The recent news (Denver Post. Sept. 19, p. 8A) that a UN World Meteorological Organization report shows heat trapping carbon dioxide at a record high of 396 part per million - up 142 percent since 1750- comes as no surprise to those of us who have been fortunate to travel to glacier regions - including Switzerland and Alaska. There you will see it before your very eyes with the too early melting snow at high altitude, and the receding glaciers such as the Eigergletscher we beheld -much receded since we last saw it in 1978.
For reference - below I show a map of the Jungfrau region and the train routes we traveled on our recent trip. If the quality is not sublime it's because the map was actually photographed from a sign.
If you can locate Kleine Scheidigg, and trace the curvy red line up from it you will come to Eigergletscher. Tracking the red line (dotted) all the way up you will come to JungfrauJoch or "the top of Europe". A view of the receding glacier - seen from our train en route up to Jungfraujoch is seen below:
This was not the only receding glacier we beheld but it unnerved us because it was the one we most recalled - from our previous trip. We had taken slides then but alas, the mold and mildew in Barbados got to them. Meanwhile, on reaching JungfauJoch we enjoyed this scene:
Note the people but most especially the lines of rope tied to posts in the foreground in the image below. None of those ropes were there when we last came. Unlike when we were there in 1978, the powers-that-be had roped off the entire plateau area and posted signs to warn visitors not to jump over the ropes to go beyond. With no such rope boundaries in '78, we managed to hike far beyond those confines to the top of a steep slope nearly parallel with the Sphinx Observatory (previous photo, far right) :
This time we observed chunks of snow and ice falling and suspect a primary reason is that global warming has rendered the snow-packed slopes more treacherous, and the risk of avalanche much greater. We'd have had to be fools to attempt what we did 36 years earlier.
When we traveled to Alaska, in March, 2005, we saw similar unnerving sights. Many of these while we traveled in a small 'flightseeing' plane to Mount Denali. One view from the cockpit of the plane is shown below:
The original deal is that we were supposed to land on a glacier near the peak and be able to walk around and see Denali up close and personal. This was the package promised. However, after several swoops low over the area the pilot warned he wouldn't be able to fulfill it. His 27 years of experience and hawk eyes informed him the supporting snow and ice was much too treacherous to sustain even a small plane landing. Did we really want our "money's worth"? Uh no. What we saw, however, was enough to show us that those who denied global warming were spouting bollocks. Indeed, when I was at the University of Alaska over 1985-86 it was none other than Prof. Gunter Weller who had first shown how the Arctic was warming much more rapidly than the lower continent - and this was part of anthropogenic warming predictions.
This was spelled out for us when we visited Fairbanks and the University's Geophysical Institute where Weller did his work in the 1980s. We also got to see how extensively melting was occurring near the Alaska Pipeline:
While at the GI we also got to chat with several current atmospheric scientists who reinforced the import of Weller's work.
We also got to see the Ice Art Exhibit and learned that several ice towers (including one 150' tall) had collapsed due to melting permafrost beneath. Now, melting permafrost poses a major danger to structures as well as releasing an even more potent greenhouse gas: methane.
Meanwhile, here in Colorado, a report released Thursday by the Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center disclosed that Colorado's power plants now emit as much CO2 pollution in one year: 38.6 million metric tons, or as much as the entire country of New Zealand.
The evidence is there, and before us - staring us in the face- at least for those of us who've gone to Alaska and Switzerland and seen first hand the negative effect anthropogenic warming is having on key attractions, events and even buildings. Those unable to travel to such places can still see the current rapid melting of glaciers world wide at this link:
In other words, there really is no excuse not to be aware.
But, are we going to continue to just play the fool with our planet, or do something? That remains the key question and one hopes sincerely it starts to get seriously addressed next week when the leaders of 125 nations (minus China, Russia and India) meet for a summit to address the problem (again!). The primary objective will be to jump start negotiations for an agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change.
The problem is that whatever they do is likely going to be too little too late..