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[greenyes] Global Warming in the Arctic

October 30, 2004
Big Arctic Perils Seen in Warming, Survey Finds

comprehensive four-year study of warming in the Arctic shows that
heat-trapping gases from tailpipes and smokestacks around the world are
contributing to profound environmental changes, including sharp retreats of
glaciers and sea ice, thawing of permafrost and shifts in the weather, the
oceans and the atmosphere.

The study, commissioned by eight nations with Arctic territory, including
the United States, says the changes are likely to harm native communities,
wildlife and economic activity but also to offer some benefits, like longer
growing seasons. The report is due to be released on Nov. 9, but portions
were provided yesterday to The New York Times by European participants in
the project.

While Arctic warming has been going on for decades and has been studied
before, this is the first thorough assessment of the causes and consequences
of the trend.

It was conducted by nearly 300 scientists, as well as elders from the native
communities in the region, after representatives of the eight nations met in
October 2000 in Barrow, Alaska, amid a growing sense of urgency about the
effects of global warming on the Arctic.

The findings support the broad but politically controversial scientific
consensus that global warming is caused mainly by rising atmospheric
concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, and that the Arctic is the
first region to feel its effects. While the report is advisory and carries
no legal weight, it is likely to increase pressure on the Bush
administration, which has acknowledged a possible human role in global
warming but says the science is still too murky to justify mandatory
reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

The State Department, which has reviewed the report, declined to comment on
it yesterday.

The report says that "while some historical changes in climate have resulted
from natural causes and variations, the strength of the trends and the
patterns of change that have emerged in recent decades indicate that human
influences, resulting primarily from increased emissions of carbon dioxide
and other greenhouse gases, have now become the dominant factor."

The Arctic "is now experiencing some of the most rapid and severe climate
change on Earth," the report says, adding, "Over the next 100 years, climate
change is expected to accelerate, contributing to major physical,
ecological, social and economic changes, many of which have already begun."

Scientists have long expected the Arctic to warm more rapidly than other
regions, partly because as snow and ice melt, the loss of bright reflective
surfaces causes the exposed land and water to absorb more of the sun's
energy. Also, warming tends to build more rapidly at the surface in the
Arctic because colder air from the upper atmosphere does not mix with the
surface air as readily as at lower latitudes, scientists say.

Peter Anderson, President
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