Scientist offers dire scenario at climate-change symposium in Minneapolis

Dire projections on global warming effects issued recently by the U.N.’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may prove to be as comparatively tranquil as “a Sunday school picnic” when the next scientific reports come out, a renowned earth scientist told an international symposium in Minneapolis.

The sober assessment Monday by David Schindler of the University of Alberta follows an IPCC report last week that said that even if world leaders realize their most ambitious plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the earth would still warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by century’s end.

Such levels, the report said, would see ocean levels rise by six feet by 2100 rather than the 1.5-foot rise predicted just two years ago, and the Arctic would experience a sea-ice free summer by 2030 rather than the end of the century.  In 2000 alone, the average rate of melting of glaciers in nine mountain ranges has doubled compared with the rate of the previous two decades.

David Schindler
David Schindler

Schindler said he’s “not looking forward” to what he fears are even more grim reports on climate change by world scientists that will follow in the coming months. 
Another speaker at the University of Minnesota’s Transatlantic Science Week agreed with Schindler that a cascading synergy of adverse climate-change effects could outrun snail-paced efforts to reduce of greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels in power plants and transportation sources mostly in developed and developing nations. 
Expanding population
David Tilman of the University of Minnesota told the symposium that expanding world population and wealth will fuel increased consumption and increase demand for agricultural production by 188 percent in just 50 years. That, Tilman said, would require nearly a doubling of available agricultural lands already under tillage in the United States and Europe, and much of that increase would be in tropical forests and savannas. 
Tilman said that gains in crop yields would not be nearly enough to offset the rapid rise in demand for food.

What does increased food consumption and melting glaciers have to do with climate change? 
Tilman explained that in the next 50 years, world population will expand from 6.7 billion to 9.5 billion people (there were 2.5 billion in 1950) and wealth will increase by 240 percent which, coupled with shifts to higher protein diets, will require massive conversions of land from forests and grasslands to agricultural production, something that’s already occurring in the Amazon rain forests.

David Tilman
David Tilman

Such land-use changes, Tilman said, will result in the destruction of trees and grasses that store vast amounts of carbon and subsequent tillage that will release even more carbon to the atmosphere. In addition, he said, use of nitrogen fertilizers on cropland will cause still more release of greenhouse gas emissions.
“In 50 years,” Tilman said, “agricultural production could release as much greenhouse gas as is currently released from fossil energy sources.” 
Melting permafrost
Schindler’s concern is focused on climate change in the arctic and vast regions of boreal forests in places like Canada.  Warming, he said, will further increase the melting of permafrost, which, he said, is woefully underestimated as a carbon storehouse, and it will bring pest invasions and subsequent destruction of forests that will lead to an increased incidence of forest fires. 
All of it and other effects that science is coming to better understand will reduce carbon storehouses and increase carbon releases.  Adding to the troubling scenario, Schindler said, is the rapidly expanding extraction of oil from tar sands across broad reaches of Canada that not only requires intense heat (burning of natural gas, primarily) but results in destruction of surface forests and their ecosystems. 
Much of Canada’s oil production of tar sands is piped to Minnesota refineries. 
The world climate change agenda will take center stage in Copenhagen this December when the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change brings nations together for another attempt to come to grips with what a broad consensus of scientists warn is impending disaster due to rapid global warming.   
While it’s yet to be seen is whether the world’s primary emitters of greenhouse gasses (developed countries including the United States and those in Europe, and developing countries such as China, India and others in Asia) can advance agreements on ways to curb the ill effects of climate change. 
Little substantial change in greenhouse gas emissions has occurred since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Japan in 1997. 
The University of Minnesota symposium, an educational exchange between the United States, Canada and Norway, concludes Wednesday at the McNamara Alumni Center.

Ron Way can be reached at rway [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moen on 09/29/2009 - 10:25 am.

    The UN has been predicting dire projections for years and none have proven accurate. Sadly, America lost control of our own energy policy when we out-sourced climate science to the United Nations. The UN is an international political organization, dedicated to advancing their ‘consensus’ view that CO2 ‘drives’ global warming. The problem is, their view is neither a consensus and can’t possibly be totally correct. They don’t factor-in clouds and solar activity, for instance.

