Arctic Thaw

Now that the election in U.S. is over, perhaps the Bush Administration could depoliticize its disastrous environmental policy, to make it come to term with the growing environmental anxieties resulting from all the available scientific data. The impact from the arctic thaw mostly arising due to global warming will be catastrohpic unless the course of our world is altered drastically, especially lessening dependance on fossil fuel that is one of the major culprits in contributing greenhouse effect.

The Christian Science monitor listed the trend of Arctic thaw in this report as the following:

• Rapid melting of Arctic glaciers, including the vast sheet of ice that covers Greenland. The sheet locks up enough fresh water to raise sea levels by as much as 27 feet over the course of several centuries. The group calculates that during this century, Greenland temperatures are likely to exceed the threshold for triggering the long-term meltdown of the island's ice sheet.

• Arctic temperatures rising up to twice as fast as the global average. Over the past 50 years, average winter temperatures in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia have risen as much as 7 degrees F. Over the next century, temperatures are projected to rise by up to 13 degrees F.

• A dramatic reduction in the extent of the summer ice pack in the Arctic Ocean. Late-summer ice coverage already has declined by as much as 20 percent over the past three decades. The summer ice pack is projected to shrink by another 10 to 50 percent by the end of the century. Some climate models show the summer ice vanishing by 2040.

There are already some movement noticed in the U.S. government regarding this issue, especially, from top level Senators like John McCain and Joseph I. Lieberman. "Pointing to the report as a clear signal that global warming is real, Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said yesterday the ''dire consequences" of warming in the Arctic underscore the need for their proposal to require US cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases. President Bush has rejected that approach."

This time around, since the election frenzy is over, and Mr. Bush has achieved his coveted second term in the office with such a huge evangelical mandate, maybe he and his environment oblivious colleagues should begin to grasp the severity of this griveous issue.


Arctic Thaw

Tuesday, November 9, 2004; Page A26

NOT ONLY HAS it moved beyond the realm of science fiction, but the Arctic ice cap's melting has been much faster than anyone has suspected. That is one of the important conclusions of a report published yesterday at the behest of the Arctic Council, a forum composed of eight nations with Arctic territories, including the United States. Yet the report, produced over four years by several hundred scientists, government officials and indigenous groups, is not sensational or alarmist. It simply compiles the data, noting that because of long-term global warming, average winter temperatures in Alaska, western Canada and eastern Russia have increased by as much as seven degrees over the past 50 years. If the trend continues, about half of the Arctic sea ice is projected to melt by the end of this century.

The report describes some of the possible environmental effects of this change. Many northern animal species, including polar bears and seals, are likely to become extinct. Vegetation and animal migration patterns around the world will shift. Low-lying parts of the world, including Florida and coastal Louisiana, are likely to experience serious flooding. But although the report's scientific conclusions will be the subject of an international conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, this week, the authors intentionally do not offer specific recommendations, political or environmental, on how to halt or cope with these changes.

Such recommendations are supposed to come from diplomats and indigenous representatives who will also be meeting at the Reykjavik summit, however. And already, these are the subject of controversy: Some participants have accused the Bush administration of resisting a mild endorsement of the report and of rejecting even vague language suggesting that greenhouse gas reduction might be part of the solution. Given the thorough nature of this report, and given that the election is now over, that would be inexcusable. At the very least, we hope that the final language reflects a practical, commonsensical and depoliticized approach to what will certainly be one of the most pressing environmental issues of the next half-century.