Thursday, July 29, 2010

Steve, Mike - It's Time to Do the Right Thing for Canada

The 1980s were the warmest decade ever recorded.    That is until the 1990s arrived to become the warmest decade ever recorded or at least until the 2000s became the warmest decade ever recorded.  Here we stand, 2010, three full decades down the road and we're living in the hottest year ever recorded.

As I noted a few days back, NASA released its list of the hottest years ever - 2005, followed by 2007, 2009, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2004, 2001 and 2008 with 2010 poised to bump 2005 out of first place.  Res ipsa loquitor - the thing speaks for itself.

But temperature is just one indicator.   There are ten in all.  From The Globe:

“The conclusion is unmistakable – yes, the planet is warming,” said Derek Arndt, a co-editor of the report, called State of the Climate, which was published by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

“The facts speak for themselves, and speak simultaneously,” said Mr. Arndt, who runs the Climate Monitoring Branch at NOAA. “And, they all point toward the same conclusion – the globe is warming.”

The report – co-edited by researchers in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia – pulled together data from 10 climate indicators measured by 160 research groups in 48 countries. The scientists compared the figures decade by decade as far back as possible, more than 100 years in some cases.

...[Arndt] said he was personally taken aback by how all 10 indicators clearly showed the Earth is heating up. “Seeing them standing next to each other, kind of nakedly, and pointing to the same conclusion, it very much jumped off the page at me... Absolutely, yes, we live in a warming planet.”

Of the 10 measurements, the report said seven are rising – air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity and the temperature of the troposphere, which is the atmosphere closest to the Earth’s surface. Three indicators are declining – Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere. All of which point to a warming trend."

Kind of makes you wonder how much longer those inveterate fossil fuelers, the Tar Sanders who hold the Conservative and Liberal leadership, can ignore this threat to our country, to our children and grandchildren?   How much longer are they going to remain mute on this?   Those two characters have a solemn duty to this country and the Canadian people.   This is a problem the like of which we've never confronted before.  It's potentially existential in dimension and it's not going away. 

If the Bitumen Bert & Ernie can't muster a climate change policy that's clear, comprehensive and solid as concrete; if they can't address the country's urgent need for remediation and adaptation measures; then they ought to pack their bags and get the hell out of Ottawa.  

We cannot afford to wait, uninformed and unprepared, while the impacts of climate change overtake us.  It can easily take 20-years or more to implement adaptation measures.   You have to get raw information out to each of the appropriate levels of government and to the public, that information has to be assessed and debated, options have to be weighed and selected and then, finally, action has to be taken and completed.  20 years?  Easy.

You can't run from these facts.  You can't ignore them.   When you're a federal leader you simply have to respond to them.   If the federal government can't or won't respond effectively to events that threaten our way of life, what is the point of having those people in Ottawa?


Anyong said...

I thought you might like to read this. This is something I have thought about for a long time regarding birth control pills....

Researchers concerned by gender-bending fish
Thu Jul 29, 9:55 PM

By Shannon Montgomery, The Canadian Press

CALGARY - Alberta researchers say gender-bending fish swimming in the province's southern rivers raise serious questions about whether the water is safe for people to drink.

Two University of Calgary professors have been studying how a small species of minnow reacts to a wide variety of hormone-altering chemicals detected in several rivers.

They found sexual changes both in the wild populations of the fish and under controlled lab experiments with the same chemicals, said co-author Hamid Habibi.

He said while it's not known whether the levels are high enough to hurt humans, there is a possible risk the chemicals could increase cancer rates or developmental abnormalities.

"We think there's a health concern," he said Thursday. "We'd like to be able to predict these things and reduce that kind of risk."

In some locations, female fish accounted for as much as 90 per cent of the minnow population, far higher than the normal 55 to 60 per cent.

At many of the sites studied, male fish showed elevated levels of a protein normally high only in the blood of females. Other areas have produced male fish with female eggs in their testes.

Habibi and co-author Lee Jackson found a large variety of chemicals that affect hormones in the water. They include synthetic estrogens, such as the birth control pill and bisphenol A — a chemical used in making plastics — as well as agricultural byproducts.

The disturbances in fish populations were greater downstream from cities than upstream and were most notable around several major cattle feedlots.

One area of high concentration was interrupted by a normal region where the river is joined by several tributaries from Waterton National Park.

The researchers managed to replicate many of the changes in a lab environment by combining the chemicals in the same ratio as found in the river.

They also discovered that while a single chemical might affect a fish one way, the combined effect with another chemical might be much greater than expected.

In one case, two chemicals might each have a one-fold effect on a fish, while in combination the effect might be nine times bigger.

"The potency of these chemicals improves significantly if they are present in a mixture. That is new information," said Habibi.

"Which means some of the data used by Health Canada and EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States) may need to be revised, because they're based on individual studies for those chemicals."

Jackson said most wastewater treatment plants don't get rid of many of the chemicals.

The researchers have partnered with the City of Calgary to begin work at a new treatment plant investigating how engineering can keep the chemicals from flowing back into the water.

He said it's too early to tell whether the current levels in water might have anything to do with a rising trend of cancers that are under hormonal control, but he added that a possible link should be studied.

"I think we need to look at this a little more carefully and ask, what is the message the fish are telling us," he said.

"If the fish are showing bent genders and people are drinking the same water ... we need to try to evaluate that risk."

Part of the research is to be published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

The Mound of Sound said...

Another way we inadvertently contaminate our freshwater reserves. In my coastal retirement town we get accounts in our local paper of the levels of trace chemicals that get through our water treatment plants to be discharged into the ocean. Arthritis and heart medicines are the biggies.

Dexter Thompson said...

Change is such an easy thing to say but it's quite very hard to accomplish specially when not everyone is willing to change. With a highly commercialized society, change may not even be possible. :(

The Mound of Sound said...

Unfortunately Dex there's a growing consensus that we have only until about 2015 to arrest all growth in global carbon emissions and then begin drastically cutting back. The only way that could conceivably happen is if we broke the hold that the fossil fuel industry has on our political classes. That, among other things, would mean the closure of coal-fired plants and the end to expansion of the Tar Sands.

James Hansen is even more blunt. He warns that we have to end our use of coal entirely by 2020.

Unfortunately Dexter I disagree when you write, "With a highly commercialized society, change may not even be possible." Change is possible. It's inevitable and it's already happening in our environment around the world. It will force us to change - eventually - the only questions being how much, when and whether it will be in time to do any good?

The best options for effective action to fight global warming slipped through our fingers in the 60's when we really didn't know any better. With each passing decade, a succession of "next best" options has been foreclosed to us. Each remaining option is worse, harder than the previous one we failed to take. Slashing greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonizing our economies and societies seems more than drastic but, compared to what lies in store if we don't, it's not.

If we reach one or more of the "tipping points" we're warned of (and we are closing in on them), we won't have the option to slash carbon emissions. That's when we cross the line into "runaway" global warming, when the earth's own carbon-release mechanisms kick in. If we pull the pin on nature, it will release vastly more carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour than mankind could ever dream of emitting. When we lose the ability to prevent that, our remaining choices are adaptive only and very, very nasty.