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Can Obama’s carbon caps bridge Antarctic’s ice shelf gaps?

By Andrew Glikson
Created 08/04/2009 - 15:41


Can Obama’s carbon caps bridge Antarctic’s ice shelf gaps?
Andrew Glikson [0]
Earth and paleo-climate scientist
Australian National University


Faced with accusations of “environmental thuggery” [1], even violent threats such as by Republican congress woman Michelle Bachmann [2] (“I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us” … “The science is on our side on this one”, raises a question as to what would Congress people such as Bachmann and Inhofe [3] or their Australian counterparts [4] in both the Coalition [5] and ALP [6] say about the latest collapse of the West Antarctic Wilkins [7] ice [8] shelf [9].

Would they say, as some of their friends in the media [10], the planet is “cooling” [11]?.

Last year was the first winter during which the huge (13,680 square kilometres) Wilkins ice shelf, which bridges the West Antarctic peninsula with the Charcot and Latady islands, developed fractures during mid-winter [12]. Not that professional climate change deniers, backed by guess whom (?), wasted any time, trying to deny the satellite observations (“I can see nothing about the collapse to indicate that it was anything but a natural event.” (“The Wilkins Ice Shelf Con Job” [13]).

Now Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) images acquired on 2 April by the European Earth Observation (ESA’s) Envisat satellite confirm that the rifts are quickly expanding [14] along the 40 ice bridge which connects these islands to the continent, the ice shelf is collapsing into thousands of ice bergs, removing the barrier for the flow of continental glaciers into the ocean. .

Obama, the EU (and Rudd?) face two issues: first the plethora of extreme weather events around the world, including fatal fires [15] and floods [16], inherent in accelerating climate change, and second, a massive well-funded disinformation campaign [17], which has provided governments an excuse to undertake no mitigation measures or over more than 20 years.

But even if CPRS or ETS schemes on the scale of 25/40 (percent reduction in emission relative to 2000) as by the EU, were to be adopted by the US, if not by Australia, the cumulative nature of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, now rising at about 2 ppm/year, ensures progression into dangerous levels above 450 ppm CO2 equivalent (CO2 + methane + Nitric oxide + atmospheric ozone) at which stage the Earth’s atmosphere/ocean system is tracking toward conditions which existed about 3 million years ago, when temperatures [18] were 2 – 3 degrees Celsius warmer and sea levels [19] 25+/-12 meters higher than at present, and toward conditions [20] at which the large polar ice sheets formed [21]. There may be no way out except for deeper emission cuts and possibly attempts at development of technology for draw-down of atmospheric CO2 [22].

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