Friday, January 30, 2009

Antarctic warming

A paper on some pretty important climate science regarding warming in Antarctica was recently published in Nature. The Real Climate authors explain the findings in layman's terms here.
"So what do our results show? Essentially, that the big picture of Antarctic climate change in the latter part of the 20th century has been largely overlooked. It is well known that it has been warming on the Antarctic Peninsula, probably for the last 100 years (measurements begin at the sub-Antarctic Island of Orcadas in 1901 and show a nearly monotonic warming trend). And yes, East Antarctica cooled over the 1980s and 1990s (though not, in our results, at a statistically significant rate). But West Antarctica, which no one really has paid much attention to (as far as temperature changes are concerned), has been warming rapidly for at least the last 50 years."
There's a part of me that wishes these scientists were wrong, and that the skeptics were somehow right, but the evidence doesn't seem to support that hope, meaning major climate change action, initiated by the U.S., should be a high priority for Congress and the White House.  
Unfortunately, support for climate change legislation currently polls very poorly due to the recession. Investing in any green infrastructure upgrades via the stimulus bill is certainly an important step toward reducing emissions in the U.S. (though the overarching goal of the bill is to increase economic growth, which necessarily includes emissions). What the country--and the world--really needs, however, is long-term climate legislation that establishes meaningful standards for the U.S. and a framework for international treaties among developed and developing countries. And ideally this will happen in time for the White House to present a coherent plan of action when the world convenes to revise the Kyoto Protocol at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December.