That’s the title of a recent leading article in the UK’s Independent, which observes:
“…the inconvenient truth is that, whatever errors or over-statements individuals may make in this debate, the overwhelming body of climate science still shows that man-made climate change is real. Our report today, of solid and robust research measuring changes in temperature in our planet’s great oceans and seas, demonstrates that.”
The report referred to concerns new authoritative findings regarding ocean warming from global research led by the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Independent’s science editor, Steve Connor, writes in his companion article:
“The world’s oceans are warming up and the rise is both significant and real, according to one of the most comprehensive studies into marine temperature data gathered over the past two decades. Measuring the temperature of the oceans has not been easy, but the scientists behind the latest study believe there is now incontrovertible evidence to show that the top few hundred metres of the sea are warming – and that this temperature rise is consistent with man-made climate change.”
“Rising ocean temperatures are important because the sea is a huge “sink” for global heat and carbon dioxide – its capacity to store heat is about 1,000 times greater than the atmosphere. Warmer water is less able to absorb the extra carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels, and as seawater warms it also expands, causing a rise in sea levels. The temperature measurements were gathered using devices originally developed by the military to estimate the speed of underwater sonar signals.”
Meanwhile, America’s most prestigious science body, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), has just released its most comprehensive study yet undertaken on climate change. From its media release:
“Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for — and in many cases is already affecting — a broad range of human and natural systems,” the report concludes. It calls for a new era of climate change science where an emphasis is placed on “fundamental, use-inspired” research, which not only improves understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change but also is useful to decision makers at the local, regional, national, and international levels acting to limit and adapt to climate change.”
The NAS panels concluded that ocean levels could rise by as much as 5 feet by the end of the century, compared with the IPCC estimate of a foot and a half increase. And, consequently, in an observation about adaptation that’s especially pertinent to New Zealand, NAS recommends:
“Although much of the response to climate change will occur at local and regional levels, a national adaptation strategy is needed to facilitate cooperation and collaboration across all lines of government and between government and other key parties, including the private sector, community organizations, and nongovernmental organizations. As part of this strategy, the federal government should provide technical and scientific resources that are lacking at the local or regional scale, incentives for local and state authorities to begin adaptation planning, guidance across jurisdictions, and support of scientific research to expand knowledge of impacts and adaptation.”
“Adapting to climate change will be an ongoing, iterative process, the report says, and will involve decision makers at every scale of government and all parts of society. A first step is to identify vulnerabilities to climate change impacts and begin to examine adaptation options that will improve resilience. To build the scientific knowledge base and provide a basis for increasingly effective action in the future, adaptation efforts should be monitored and analyzed to judge successes, problems, and unintended consequences. The report also calls for research to develop new adaptation options and a better understanding of vulnerabilities and impacts on smaller spatial scales.”
Two voices of concern that should resonate strongly in ocean-bound New Zealand!
P.S. Here are links to the full set of NAS reports, as well as the webcast and video announcing the findings.