Saturday, February 09, 2008

Small island states to be directly affected by seven of the nine climate tipping points

In a paper published by the US National Academy of Sciences, a team of global experts shocked the world by stating that  "Society may be lulled into a false sense of security by smooth projections of global change,". To prove their point they have come up with  nine tipping points - these are escalated climatic events which will occur with small changes in the climate. Imagine tipping water in a glass which does not flow until it reaches a tipping point that is when the water reaches the edge of the glass. In fact the effects of the recent snow storm in China, its worst winter in 20 years serves as a reminder of what those tipping points can look like, perhaps even worse. (click on play Youtube video; if you are subscribing to my feed visit my blog to see the video).


These scientists argue that some of these tipping points will in the coming years, much closer than previously thought. However, we are still doing business-more-than-ever so expect those tipping points turning up at your doorstep anytime sooner. Out of interest the nine tipping points elaborated by those scientists are listed below. I have provided some links which serves as further information on those tipping points. Out of those nine tipping points, small islands will be affected by at least seven of these tipping points, time for  adaptation NOW.

1. Greenland Ice Sheet (more than 300 years)

2. Arctic sea-ice (approximately 10 years)

3. West Antarctic Ice Sheet (more than 300 years)

4. Boreal forest (approximately 50 years)

5. Amazon rainforest (approximately 50 years)

6.El Niño Southern Oscillation (approximately 100 years)

7.Africa rainfall (approximately 10 years)

8. Indian summer monsoon (approximately 1 year)

9. Atlantic thermohaline circulation (approximately 100 years)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Are rising sea levels arising from over-pumping or global warming?

A report by the State Oceanographic Administration of China (SOA) provided evidence of sea level rise along the coast of the city of Shanghai. The report indicates an increase in sea level rise of  11.5 cm (4.53 inches) over the last 30 years. This rise in sea level is attributed to both over-pumping and global warming. Both factors have now contributed to the contamination of Shanghai's water resources which are already stressed from over-pumping. Combined with increased pollution in the sea around Shanghai, the availability of drinking water to its 40 million population is being reduce by the day. In such cases it is vital that adaptation to climate change in coastal areas is not seen only from the perspective of global climate change, but also addressing key management issues such as pollution control and groundwater extraction.

As the sea level rises, the Shanghai Municipality will need to develop an integrated adaptation plan to address those issues, as sea level rise from global warming will only aggravate the situation and cause further damage to the city's infrastructure. The situation is not too dissimilar on the islands, as some coral atolls are also subject to groundwater over-pumping to meet growing demand.

Adaptation to climate change therefore requires addressing both the problem caused by climate change and by local pressures. It's the most efficient and cost-effective way for long-term adaptation to climate change.

Further reading: In China, rising sea said to threaten cities

Monday, February 04, 2008

IPCC did not exaggerate sea level rise predictions

In a survey conducted by Reuters, 6 out of 10 experts supported the projections of the IPCC ( the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which predicted that sea levels will rise by between about 20 and 80 cms by 2100. Four of these experts felt these estimates were too conservative, especially if the recent observed melting of Antarctica and Greenland are now taken into consideration. All of these climate experts were of the opinion that the results of the IPCC were not exaggerated.

The reality of climate change will be the focus of world attention in the years to come. The IPCC has met the most rigorous of scientific scrutiny, it is left to the parties of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change to move things forward in a substantive manner. We cannot afford to wait for another IPCC report. We need to adopt greenhouse reduction targets and develop mechanisms for adaptation in small islands and low-lying areas.

Read more at:

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Antarctica is still melting - A fresh look at the evidence

The significant melting of ice in the Antarctica was my greatest concern in January 2008. Besides a number of scientific papers that where published, climate change news focused on the melting ice sheets. I recap some of the recent evidence:

1. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey announced at a climate change meeting in the UK that the melting of Antarctic ice may have been under-estimated. Whilst major sections have broken up in the past decade it is expected that the melting may accelerate as a result of global warming in the coming future. (2008)

2. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey also announced that an underground volcano may be melting the ice in Antarctica. Global warming skeptics cheered, but the same scientists were correct in saying that the effects of such a volcano could not explain the continent-wide melting of Antarctica.(2008)

3. Australian glaciologists from the Australian Antarctic Division confirmed that the ice flow is certainly accelerating and breakup of coastal ice shelves are driven by melting inside Antarctica. (2008)

4. American scientists have discovered vast lakes and river systems flowing underneath the Antarctic ice sheets. This finding puts into question the rate at which water is flowing into the oceans and the speed at which sea levels will rise in the coming decade. (2007)

4. Using NASA's QuikScat satellite, scientists have found evidence of extensive areas of snow melted in Antarctica. The study was undertaken over a period from 1999 to 2005. (2006)

5. A study in 2005, based upon analysis of over 2,000 aerial photos, some taken in the 1940w, showed that 84% of the glaciers have retreated in the last 50 years. (2005)

..and there is more evidence. See my links.


Much more research to understand the processes and the causes of such melting will be required, but Antarctica is certainly melting faster than in any other time in recent human history, and sea level rise as a consequence will be a reality for the small island states and low-lying areas of the planet.