Friday, October 26, 2007

We're all going to die!

Yesterday, the CNN website had a startling headline news. Excerpt:

Greenland's ice sheet melts as temperatures rise

ILULISSAT, Greenland (CNN) -- From the air, Greenland's ice sheet, the second largest on Earth, appears to be perfectly still.

But below the surface, the ice sheet is in constant motion, as ice built up in the interior pushes toward the coast in the form of massive glaciers. During warmer months, ice from these glaciers melts into the ocean.

It's an age-old process that scientists say has sped up in recent decades because of global warming.

The fear is that melting ice from Greenland and other Arctic areas could cause sea levels to rise enough to flood low-lying cities, such as Shanghai, China, and New York City, displacing millions of people in the process.

A recent report from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of scientists from around the world, estimates the sea level rise by 2100 could be as much as 1½ feet.

"That sea level rise is only based on melt from ice sheets, and does not include a new fast flow of ice we have detected in Greenland that is generating additional icebergs," said Dr. Konrad Steffen, a climate scientist with the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Steffen estimates sea levels could rise three feet over the next century, a stark prediction that could wreak havoc around the world if it comes to pass. Greenland holds enough ice to cause sea levels to rise 23 feet if the entire ice sheet melted, a development few scientists expect to happen anytime soon. But global sea levels have been rising at the rate of three millimeters per year since 1993.

Of course, if you've been following the issue of global warming, this news item isn't entirely new. The effects of global warming have been very obvious these past few years. In the Philippines, every summer is the hottest summer on record. Remember typhoon Milenyo? Global warming. And the rainy season always comes very late into the year. When I was in elementary and high school, it was a given that when schools open in June, it will be rainy, so our raincoats should be in our bags. Now, it doesn't rain until August or September, and when it does, pack the industrial strength umbrella and be ready to lose your shame because you're going to walk through the floods or ride the occasional makeshift boat in the middle of Kalentong (hey, I did it twice!).

It's very easy to ignore the problem of global warming because it is something that is so outside us and our homes. And for people who live in a third world country like ours, it's very difficult to think about melting glaciers when people don't even know if there's gonna be food on the table for dinner.

So what can ordinary people do about this problem? outlines several ways. Follow the links:

Reduce your impact AT HOME
Reduce your impact WHILE ON THE MOVE
Download these 10 SIMPLE TIPS to take with you!

This website is a project of former US Vice-President Al Gore, who was responsible for the fantastic documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature early this year. My, my, look what a few years can do. It wasn't long ago that Al Gore was one of the most despised political figures, a favorite target of late night talk show hosts. Al Gore was said to be a bore, in contrast to Clinton who would occasionally play his sax on TV, and even admitted on MTV that he uses briefs instead of boxers. Plus he knows what to do with a cigar. There was even that time when Al Gore allegedly claimed that he invented the internet. That was a hoot. But now, Al Gore, unexpectedly, has made a dramatic comeback with one of his main advocacies, and I really applaud him for that. Last week he even won the Nobel Peace Prize for his crusade against global warming, making people take notice of this much-misunderstood and neglected problem. Wow. After watching "An Inconvenient Truth," one of my Korean students even exclaimed, "he should be president of the world!"

(Speaking of the documentary feature, I think it's one film that ought to be seen by every human being because it's quite an eye-opener. Okay, so there were portions in the movie in which Gore seem to be campaigning for public office, but honestly I didn't mind. If I were the filmmaker, I probably wouldn't even mind if people buy pirated copies of it to give away to students and politicians so that they would do something. Wink wink.)

However, and as Gore said in the documentary, probably the biggest thing that could contribute to solving the problem of global warming is if countries like the US and China will greatly reduce their carbon emissions. And he's talking to you, George W. Bush! Instead of focusing on getting Middle East oil by "liberating" people, why not spend all that money finding ways on how not to make New York City or the entire country of Maldives submerged in melted glacier?

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