A guest post first published as a letter in the Canadian Sun Times.
Before the election I read a point of view by Monte Sonnenberg in The Sun Times. It is hard to believe that someone could have such an incredibly shortsighted slant on the Green Party's environmental concerns about global warming. It is attitudes like those of Monte's that illustrate the difficulties in persuading people to take action against a very real and serious problem.
Elizabeth May is not crying wolf. Global warming and consequent climate change are happening right now and have been during the latter half of the past century. Witness the noticeably increased intensity of the sun's rays in our summers over the last five to 10 years and warnings related to the hole in the ozone layer.
Coincidentally, the same day the column was published I came across two very differing points of view by professional environmentalists and scientists. The first was an article entitled, "A Voice for the Arctic" by Peter Feniak in the magazine Good Times. In it Peter outlined how an Inuit woman, Sheila Watt- Cloutier, has been using her talents to to bring a human face to Arctic climate change. She is an educator, translator and councillor as well as the former president, now chair, of the Inuit Circompolar Council (ICC) representing the Inuit of Canada, Alaska, Russia and Greenland.
Sheila tells of how climate change has affected the Inuit hunting culture in this century alone: "The Arctic has seen above freezing winter temperature, lightning flashes, freezing rain. Thinning ice fields have become treacherous, rivers raging torrents, brown patches of earth emerge, new bird, fish and insect species arrive that are unknown to the elders. Seal and caribou migrations alter."
She believes that damaging emissions of greenhouse gases coming from the U.S. are part of the problem and that it represents a human rights violation. She believes "the Arctic has a right to be cold. For the Inuit, the environment is everything."
Sheila states that what happens to the Inuit is the warning for what's to come to all. Whether we like it or not, the Inuit and the Arctic wildlife are the canaries in the global coal mine.
A second and similar point of view came from a program I watched called "Arctic Mission: Climate on the Edge," narrated by David Suzuki and containing many interviews and statistics given by several other experts, one of whom was Canadian glaciologist Fritz Koerner.
The experts explained how the ice age lasted millions of years,
with only occasional warmer periods. But suddenly, as the human race became more industrialized over the past 150 years, levels of CO2 have begun to increase very quickly. They listed fossil fuel use as the major cause.
They demonstrated how the Gulf Stream moves in a cyclical direction, thus being a crucial function in keeping temperatures in Europe so temperate.
They explained further that glaciers melting too fast will cause ice chunks to be flushed out into the North Atlantic where they will melt. Changing ocean temperatures will cause an alteration in the direction of the Gulf Stream, thus bringing Europe much cooler temperatures, not to mention all the extra water, causing the ocean to rise at least three metres all along coastlines where 70% of all humans live.
Think of the devastation this will cause.
Ongoing research in France has shown that with continuing global warming, the polar regions are affected much more severely than tropical regions. If the Arctic ends up with no ice cover in the summer, then the whole marine environment will change -- from tiny organisms right up the chain to the polar bear.
Polar bears can only feed on their primary food, the ring seal, where there is ice. This is essential for them to be able to put on enough weight to survive through to the next season.
During the summer, polar bears live off their fat reserves, eating very little. According to data collected, they are already smaller in size and must travel farther and farther in the ocean to find food, indicating that their fat reserves are inadequate.
Records show that ice is forming two weeks later and leaving two weeks earlier, representing a 15% decrease in time for feeding during a four-month period, a serious development for mother bears with cubs.
One can extrapolate to our own food supply to see how a shortened period for growing crops worldwide might negatively affect the outcome, especially when a mean temperature increase or decrease of one or two degrees can mean the difference between survival and starvation.
In addition, to the problem of already airborne CO2, scientists also explained one more disturbing factor: that of CO2 and methane that has been stored for millions of years in the permafrost. If they are released, there will be even more warmer air, bringing more violent storms and tornadoes.
All of these knowledgeable people stated that we should have reduced greenhouse gases yesterday in order to slow down and stabilize excess CO2.
Elizabeth May is on target and has been all along. To ridicule her and her party's stand on global warming by reason of one cold spring is unfounded, small-minded and totally irrational.
We cannot ignore all the signs. Glaciers are melting. Sand dunes are advancing. Global warming and climate change will not go away in our time.
Where is the warming? Monte asks.
Well, if he had been reading any scientific articles or watching researched documentaries, he would have seen that warming is a fact. Glaciers are melting and not returning, as evidenced by pictures of them taken over 50 years apart from the same spot. The pictures prove glaciers are receding at an alarming rate.
Winds are depositing dirt from the south on northern ice, drawing even more heat to melt the glaciers.
All of the data mentioned here has been accumulated and studies by people with credentials, who are well-versed and knowledgeable in their fields and should be taken to heart.
As for Monte Sonnenberg' who is he? Nobody is my guess.
Monte, you'd better build an ark.
Marian Hammond Berkeley
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