Arctic Ice Shelves Going Fast, Coal Industry Fights Back

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists have no doubt that man-made climate change is real. Evidence of its reality was provided this week by researchers at Carleton University in Canada, who reported that almost 50% of Canadia’s ice shelves have been lost in the last six years, much faster than climate models predict and thousands of years faster than would happen because of "natural weather patterns," the classic climate denier excuse.

This summer has resulted in the near-complete loss of one important ice shelf and the largest remaining shelf separated into two distinct remnants, says Derek Mueller, a a researcher in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies.

"This is our coastline changing," he says. "These unique and massive geographical features that we consider to be part of the map of Canada are disappearing and they won’t come back."

Mueller notes the ice shelves have declined appreciably nearly every summer since 2005, but this summer, satellite imagery shows that 300 billion tons of ice broke away from two major ice shelves in the Canadian Arctic.

Canada has the most extensive ice shelves in the Arctic. The shelves are typically as thick as a ten-story building is high, and some can be more than twice that.

Mueller blames a combination of warmer temperatures and open water for the ice shelf calving. "The ice shelves were formed and sustained in a different climate than what we have now. As they disappear, it implies we are returning to conditions unseen in the Arctic for thousands of years."

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which said yesterday that climate change could lead to a loss of as much  as 2.5% of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product by 2075, also said that northern Canada was warming at a rate faster that that of anywhere else in the world.

 Meanwhile, even as a photography exhibit in China depicts the devastating impact of coal mining and burning on glaciers in the Himalayas, House Republicans and coal industry trade associations are fighting the Obama administration’s plan to reinstate regulations protecting streams from coal mining, calling it a "de facto war on the coal industry." 

The regulations, which prohibit coal mining within 100 feet of streams, were eliminated by the Bush administration. Thousands of streams are now dead zones because coal companies have been allowed to simply dump their toxic waste into them.

Last week, a coalition of public interest groups delivered a petition signed by 35,000 people to the Attorney General of Delaware, asking him to revoke the corporate charter of coal company Massey because of repeated environmental and safey violations – a culture of greed rampant throughout the company.

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