Glaciers are in rapid decline and loss of these glaciers will have profoundly negative impacts on climate and human life, according to a report published yesterday by a scientific working group that was commissioned by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Science.
The co-authors of “Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene” list numerous examples of glacial decline around the world and the evidence linking that decline to human-caused changes in climate and air pollution. The threat to the ways of life of people dependent upon glaciers and snow packs for water supplies compels immediate action to mitigate the effects of climate change and to adapt to what changes are happening now and are projected to happen in the future.
“This group’s consensus statement is a warning to humanity and a call for fast action—to mitigate global and regional warming, to protect mountain glaciers and other vulnerable ecosystems, to assess national and local climate risks, and to prepare to adapt to those climate impacts that cannot be mitigated,” reads the report.
Though scientists usually refrain from proposing specific action, Professor Ramanathan from the Scripps Institution, at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the workshop co-chairs, said the circumstances of climate change warranted advancing suggestions from the working group.
In “Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene” the working group – made up of glaciologists, climate scientists, meteorologists, hydrologists, physicists, chemists, mountaineers, and lawyers – makes three central recommendations to minimize climate impacts:
- Reduce emissions of carbon dioxide quickly and aggressively, including through protection of forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other carbon sinks, and through the development and deployment of strategies to draw down excess CO2 in the atmosphere, all within decades;
- Reduce concentrations of other climate warmers and air pollutants, including black carbon soot, methane, lower atmosphere ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by as much as 50 percent, also within decades; and
- Prepare to adapt to climate change impacts that will undoubtedly occur even if mitigation measures are successful.
“Climate change is a moral issue, as well as a scientific issue,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development and a member of the working group. “Hundreds of millions of the most vulnerable of the Earth will suffer needlessly,” he added, “unless we take fast action to slow and ultimately reverse global warming.”
Zaelke continued, “The Vatican’s support for fast action to mitigate climate change is heartening. Religious leaders have the authority to build a groundswell of support that persuades even conservative political leaders to take the strong and fast action we need to protect the Planet.”
Report authors met at the Vatican from April 2 to April 4, 2011 under the invitation of Chancellor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo of the pontifical academy. The report was issued by the Vatican yesterday and will be presented to Pope Benedict XVI.
The report title refers to the term coined by Crutzen to describe what is considered a new geologic epoch that began when the impacts of mankind on the planet became a major factor in environmental and climate changes.
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