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Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Issues > Summer 2010 > Temperature Gauge

Temperature Gauge

Notes from a Warming World

Problem Solved

Climate change – and the associated likelihood of droughts, disrupted harvests, and declining fresh water supplies — is often thought of as a phenomenon that will increase geopolitical conflicts. But what if global warming somehow succeeded in reducing tensions between nations?

That’s what happened when New Moore Island, an uninhabited outcropping in the Bay of Bengal, disappeared due to rising sea levels and erosion. For years, the tiny piece of land had been a point of contention in the sometimes-fractious relationship between India and Bangladesh. Now, the island is gone.

“Climate change has obliterated the source of the dispute,” says Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadaypur University.

Looks like the deniers’ disinformation machine has succeeded in spinning what was supposed to be the “greenest generation.”

Now if only rising temperatures could resolve the territorial conflicts in Kashmir and Israel-Palestine….

Flower Power

As go low-lying islands so goes … the scent of flowers? According to scientists at University Kebangsaan Malaysia, climate change could be reducing the pleasant aromas produced by flowers. In colder climates, flowers often last longer and plants can hold onto their essential oils. As global temperatures increase and spring comes sooner, the chemical compounds that give flowers their scents are drying up more quickly. A rose might still be a rose, but it won’t smell as sweet as it did before.

To add injury to insult, earlier springs and shifting climate zones could exacerbate seasonal allergies. A new report by the National Wildlife Federation and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reveals that climate change will cause “highly allergenic” trees such as oak and hickory to move into areas now occupied by pine, spruce, and fir. Higher temperatures could also boost the growth of ragweed.

“Unchecked global warming will worsen respiratory allergies for approximately 25 million Americans,” the report concluded.

Fire and Ice

photo of an erupting volcanoistockphoto.comGlacial melt could prompt more volcanoes, like Iceland’s Eyjafjalla, to erupt.

The April eruption of the Eyjafjalla volcano in Iceland was nothing to, um, sneeze at. Huge clouds of ash shut down European air travel for nearly a week, stranding tens of thousands of passengers and disrupting air freight-dependent industries. (On the bright side, jet-related CO2 emissions were reduced by about two-thirds.) If the climate keeps changing, such eruptions might become more common.

Scientists say that rising global temperatures could lead to an increase in volcanic activity in higher latitudes. That’s because as glacial ice melts it removes a vast weight from the planet’s surface, allowing for more magma flow.

There’s no evidence that’s what triggered the recent eruption, but geologists know there is a connection between melting ice and volcanoes. The end of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago coincided with a surge of volcanic activity in Iceland.

More volcanic eruptions would lead to more sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere, which causes water condensation in the atmosphere, which can offset the greenhouse effect. And that could, in theory, re-stabilize glaciers. Think of it as a kind of roundabout form of geo-engineering.

The Children Are Our Future?

Look around the climate justice movement, and it feels like young people are leading the charge. Groups such as 350.org, TckTckTck, 1Sky, and Energy Action (an Earth Island-sponsored project) are either run by and for youth or else have twenty-somethings in key leadership positions. It’s discouraging, then, to hear that outside of the dark green ranks many young people are simply unconcerned about (or skeptical of) global climate change.

Reading the tea leaves of pollsters is always hit or miss. Still, a new survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication has some unsettling numbers. The poll revealed that Americans under 35 are less likely than older Americans to say they have thought about climate change. More than half of Americans ages 18 to 34 said they were not at all worried or not very worried about global warming. Perhaps most worrisome: Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they were unsure whether global warming is real.

Looks like the deniers’ disinformation machine has succeeded in spinning what was supposed to be the “greenest generation.”

   

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