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Donald F. Boesch
President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Donald F. Boesch

Donald F. Boesch, an oceanographer, is president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Vice Chancellor for Environmental Sustainability for the University System of Maryland. ALL POSTS

Sooner than you think

The impacts of climate change are not just about a theoretical future, but are already being felt today. The federal report released last June, Global Climate Change Impacts on the United States, documented that increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, earlier snowmelt, and lengthening growing seasons are being observed and such
impacts are projected to grow dramatically. Full disclosure: I was a contributing author of this report, which was commissioned and largely completed under the Bush Administration.

While it is true that the most dire impacts of climate change may be decades away, they can only be averted by actions taken now because CO2 and other greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and persist for a very long time. While
we may avoid dealing with the worst of these impacts, our children and grandchildren
certainly will have to--it's that soon.

Many of the observed changes have happened faster than scientists predicted just a decade ago. For example, the reduced coverage of summer sea ice observed in 2007 was
not forecast to occur until the 2040s. The military, shippers and the oil and gas industry are already planning for a regularly ice-free Northwest Passage within about a decade. Sea level rise has also been faster than the models predicted, largely as a result of the new input of melt water from Greenland and West Antarctica. Prior to the 1990s the rise was almost totally due to expansion of the warming ocean and the melting of continental glaciers. That new addition is troubling news, because melting of these polar ice masses could raise sea levels by twenty feet over next few centuries.

But sea-level rise poses a more immediate risk than that. Recent scientific
indicate that we may be already committed to a 2-ft rise in sea level by the end of the century, but as many as 5 feet if we continue on the present path of growth in greenhouse gas emissions. If you live in a place like New Orleans, Miami or any other low lying coastal area you should be very worried about that threat. Enough to demand action to reduce emissions pronto.

By Donald F. Boesch  |  January 7, 2010; 6:45 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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U. S. Senate Minority Report

“For how many years must the planet cool before we begin to understand that the planet is not warming? For how many years must cooling go on?" - Geologist Dr. David Gee the chairman of the science committee of the 2008 International Geological Congress who has authored 130 plus peer reviewed papers, and is currently at Uppsala University in Sweden.

“Earth has cooled since 1998 in defiance of the predictions by the UN-IPCC….The
global temperature for 2007 was the coldest in a decade and the coldest of the
millennium…which is why ‘global warming’ is now called ‘climate change.’” -
Climatologist Dr. Richard Keen of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado.

“The ‘global warming scare’ is being used as a political tool to increase government
control over American lives, incomes and decision making. It has no place in the
Society's activities.” - Award-Winning NASA Astronaut/Geologist and Moonwalker Jack Schmitt who flew on the Apollo 17 mission and formerly of the Norwegian Geological Survey and for the U.S. Geological Survey.

“I am a skeptic…Global warming has become a new religion.” - Nobel Prize Winner for
Physics, Ivar Giaever.

Warming fears are the “worst scientific scandal in the history…When people come to
know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.” - UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical

“The IPCC has actually become a closed circuit; it doesn’t listen to others. It doesn’t have open minds… I am really amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize has been given on scientifically incorrect conclusions by people who are not geologists.” - Indian geologist Dr. Arun D. Ahluwalia at Punjab University and a board member of the UN-supported International Year of the Planet.

“The models and forecasts of the UN IPCC "are incorrect because they only are based on mathematical models and presented results at scenarios that do not include, for example, solar activity.” - Victor Manuel Velasco Herrera, a researcher at the Institute of Geophysics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico

“It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.” - U.S Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.

“Even doubling or tripling the amount of carbon dioxide will virtually have little impact, as water vapour and water condensed on particles as clouds dominate the worldwide scene and always will.” – . Geoffrey G. Duffy, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering of the University of Auckland, NZ.

Posted by: AJAX2 | January 10, 2010 3:53 PM
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In 5 billion years the sun will expand to the earth's orbit, killing all life. Should we be planning now for that event?
bnichols6 | January 9, 2010 4:53 PM
The pique exhibited by global warming deniers, few if any of whom have the requisite knowledge or expertise to address the subject, is an extraordinary display of human neurotic tendencies.

As for planning for the Sun's eventual transformation into a Red Giant and consequent incineration of the Earth (more likely to be 11 billion years from now), isn't the point of the space program to pave the way for permanent emigration from Earth at some time well before then?

Posted by: mnjam | January 10, 2010 12:01 PM
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KLINGER1:I would argue that the warm period experienced during the MWP (1,000-1,350 AD) was greater than the present northern hemisphere temperatures anticipated over the next several decades to hundred years. It was not associated with CO2 or greenhouse effect. It was more likely due to solar pulsing or variations of oceanic circulation.
Single rate of temperature change is a terrible measure of anticpated temperature, especially when the data promoted by the now-disgraced East Anglia CRU and it "hockey stick" graph has now been shown to be specious and manipulated (viz. bistlecone pine debate).
As for the end of the Younger Dryas period argument, you might note that the event has not yet been shown to be global in effect, and that other interstadials during the Pleistocene experienced even more rapid rates of temperature increase than shown on the false hockey stick chart.
Finally, you will find that the Eocene Epoch ended 34 million years BP, not 130,000 years ago.
I will continue to argue that there is nothing unusual in today's global temperature, and the CO2 in the upper atmosphere (including temperature) shows no change over the past 70 years (meteorolical balloon measurements).

