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AMEG Press Release: 2012-11-21


AMEG PRESS RELEASE: 2012-11-21


Abrupt climate change is upon us. Farmers are in despair. Food prices will go through the roof. The government’s climate change policy is in tatters. The government should have acted years ago. Now it may be too late.

The government is in the dog house, not for what they have done but what they have left undone. They have done much towards reducing CO2 emissions. The question is, will emissions reduction, however drastic, prevent abrupt climate change? The answer is ‘No’! The proof is that abrupt climate change is upon us.

There has been an elephant in the room, and it has been totally ignored.

It’s all about the Arctic sea ice.

It’s about the Arctic sea ice, whose reflection of sunshine keeps the planet cool. Remove the sea ice, and not only does the planet start to overheat, but the whole climate is suddenly changed. The global weather systems, on whose predictability farmers rely, are dependent for their stability on there being a temperature gradient between tropics and the poles. Remove the snow and ice at one pole, and the weather systems go awry and we have “global weirding”. Furthermore, the weather systems get stuck in one place, and we get weather extremes: long spells of hot/dry weather with drought, or long spells of cold/wet weather with floods.

This global weirding has started with a vengeance. The sea ice is rapidly disappearing. The behaviour of the polar jet stream is disrupted. Extreme weather events occur more often and with greater ferocity. And the food price index climbs and climbs.

There is an obvious relationship between strife and food – if you starve a nation they will fight to get food. This relationship has been pinned down by an organisation called the Complex Systems Institute, CSI. They show that the food riots break out when the food price index rises above a certain critical level. An example was the Arab Spring.

The current index is above the critical level. Because of extreme weather events this year, the index is expected to rise again in 2013. The UN’s food watchdog, the FAO, forecast that the index will rise even further in 2014.

Meanwhile the insurance industry is worried by the trend towards greater number and strength of extreme weather events, including hurricanes. Note that Sandy’s cost was greatly amplified by the diversion westward as it approached the coast off New York. Sandy had hit a jet stream blocking pattern. The loss of Arctic sea ice is leading to this kind of unusual event become more frequent. The insurers are worried, but governments should be even more worried, because extreme weather events will drive the food price index even higher.

So what can be done?

That is the subject of AMEG’s strategic plan, to be launched on Wednesday, 5th December, 6 pm, in San Francisco in association with the American Geosciences Union meeting there (see top).

For further information contact AMEG chair, John Nissen, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , with subject line to include “AMEG launch”, phone +44 20 8742 3170 or skype john.nissen4.
 

Arctic Methane: Why The Sea Ice Matters