WASHINGTON -- November 8 -- A new report about climate change impacts in the Arctic region sounds yet another urgent warning that human-induced climate change will have a profound and likely near-term effect on communities around the world, the Union of Concerned Scientists commented today. The study, authored by close to 300 climate experts and commissioned by eight Arctic nations and six indigenous peoples organizations, will be released today in Washington, DC. It will be presented to a Council of Ministers in Reykjavik, Iceland on November 9.
The study finds that North American glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate and air temperatures across Alaska and Siberia are rapidly warming, with substantial impacts to Artic communities and wildlife. It also finds that the Greenland Ice Sheet and crucial Alaskan glaciers will likely melt at a faster rate than previously anticipated, accelerating global sea-level rise.
"These new findings are significant to coastal communities, especially those in Louisiana," said Robert R. Twilley, director of the Wetland Biogeochemistry Institute at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. "Even with the conservative land sinking rates, and increased likelihood of maximum sea level rise of 36 inches, coastal Louisiana could see a relative change in water levels of 44 inches by 2100. This will increase the risk of flooding in coastal communities and increases the vulnerability of public safety, natural resources, and economic development to coastal hazards."
The Arctic report uses the latest state-of-the-art global climate models and moderate, internationally recognized assumptions of future emissions.
"This study is a thorough synthesis of years of peer-reviewed research by leading Arctic scientists," said Dr. Walter Oechel, director of the Global Change Research Group at San Diego State University. "Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the report is the rapid changes projected over the next century using an average greenhouse gas emissions climate scenario. The maps and figures are not the worst-case scenario, and yet the shifts projected over our lifetime or the next generation are dramatic."
The study brings home the urgent need for swift federal action to reduce emissions, according to UCS. UCS urged the White House to relinquish its isolationist approach to climate change and build a bridge to global partners in working quickly to implement essential climate change solutions.
"It's time for the Bush Administration to abandon its failed proposals for voluntary programs and subsidies to polluters," said Alan Nogee, Clean Energy Program director at UCS. "Today we can make a new start and show leadership on climate change - while at the same time increasing energy independence and creating jobs - with a national energy policy that ensures investment in using energy more efficiently and increases the use of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources."
UCS supports passage of the bipartisan Climate Stewardship Act - a bill that would establish a national cap and trade program for greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to renewable energy and efficiency, UCS strongly endorses a shift to cleaner cars, a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.
"A first step is to require that automakers produce cars and trucks with improved fuel economy and safety, relying on off-the-shelf technologies developed over the last decade," said Jason Mark, director of the UCS Clean Vehicles Program. "Fuel economy is at a 20-year low and we send several hundred thousand dollars to other countries every minute just to buy oil. "
The study concludes that "human influences, resulting primarily from increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, have now become the dominant factor" in climate change.
"The emissions we release today will affect the Arctic and the rest of the globe for decades to come," said UCS climate scientist, Brenda Ekwurzel. "We have an opportunity - and an obligation - to greatly reduce our emissions and avoid the worst impacts for the world our children and grandchildren will inherit. "