Posted by: tempestite | January 10, 2010 10:55 AM
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All I read in these posts is a one-sided approach to solving the problem - reducing human caused CO2. There is a time delay in that approach.
What about a more pro-active approach by activities related to increasing the carbon sinks. The on-going destruction of the Amazon rain forests, and burning of the trees, release massive amounts of CO2 and disrupts the natural CO2 cycle.

Posted by: philhoey | January 10, 2010 8:04 AM
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...we may be already committed to a 2-ft rise in sea level by the end of the century, but as many as 5 feet if we continue on the present path of growth in greenhouse gas emissions. If you live in a place like New Orleans, Miami or any other low lying coastal area you should be very worried about that threat.
If I were around at the end of the century, I would be 154 years old. Even under Obamacare, I doubt that my life expectancy will be expanded by that much. So no, I'm not much worried.

Posted by: swmuva | January 10, 2010 12:26 AM
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FGOEPFERT1: I've heard a lot of theories about why global warming isn't really caused by society, but "increases in submarine magma activity" is especially novel. As a physical oceanographer, I should have heard of such a theory if it had any credibility, and I haven't. Sure, maybe I just missed it, but there are some good reasons why it almost certainly couldn't be true. For starters, observed ocean warming is largest near the surface of the ocean. Spreading centers where magma activity is greatest tend to occur below the thermocline, where the water is very cold and warming would be very noticable. Also, changes in ocean temperature are smaller than changes in surface temperature over land. This is just what models predict for global warming caused by greenhouse gases, but it is hard to see how a small ocean temperature change from magma would make a bigger temperature change over global land surface.

TEMPESTITE: You are right about the cooling trend over millions of years, and if we were planning on what to do about climate one million years from now, cooling might be the big issue. For the next few hundred years, pretty sharp warming is what we have to worry about. This warming is probably bigger and faster than anything Earth has seen since the end of the Younger Dryas period around 10,000 years ago and is getting Earth to a warmer state than probably any time since the Eocene period about 130,000 years ago. If greenhouse gas emissions aren't curbed, in another century or so we could reach higher temperatures than has been seen in millions of years.

Posted by: klinger1 | January 9, 2010 10:26 PM
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Increases in heavy downpours?!! Increases in heavy downpours!?? You are a comedian, right? You're yankin' somebody's chain, right? The devastation to humanity by dozens of F5 hurricanes predicted by Algorithm didn't happen so you're talking about HEAVY DOWNPOURS? How much longer do you clowns think you can hold center ring?

Posted by: chatard | January 9, 2010 9:08 PM
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In 5 billion years the sun will expand to the earth's orbit, killing all life.
Should we be planning now for that event?

Posted by: bnichols6 | January 9, 2010 4:53 PM
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Climatologists and environmentalists, in general, seem to have a rather myopic view of the earths climatic past. Depending on historical records and paleo-climate proxies such as bistlecone pines and ice core data from the Greenland and antarctic ice mantles are limited in their time spans. Benthic sediments and their oxygen isotope ratios provide a much more accurate picture over the past 60 million years, and they clearly indicate a general global cooling. The oceans are, after all, the great climate engines of our planet, and we understand more abut space than we do about 70% of our planet's surface. Let's get back to real science and stop with the political sycophancy in order to obtain poorly reasoned project funding.

Posted by: tempestite | January 9, 2010 12:22 PM
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Whatever global warming that has occured, has not be caused primarily by man-made C)2 emission, but by warming ocean temperatures which have been caused by increases in submarine magma activity. Fortunately, this is cyclical, and we have probably arrived at the peak of the current cycle, and are starting on a negative going half-cycle.
The man-made CO2 claims are fraudulent science, designed to increase power and profit for a few. The Washington Post continues this scam without showing any balance.

Posted by: fgoepfert1 | January 9, 2010 11:29 AM
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The debate over whether climate change is natural or man-made is just a red herring, as is the assumption that we won't feel the impact of changes for decades. In fact, America has a health crisis largely due to carbon emissions, dirty fuel, and an economy that traffics in deadly chemicals. From heart disease to cancer, research is showing environmental pollution changing DNA and damaging organs. Millions, many children, suffer from asthma and other chronic breathing problems. Our waters and fish are toxic. Our grains are contaminated. Our produce is chemically saturated. The U.S. needs a green economy--and we need it yesterday.

Posted by: donnasaggia | January 9, 2010 9:33 AM
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We're All Gone'a Die!What Should We Do?How Can I Stop The Madness?Where Is Our Saviour?Maybe We Should Beg Forgiveness From Mother Earth?We're All Gone'a Die!Help!Help!Help!Can Anyone Hear Me?Help!What Would Al Gore Suggest?I Know!Bend Over And Kiss Your A_ _ Goodby!

Posted by: sdavis4 | January 9, 2010 5:06 AM
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