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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Drastic Changes to Life on Earth Caused by Global Warming, Confirm NASA Scientists

Global warming is already leading to widespread disruptions of the Earth's natural systems, according to a study published in the journal Nature and conducted by some of the climate scientists who were involved in the influential 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

"[This] is the first [study] to formally link observed global changes in physical and biological systems to human-induced climate change, predominantly from increasing greenhouse gases," said study reviewers Francis Zwiers of Environment Canada and Gabriele Hegerl of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

The scientists catalogued more than 29,500 reports of changes to the Earth's natural systems. Some of these changes were physical, such as the melting of Patagonia's ice fields of Arctic permafrost, or the earlier break-up of Mongolian river ice and unprecedented coastal erosion. Others were behavioral, such as the earlier arrival of migratory birds to Australia, and others dealt with changes in populations, such as the decline of Antarctic krill stocks and overall productivity of Lake Tanganyika. Even genetic changes, such as those in North America's pitcher plant mosquitoes, were included.

The researchers found that more than 90 percent of the documented changes were to be expected from a scenario of rising regional temperatures. Global warming, rather than other human causes such as deforestation or pollution, seemed to be the major force behind the changes.

"Since 1970, there's been about 0.5 [or] 0.6 degrees Celsius [0.9-1.1 degrees Fahrenheit] of warming - that's the global average," said researcher Cynthia Rosenzweig of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, "and look at all the effects this relatively low amount of warming has had. It reveals the sensitivity to relatively low amounts of warming in many physical and biological systems."

"This provides up-to-the-minute impetus that climate change is changing how the world works," she said. "We need to get our act together."

Sources for this story include: news.bbc.co.uk.

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