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Context of 'Late 2005 - Early 2006: Report States Glaciers Melting in Austria'

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Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, edits a draft of the annual Our Changing Planet report to make it less alarming. In one sentence, he adds the word “extremely” so it reads, “The attribution of the causes of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is extremely difficult.” Similarly, he changes the sentence, “Many scientific observations indicate that the Earth is undergoing a period of relatively rapid change,” so it instead says, “Many scientific observations point to the conclusion that the Earth may be undergoing a period of relatively rapid change.” In another section of the report, he crosses out an entire paragraph discussing the expected melting of mountain glaciers and snowpacks. In its margins, he asserts that the report’s authors were “straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.” [New York Times, 6/8/2005; Reid and Lautenberg, 6/29/2005] Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist, has no background in climate science (see 2001).

Entity Tags: Philip A. Cooney

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), an international study four years in the making, warns that the Arctic is warming “at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the world.” According to the study’s overview report, presented at a conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, the melting of sea ice and glaciers are a clear sign that the climate is undergoing drastic, possibly irreversible, changes. The study predicts that all ocean ice could disappear some time between 2060 and 2100. As more and more ice melts, temperatures are expected to increase at a quicker pace because of a positive feedback loop: higher temperatures melt more ice, exposing more ground which, unlike ice, absorbs the sun’s heat, thus increasing the temperature even more. The Arctic’s melting “will drastically shrink marine habitat for polar bears, ice-inhabiting seals, and some seabirds, pushing some species toward extinction,” the study’s 139-page overview report says. Another potential impact of the melting ice would be the release of carbon-rich methane gas currently locked in the permafrost. Scientists are also worried that the fresh water pouring off the melting glaciers will disrupt the North Atlantic Ocean conveyor current which brings the warmer Gulf waters to the Northern Atlantic keeping the region warmer than it would be otherwise. The report was commissioned by the Arctic Council, an international forum made of the eight countries that border the region: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the US. Six circumpolar indigenous peoples’ organisations are also represented in the council. Arctic warming is changing the ecology of the region in a way that is threatening the livelihoods of circumpolar groups like the Inuit and Athabaskans. The study’s findings—based on the work of more than 300 scientists and five different computer models—are contained in a 1,200-plus- page, fully referenced scientific report that underwent a rigorous peer-review process prior to publication. [Arctic Council, 11/2004; BBC, 11/2/2004; Independent, 11/11/2004; Reuters, 11/8/2005; One World, 11/9/2005] The study was actually completed months before its release on November 8, but was delayed by the Bush administration until after the elections, according to Gordon McBean, an ACIA participant from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction at the University of Western Ontario. [Inter Press Service, 9/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Arctic Council

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

In its yearly report on glaciers, the Austrian Alpenverein, or Alpine Club, documents the melting of glaciers in the Alps. In the winter of 2005 and 2006, the length of 97 glaciers out of the 105 observed was reduced. [Patzelt, 4/2/2007, pp. 20-25 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Oesterreichischer Alpenverein

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

2006: Tibetan Glaciers Melting Fast

The Chinese Academy of Sciences reports that Tibet’s glaciers are melting at an increasingly quick pace and will decrease in size by 50 percent every decade. Over the last 20 years, the country’s average temperature has increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. The plateau’s 46,298 glaciers, which cover almost 60,000 square miles, provide water to 300 million people in China alone. According to the academy, the melting of the glaciers will result in an “ecological catastrophe.” The region will suffer more droughts and sandstorms and the tundra will turn into a desert. Many of the world’s largest rivers will be devastated. “The melting glaciers will ultimately trigger more droughts, expand desertification and increase sand storms,” says Dong Guangrong, a spokesperson for the academy. [Xinhua News Agency, 2/5/2006; Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2/27/2006; Independent, 5/7/2006]

Entity Tags: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) argues that “the present warming and associated glacier retreat are unprecedented in some areas for at least 5,200 years.” As evidence, it notes the widespread melting of mountain glaciers, the uncovering of plants that were buried thousands of years ago, and a change in the chemical isotopes of ice cores taken from seven mountain glaciers over the past 30 years, including the Huascaran and Quelccaya ice caps in Peru, the Sajama ice cap in Bolivia, and the Dunde and Puruogangri ice caps in China. According to the study’s authors, the ice samples also indicate that there was a sudden cooling of the climate five millennia ago. [Independent, 6/27/2006] Additional evidence of the sudden climate change has come from Mount Kilimanjaro; African lakes; Greenland and Antarctic ice cores, lead author Lonnie Thompson notes in an interview with the Washington Post. “There are thresholds in the system,” he says. “There is the risk of changing the world as we know it to some form in which a lot of people on the planet will be put at risk.” [Washington Post, 6/27/2006]

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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