From the tropics to the glaciers
PANAMA. Eduardo Segovia Paz is a Panamanian who earns his living as a cruise ship’s in-house doctor. This allows him to travel at leas...
PANAMA. Eduardo Segovia Paz is a Panamanian who earns his living as a cruise ship’s in-house doctor. This allows him to travel at least once a year to exotic places such as Antarctica, which has helped him witness the effects of climate change on Earth’s ecosystems.
“Melting ice caps are very visible in some sectors,” said Segovia. “The problem lies in the effects, which seem every day more direct and unpredictable.”
For example, this year, explains Segovia, he noticed stark differences between his two last trips. “Penguins have had to push their reproductive cycles up,” he said.
On board of the “Fram” cruise ship, the doctor blames the alteration in the region’s ecosystem on global warming. “The sea is much warmer in the summer,” he said.
The reproductive cycle of penguins begins in the month of January during the austral summer, when the temperature rises and the animals have a chance to brood their eggs.
However, in 2009, summer came earlier and by January, the penguins’ off springs were already born. According to the doctor this shows that the alterations produced by the warming of marine waters led to cyclical changes in the reproduction cycles of these and possibly other animals.
Scientists have previously warned that global warming could melt ice caps, which would in turn have an effect on Earth’s species.
NASA scientist James E. Hansen warned in 2002 that the effects of global warming are being felt around the world and unless international efforts are launched within the next 10 years, species will disappear and the Earth will be a vastly less habitable planet by the end of the century.
"Global warming is already starting, and there's going to be more of it. I think there is still time to deal with global warming, but we need to act soon. Humans now control global climate, for better or worse," Hansen said at an annual gathering of meteorologists.
Hansen came under fire from the House after a December 2005 lecture in which he called for prompt reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to slow global warming.
He said samples of the Antarctic ice cap spanning 400,000 years show almost parallel changes in temperatures and greenhouse gases — primarily carbon dioxide and methane that until now were produced by natural changes in the earth.
"The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is now completely under the control of humans," he said. "Another Ice Age cannot occur unless humans become extinct."
Today, more and more scientists join Hansen in linking greenhouse gas emissions to global warming, which is leading to melting ice caps and altering the course of nature as exemplified by the penguins.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently determined that carbon dioxide, and five other greenhouse gases spewing out of tailpipes, "endanger public health and welfare" of the American people. These gases, they said, contribute to climate change, which is causing more heat waves, droughts and flooding, and is threatening food and water supplies.
The findings gives Obama ammo to push Congress to radically change US environmental policy.