    The FACTS:
    1) The 600 climate scientists who worked on the UN’s Climate Change 2007 report never voted on the ‘drives’ issue. That conclusion was reached by UN bureaucrats and only about 50 scientists.
    2) The UN has a huge conflict of interest. The ‘Kyoto Protocol’ is their’s so they have a vested interest in demonizing CO2.
    3) Thousands of knowledgeable people and climate scientists worldwide tell us the UN is wrong.
    4) Past climate changes–100s of them–were driven by Mother Nature, not mankind. Yet, the UN took Mother Nature off the table when they limited their evaluation to ‘climate change caused by human activity’.
    5) There is no ‘smoking gun.’ The proof that CO2 drives global warming is circumstantial.
    6) The UN treats unproven climate projections as ‘fact’, yet UN forecasts for the last 10 years do not fit what actually happened.
    7) The UN used faulty data to bolster unwarranted findings in the past.

    The United States needs our own objective, transparent climate commission to think-through global warming. We need the advice of a bi-partisan Climate Truth Commission before we burden our economy with expensive energy. Both sides of the man-made global warming issue should welcome such an approach. …each is so sure of themselves.

    — Robert Moen,

  2. Submitted by Burton'Jon Blackwell on 09/29/2009 - 09:41 am.

    Rational Reader’s!…
    We all know about typical and normal glaciation cycles. Our planet has been in the warming phase of a glaciation cycle for over 25,000 years now. Our sea levels have risen 240 feet during this same time period. Our planet is destined to become warmer and more semi-tropical the next 700 years. At some point, as it has so many times in the ancient past, our planet will do a turn-around and go into a global cooling phase. The closer our planet gets to the turn-around point, the faster the global warming takes place. During the cooling phase, enormous northern and southern hemisphere glacier’s will form and we’ll be in another “ice-age”. As ice accumulates on land the oceans of the world will once again recede. This is all inevitable and not a damn thing can be done about it. Earthlife can only adjust to these changes as they occur. Let’s expect global warming to accelerate right up to the turn-around period. I’m more concerned about the possibility of the Yellowstone super volcano errupting and wasting the world then talking about normal glaciation cycles.
    By: Inkpahduhtah

  3. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 09/29/2009 - 10:44 am.

    Is there a journalist in the room that will actually hold these prognosticators, and past prognosticators of doom and gloom, to account?

    “Crying wolf” is all we get while these experts jet off to the next “crying wolf” seminar.

    Who paid for this “symposium?”

  4. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 09/29/2009 - 12:06 pm.

    … aaannnnddd out they come.

    Even the libertarians over at Reason Magazine accept climate science these days (they just don’t care, is all). Maybe we should hire some scientists to study the phenomenon of what is apparently constant denial noise – that is, as the deniers get fewer, they get louder is such a way as to keep their annoyance level constant.

  5. Submitted by david granneman on 09/29/2009 - 02:04 pm.

    the global warming hoaxers are doing more than crying wolf – they are getting rich while destoying our way of life and prosperity. al gore hopes to make billions with his carbon credits. those billions will COME OUT OF OUR POCKETS. al gore just got a loan from the taxpayers to build electric card in FINDLAND which will cost $90,000. the only benefit the taxpayer will see is knowing we made al gore a little richer. THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS ARE KILLING US.

  6. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/29/2009 - 02:18 pm.

    Even More Rational Readers: I think we know by now that even if human activity is not responsible for global warming (although I believe it is), why would we want to make a “natural” warming worse and more harmful to human and animal life that it already is by continuing to pollute and to waste resources??

  7. Submitted by Doug Cole on 09/29/2009 - 04:00 pm.

    Robert Moen is clearly demonizing the U.N. There are hundreds of scientists around the world, including thoes in the United States that say that the current climate change rate is caused by human activity. I don’t think the U.N. or anyone else ever had ‘control’ over ‘energy policy’. I’m sure the people who are invested in the ‘wrong’ industries will tell the biggest lies and make the biggest claims. They are the real threat to humanity.

  8. Submitted by Brad Robinson on 09/30/2009 - 03:58 pm.

    I trust big business with investments in perpetuating the status quo less than environmentalists who warn of incautious behavior.

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