Saturday, October 3, 2009

A spiritual obligation to act on climate change

We leaders of Colorado faith communities urge Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to work for the passage of strong clean energy legislation that addresses climate change. This is one of the dominant moral issues of our time.

Our religious faith deepens an awareness that should be clear to all people: The earth, our home, is a gift. We did not create it or earn it, and we do not own it. So we have a sacred responsibility to be good stewards of that gift.

Further, the earth's resources are finite, and with our technological prowess we have the ability to upset the ecological balance which supports our life on this earth. We must be attentive to the impacts of our activity on the environment, and not foolishly pretend that we are immune from those impacts.

We believe that our planet is in great peril from the threat of climate change. We believe it is real, and that it is to a significant extent human-induced. We accept the vast body of scientific evidence which forecasts severe consequences for the Earth and all its inhabitants if we fail to act.

Our thirst to consume the earth's natural resources, and our reliance on old energy sources which emit greenhouse gases, has led us to a crisis both spiritual and environmental. In view of this, for us as spiritual leaders to remain silent would be an abdication of our responsibilities.

Another consideration for us, and of primary concern, is that all of our religious traditions call us to serve and protect the poor and vulnerable, who contribute the least to this problem yet will suffer the most from the impacts of climate change.

We cannot expect to safeguard our own prosperity and security if we ignore or neglect the plight of the poor and vulnerable around the world, whose numbers will only increase as climate change disrupts lives and livelihoods.

A recent Pentagon report likewise concluded that increasing numbers of conflicts are sure to arise if people are displaced by climate change or forced to fight for dwindling resources such as water and arable land.

(I couldn't agree more, and I'm happy to see churches beginning to take a stand on this issue, which touches on morality, conservation and stewardship). The rest of the article in the Denver Post is here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Unusual arctic warmth, tropical wetness, likely cause of methane increase

Unusually high temperatures in the Arctic and heavy rains in the tropics likely drove a global increase in atmospheric methane in 2007 and 2008 after a decade of near-zero growth, according to a new study. Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, albeit a distant second.

NOAA scientists and their colleagues analyzed measurements from 1983 to 2008 from air samples collected weekly at 46 surface locations around the world. Their findings will appear in the September 28 print edition of the American Geophysical Union’s Geophysical Research Letters and are available online now.

“At least three factors likely contributed to the methane increase,” said Ed Dlugokencky, a methane expert at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “It was very warm in the Arctic, there was some tropical forest burning, and there was increased rain in Indonesia and the Amazon.”

In the tropics, the scientists note, the increased rainfall resulted in longer periods of rainfall and larger wetland areas, allowing microbes to produce more methane. Starting in mid-2007, scientists noticed La Niña conditions beginning, waning and then intensifying in early 2008. This kind of climate condition typically brings wetter-than-normal conditions in some tropical regions and cooler sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It can persist for as long as two years. In the United States, La Niña often signals drier-than-normal conditions in the Southwest and Central Plains regions, and wetter fall and winter seasons in the Pacific Northwest.

The rest of the NOAA article is here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Super typhoons rocking the Philippines intensified by global warming

Typhoon Parma on September 30, bearing down on the Philippines, still reeling from the worst flooding in decades from Tropical Storm Ketsana, which unloaded some 20"+ rainfall amounts on the Manila area. For more information click here for high resolution imagery at Earth Observatory.

Major news sources are all reporting on the recent natural disasters in the Northeast Pacific. Among the earthquakes and tsunamis, the area has also been subject to numerous typhoons.

The Associated Press released today that the people of nearby Manila provinces are evacuating, in the face of heavy rainfall and rising water. They are still recovering from Typhoon Ketsana, which hit the Philippines earlier this week and 386 people were killed. The new storm, called Typhoon Parma, is churning 600 miles of the coast of Manila and is expected to strike the island chain on Saturday, meteorologists say.

Typhoons are very common in the Northeast Pacific this time of year, however the destructive power and stronger than average winds of these super typhoons are interesting to weather scientists. A recent paper produced by Nagoya University in Japan affirmed the role of Global Warming in the appearance of super typhoons like Ketsana, Parma, and Morakot, which hit Taiwan in August.

A super typhoon is a category level for sea cyclones that produce winds over 120 mph. The Japanese study used computer simulations to predict that typhoons with winds as high as 180 mph, F3 out of five on the Fujita Scale, could rock the Pacific by 2074. Researcher Kazuhisa Tsuboki says in an interview with National Geographic, "The most important factor in the creation of the super typhoons is the warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific." Climate models in the study professed a rise of almost 4 degrees Fahrenheit in ocean temperatures. Ocean temperatures rise as a result of absorbing heat from the atmosphere. As the atmosphere gets warmer, the ocean gets warmer.

(Interesting story, but the jury is still out on global warming and hurricane intensity. True, the number of Category 4 & 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf has DOUBLED since 1970, but climatologists are not convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that climate change is responsible. Remember, most of the warming is at northern latitudes, not in the tropics. I think we'll know within 3-5 years, but for now the possible link between global warming and super typhoons is still very much up in the air).

The rest of the article is here.