Las Vegas Sun

October 30, 2014

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Sun Editorial:

The Arctic in peril

Brookings expert warns UNLV audience against ‘doing nothing’ to reverse warming

Three studies published this year contain information about Arctic melting that cannot be described in any way other than frightening.

Two of the studies were released last month and reviewed in articles by The Washington Post.

One was researched by a team of 30 scientists from the United States, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Finland and primarily written by Northern Arizona University professor Darrell Kaufman.

Its conclusion, that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions over the past several decades have rendered the Arctic region warmer than at any time since 1 B.C., was published by the prestigious journal Science.

The other study released last month was produced by the World Wildlife Federation. It concluded that warming in the Arctic could shift global weather patterns and affect agriculture, forestry and water supplies in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

A third study was released in April by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Washington. According to the Associated Press, the study concluded that Arctic sea ice is melting so fast that most of it could be gone in 30 years. With little ice to reflect sunlight back into space, the Arctic Ocean will just get warmer, leading to an acceleration of warming around the world, the study said.

That the situation is dire was echoed last week by Charles Ebinger, who leads an energy initiative at the Brookings Institution. He spoke to an audience at UNLV about the worldwide consequences if warming continues at its current pace.

The Las Vegas Sun’s Stephanie Tavares reported that Ebinger outlined many of the worst-case scenarios, including the worst of all — drastic changes in global weather and the inundation of highly populated areas as Arctic ice liquefies.

On a hopeful note, though, Ebinger said Nevada could play a key role in helping to avoid this fate. He said this state’s vast renewable energy potential could be tapped, replacing some of the current greenhouse-gas-emitting power sources with those that produce emissions-free electricity.

He strongly warned against doing nothing, a warning we should start taking seriously.

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