Monday, Dec. 29, 2008 | 2:05 a.m.
A new study led by the U.S. Geological Survey on the possibility of abrupt climate change in this century adds weight to the argument that international solutions to the potential hazards of global warming are urgently needed.
It is noteworthy that the report was commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, which coordinates the climate change research of 13 federal agencies.
One key finding in the report released Dec. 16 is that rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets could lead to rises in sea level that “substantially exceed” the projections made last year by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That is because of inadequacies in climate models scientists use to make their predictions.
“Small changes in sea-level rise have significant societal and economic impacts through coastal erosion, increased susceptibility to storm surges and resultant flooding, groundwater contamination by salt intrusion, loss of coastal wetlands, and other issues,” the report stated.
The researchers also sounded a warning that the Southwestern United States “may be beginning an abrupt period of increased drought.” It is no secret that Southern Nevada has been suffering from a drought over the past several years, with no relief in sight.
But it could get even more acute. The report pointed to evidence of drying in the planet’s subtropical zones because of greenhouse-gas-induced global warming. The researchers predicted that this drying effect will move northward into the Southwestern United States, which would make our drought conditions worse.
The irony is that wet areas of the planet could experience worse flooding and erosion.
We encourage both our federal government and other nations to advance this research by investing the money necessary to develop climate models that will help scientists make more accurate predictions about the probabilities of sea level increases, drought conditions and other perilous environmental changes caused by global warming.