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The State of the Planet: Global Warming
  POINTS OF VIEW:

Bruce Molnia, U.S. Geological Survey

Glacier National Park is a good example of how the Earth’s surface is responding to climate change. Today there are about 20 glaciers left in the Park. A hundred and fifty years ago it was probably two and a half times that number. In other parts of the world we see between two and three degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature in the last century.


Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Inuit Circumpolar Conference

Climate change is not a theory. It’s a reality here in the Arctic. We are getting, ice forming much later in the year and breaking up much earlier in the year. We are getting insects that have never been up here in the Arctic before. We’re getting birds, species of birds and fish that have not been up here before. Our whole world is being altered up here in the Arctic and I think the world has to pay heed to that.


Denise Reed, University of New Orleans

What we see now is salt marsh. Obviously, these trees did not grow in the situation that we now see them, they didn't grow with their feet in the salt water. So they really are very good indicators of environmental change, and also, really of environmental change on the human kind of time scale


Robert S. Jones, Terrebonne Parish Public Works

I
f a foreign country was invading the United States, and it was taking 5 or 10 square miles a year, nothing would be spared to stop that foreign country from taking the land. But when it's a process like the Gulf of Mexico taking it, people say that's natural. I disagree.


Anthony Janetos, The Heinz Center

There’s no question that sea level is rising. The big question is, is how fast will that continue and how big a sea level rise will we get over the next hundred, or even two or 300 years? I think one of the things we’ve really learned about the climate system is that our hands are on it. The implications of that are really quite severe.


Eugene Linden, Author/Journalist

The planet is sending us these distress signals and we need to understand what it is saying, what we are doing, and how we can stop what we are doing. The point at which you see change may be too late – you may not be able to stop those changes.


 

A few years ago, Chicago was at the epicenter of an extraordinary weather event. Almost seven hundred and fifty people died and thousands more were hospitalized. The victims did not suffer from a terrorist attack or an industrial gas release. Their deaths were due to a dramatic and unprecedented ten-day heat wave.

By the third day, Chicago’s morgue was full and refrigerated trucks were called in to store the dead. Since the Chicago tragedy, heat anomalies have struck dozens of cities like Paris, London, Calcutta, and Melbourne. Tens of thousands have died.

The scientific community now tells us that we all live in a world where the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than it has been for hundreds of thousands of years.

The scientific community now tells us that we all live in a world where the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than it has been for hundreds of thousands of years. Global temperatures are rising faster than at any other time in recorded history. The consequences of these human induced changes are becoming more and more profound.

The world’s glacial regions have long been a treasure of natural beauty and biodiversity. Today they are also under attack. Our planet’s polar regions also show signs of dramatic change because of global warming. And as glaciers and polar sea ice melt, the world’s oceans are slowly rising.

Thousands of miles to the south, Louisiana’s coastal marshes and wetlands have always been prime breeding grounds and nurseries for birds and animals. Today they are slowly being covered by the Gulf of Mexico.

Just a few years ago this bay was a sugar beet farm – and a pasture for grazing cattle. Dead oak trees are recent reminders of a once healthy coastline. Each year over 25 square miles of Louisiana coastline are washed away.

Glaciers melting, sea levels rising, heat waves – these are only a few of the early warning signals of man’s greatest environmental challenge.

Glaciers melting, sea levels rising, heat waves – these are only a few of the early warning signals of man’s greatest environmental challenge. But, fortunately, there are ways to respond to the dangers of global warming.

Breakthroughs in genetic engineering can go a long way towards feeding almost 80 million extra mouths each year – even in a warmer world. But to help future generations slow down or stop global warming, we need to conserve energy and limit our dependence on fossil fuels.

Wind farm near Palm Springs, California

Wind farm near Palm Springs, California

Wind power provides one of several alternatives. In a remote valley in California four thousand turbine generators produce enough electricity to serve the yearly needs of about 84,000 households. Clean and renewable, it’s a technology that could provide up to 10 percent of the earth’s electricity within two decades. But wind power coupled with alternatives like solar energy and fuel-efficient cars represent far more than just a response to the challenges of global warming.

It’s a testament to the power of human ingenuity and of man’s ability to cope with our planet’s most pressing problems. Yet in the end, there are no easy answers and no quick fixes.

RELATED CONTENT:

 

Read more about The State of the Planet:
Introduction | Population | Fresh Water | Wetlands | Global Warming | Ecosystems

 

 

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Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization | State of the Planet's Oceans | State of the Ocean's Animals
State of the Planet's Wildlife | The State of the Planet | Future Conditional | On the Brink | Hot Zones
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