Climate change round-up… or, I guess we’re not so smart after all



About time for another climate change round-up. We’ll begin with a look at an extensive series of polls conducted by the Pew Research Center which released the results July 12, 2006. While focused on the attitudes of those in the U.S. towards climate change it also compares U.S. beliefs to those in several other countries. Perhaps most interesting is that while those in the U.S. generally consider themselves well educated and “advanced” we seem to fail to comprehend this danger to our existence while many in the “less developed” world seem to understand the danger. Interesting. Amazing what a steady flow of indoctrination and a cushy lifestyle will accomplish. Sad, sad, sad. Summary of Findings: Little Consensus on Global Warming:

Partisanship Drives Opinion
Americans generally agree that the earth is getting warmer, but there is less consensus about the cause of global warming or what should be done about it. Roughly four-in-ten (41%) believe human activity such as burning fossil fuels is causing global warming, but just as many say either that warming has been caused by natural patterns in the earth’s environment (21%), or that there is no solid evidence of global warming (20%).

The public also is divided over the gravity of the problem. While 41% say global warming is a very serious problem, 33% see it as somewhat serious and roughly a quarter (24%) think it is either not too serious or not a problem at all. Consequently, the issue ranks as a relatively low public priority, well behind education, the economy, and the war in Iraq.

The divided public attitudes toward global warming – and modest expressions of concern over the issue – distinguishes the United States from other industrialized countries. Last month’s Pew Global Attitudes Project survey showed that only 19% of Americans expressed a great deal of personal concern about global warming. Among 15 countries surveyed, only the Chinese expressed a comparably low level of concern (20%).

The latest nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, conducted June 14-19 among 1,501 U.S. adults, finds that the public opinion about global warming is deeply polarized along political lines. Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say there is solid evidence that temperatures are rising (by a margin of 81% to 58%), and that human activity is the root cause (by 54% to 24%). Democrats also place a far higher priority on the issue – believing it is a serious problem and rating it far higher in importance among issues facing the nation. For the most part, independents see global warming in the same way as Democrats in terms of whether there is solid evidence for the phenomenon and the importance of global warming relative to other issues.

Then there is this by Geoffrey Lean and Fred Pearce, published July 23, 2006 in the Independent Online Amazon rainforest ‘could become a desert’:

And that could speed up global warming with ‘incalculable consequences’, says alarming new research

The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world’s climate, alarming research suggests. And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.

Studies by the blue-chip Woods Hole Research Centre, carried out in Amazonia, have concluded that the forest cannot withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without breaking down.

Scientists say that this would spread drought into the northern hemisphere, including Britain, and could massively accelerate global warming with incalculable consequences, spinning out of control, a process that might end in the world becoming uninhabitable.

The alarming news comes in the midst of a heatwave gripping Britain and much of Europe and the United States. Temperatures in the south of England reached a July record of 36.3C on Tuesday. And it comes hard on the heels of a warning by an international group of experts, led by the Eastern Orthodox “pope” Bartholomew, last week that the forest is rapidly approaching a “tipping point” that would lead to its total destruction.

… the Amazon now appears to be entering its second successive year of drought, raising the possibility that it could start dying next year. The immense forest contains 90 billion tons of carbon, enough in itself to increase the rate of global warming by 50 per cent.

David Adam of the Guardian Unlimited describes the potential landscape of the future with Drought, gales and refugees: what will happen as UK hots up:

As this week’s heatwave shows, climate change will affect almost every aspect of British life. But how? We examine the likely outcomes in coming decades

This week’s heatwave is only the beginning. The mercury may not have pipped the all-time record on Wednesday, but it is only a matter of time. Maybe not next week and maybe not next month, but soon. And for the rest of our lives.The planet is warming rapidly. Arctic ice is at record lows and the north pole could melt to open water sometime this century for the first time in some 40m years. The mighty West Antarctic ice sheet is creaking and dramatic changes are expected, from the Amazon rainforest to the Siberian permafrost. But what about the UK? What else does global warming have in store for our once green and pleasant land?

Lastly, Ian Sample of the Guardian Unlimited discusses the coming extinctions in his article, Earth facing ‘catastrophic’ loss of species:

Scientists call for action in biodiversity crisis · Warning that world faces next mass extinction

The Earth is on the brink of “major biodiversity crisis” fuelled by the steady destruction of ecosystems, a group of the world’s most distinguished scientists and policy experts warn today.Nineteen leading specialists in the field of biodiversity, including Robert Watson, chief scientist at the World Bank, and Professor Georgina Mace, director of the Institute of Zoology, are calling for the urgent creation of a global body of scientists to offer advice and urge governments to halt what they call a potentially “catastrophic loss of species”.

Destruction of natural habitats and the effects of climate change are causing species to die out at 100 to 1,000 times faster than the natural rate, leading some scientists to warn we are facing the next mass extinction.

Nearly one-quarter of the world’s mammals, one-third of amphibians and more than one-tenth of bird species are threatened with extinction. Climate change alone is expected to force a further 15%- 37% of species to the brink of extinction within the next 50 years.

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