3.9 to 7.8 inches rise was possible if the recent, surprising melting of polar ice sheets continues.
The increase in seaward speed has led glaciologists to call for additional monitoring. East Antarctica, for instance, has millions of square miles of ice that could potentially melt. Right now, they have only the barest of ideas of the behavior of the ice. That’s the kind of thing that has to be pinned down so scientists can monitor conditions so they can offer policy makers the best information possible moving forward.
Meanwhile, the corporate media continue to misreport the problem. Take this MSNBC article, for instance. It’s lede? “Warming might be on hold, study finds”. Global warming isn’t on hold. Temperatures do not have a linear relationship to greenhouse gases. The relationship is nonliner, which means that for a given increase in GHGs, the climate system can and will exhibit different temperature changes. That isn’t discussed anywhere in the article. I not only fault MSNBC for this, but scientists related to the article. The public does not understand these kinds of details because the media doesn’t relay it correctly and scientists don’t ensure that the media does so.
Contrary to what the article says, warming hasn’t “flatlined” since 2001. Global average temperatures were higher five out of the seven years since 2001. 2007-08 saw a moderate strength, long-lived La Nina that helped depress temperatures somewhat. But the warming has by and large continued. If the rate of warming has slowed down somewhat, it doesn’t change what’s happened already. It simply means we have a little bit of time to pursue aggressive, necessary and technologically-available solutions before even more warming occurs and we’re in a worse situation in 5 to 10 years than we are in today.