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Get used to it, global warming is coming to America

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 7th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Ice melting in both Antarctica and Greenland and is expected to increase sea levels by 3 feet or more by 2100. That means the destruction of many low-lying regions, including some island societies and billions of dollars in mandatory construction projects in low-lying areas, in the decades to come.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The latest study published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, says the melting of polar ice, particularly in Antarctica and Greenland will cause a rise in sea levels of three feet within the next century. While a three-foot increase may seem insignificant, it will prove devastating to many regions around the world.

Global warming is no longer a debate in the scientific community. Recent revelations have laid virtually all scholarly discussion to rest as Greenland, once almost entirely covered in glacial ice, defrosts completely. North of Canada, the fabled Northwest Passage, long blocked by the permanent glacial cap which covers fringes of northern Canada, will likely open within the next several years, allowing shipping to pass through during warmer months.

Indeed, climate change is a normal part of Earth's environment. Within the past several hundred million years, the planet has endured significant swings between high levels of oxygen in the atmosphere, a development which led to the evolution of giant prehistoric insects, and large quantities of CO2, which led to the growth of massive tropical forests which spanned the globe.

In more recent times, climate change has coupled with human impacts, sometimes with devastating results. Most notably, all human civilization has developed in the latest period of warming brought about since the end of the last ice age, some 10,000-plus years ago.

However, the changes have not always been favorable. Ancient Mesopotamian empires collapsed as the region gave way from grassland to desert, and the Maya civilization collapsed under a decades-long drought that prevented them from growing enough food to sustain their population.

The Little Ice Age, a period of cooling which lasted from about 1350 to 1850, caused the collapse of Viking civilization and the failure of colonies in Greenland, shortened growing seasons in Europe, which brought about periods of famine, and much heavier snow and ice was recorded around the globe, particularly in Europe where diligent records were kept.

During this time in Africa, snow occasionally fell in places it has never fallen before or since.

However, after 1850 industrial output and environmental pollution skyrocketed, arguably to the point it has caused or at least contributed to present-day climate change.

While many people still debate the veracity of climate change and the cause behind it, the fact is climate change is real and the data bears this out extensively. Ultimately, the degree of human contribution is moot for two reasons. First, wanton pollution and destruction of the environment is inherently immoral, and second, the change is occurring anyway.

The ethical question then becomes, how should we cope with it?

"The consequences are horrible" glaciologist and co-author of the study, Jonathan Bamber told NBC News. Speaking on how much humans have contributed to climate change versus how much of the change is natural Bramber admitted, "There is really no consensus amongst the experts we approached. That's something that we in the scientific community need to address as a matter of urgency,"

Still, the changes are devastating. Several pacific island societies will be entirely displaced and likely destroyed as low-lying atolls are washed over by the rise in seal level. Millions of people will be displaced in countries such as Bangladesh, dikes in Holland will fail, and coastal cities from New York to Tokyo will only keep the waves at bay if they construct multi-billion dollar seawalls.

Already, the effects of climate change are being felt, although ironically, they seem to be felt the least in the United States where richness of resources, geographical luck, and modern technology have kept the harshest impacts at bay.

In other continents, the affects are acutely felt. Desertification and drought in Africa already causes crop failure, the loss of herds and wildlife, starvation, disease, and even conflict. In Asia, harsher weather now routinely displaces millions and causes food and health crisis more years than not. This wasn't the case a generation ago. But these developments rarely make U.S. headlines as we read instead about the latest celebrity scandal.

Today, with events such as Superstorm Sandy and record-breaking tornado outbreaks in the Midwest coupled with drought in the western states, the impact is being felt. It just isn't appreciated yet.

Higher food prices and economic disruptions will likely become more normal in the decades to come.

And while politicians and their antics still pose the greater threat to the everyday life of most Americans, have no more doubt, climate change is coming to a shore and sky near you.

Ultimately, the matter must be addressed. Scientists can debate causes all day, however we have a moral responsibility to serve as stewards of our environment and to show regard for our brothers and sisters who are already affected by these changes. To ignore the root causes of their suffering is an immoral act of willful ignorance.

Our time is limited. Today it is the deserts of Africa and the jungles of Asia. Tomorrow it will be the waterfronts, cities, and farms of the United States. We can debate and stall, or we can debate while we do. No matter what, we should guide our actions with moral principles, acting as stewards of the environment and keepers of our brothers, and our faith.

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