Splitting on Top of the World

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On Sunday evening’s edition of 60 Minutes, CBS aired a story the network first broadcast on Feb. 19. I hope global warming skeptics, as well as anyone dedicated to organic living and environmental issues, had a chance to see it.

Correspondent Scott Pelley took his crew to the top of the world—the North Pole—to demonstrate how quickly it’s melting. And as he so succinctly put it: “There’s been a debate burning for years about the causes of global warming. But the scientists you’re about to meet say the debate is over. New evidence shows man is contributing to the warming of the planet, pumping out greenhouse gases that trap solar heat.”

One of Pelley’s sources was Dr. Robert Corell, lead author and chair of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, a collaborative study among 300 scientists from eight countries. They found seas are rising, storms like Hurricane Katrina are growing ever more powerful and polar bears are facing extinction. Greenland is literally breaking apart due to rising temperatures.

“Right now, the entire planet is out of balance,” Dr. Corell told Pelley. “This is a bellwether, a barometer. Some people call it the canary in the mine, the warning that things are coming. In 10 years here in the arctic, we see what the rest of the planet will see in 25 or 35 years from now.”

And who’s to blame for this climate crisis? Grab a mirror. Our daily activities accelerate the planet’s breakdown.

Pelley joined Dr. Paul A. Mayewski, director of the Climate Change Institute and a professor of earth sciences at the University of Maine, who has led 35 expeditions to “biopsy” arctic glaciers. He removes large sections from their deep ice cores, which retain a chemical timeline of what’s in the air, as well as the region’s temperature, over thousands of years. Dr. Mayewski has found that the current rise in temperatures is unprecedented, and carbon dioxide levels are higher than anything scientists have seen from hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of years ago.

“It all points to something that has changed and something that has impacted the system which wasn't doing it more than 100 years ago,” Dr. Mayewski told Pelley. “And we know exactly what it is: It’s human activity.” Translation? Burning fossil fuels, releasing carbon dioxide/other greenhouse gases and our pollution-causing way of life—and the United States is the main culprit.

And as for the doubters who reject the premise of global warming because they’ve bought into junk science or political spin?

“We can owe the skeptics a vote of thanks for making our science as precise as it is today,” Dr. Mayewski told Pelley.

Photo© Magnus Elander, courtesy of the International Conference on Arctic Research and Planning(ICARP)

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