A Planetary SOS


The news about the arctic polar ice is staggering to me. My own view of climate change has shifted over the years I've been writing this blog from mild skepticism to something much more like active concern. It's the feedback loops of global warming that have emerged in these years as something we didn't fully expect and something that could accelerate the problem dramatically. Here's an alarming report:

From their camp on Melville Island last July, where they recorded air temperatures over 20ºC (in an area with July temperatures that average 5ºC), the team watched in amazement as water from melting permafrost a meter below ground lubricated the topsoil, causing it to slide down slopes, clearing everything in its path and thrusting up ridges at the valley bottom "that piled up like a rug," says Dr. Lamoureux, an expert in hydro-climatic variability and landscape processes. "The landscape was being torn to pieces, literally before our eyes. A major river was dammed by a slide along a 200-metre length of the channel. River flow will be changed for years, if not decades to come."

Comparing this summer's observations against aerial photos dating back to the 1950s, and the team's monitoring of the area for the past five years, the research leader calls the present conditions "unprecedented" in scope and activity.

Why are we planning on occupying a hostile land for decades in order in part to secure an energy supply that is threatening to jolt our planet's climate into new and potentially catastrophic heat? Or is the climate debate not allowed to impact our Iraq debate? The one silver lining of a major regional war breaking out in the Middle East is that it might finally force us to get real about alternative energy sources.

(Photo: the newly ice-free Northwest passage in the Arctic.)