Climate Changes

Several stories on the science and politics of global warming caught our attention this week:

The peak of tiny phytoplankton plants blooming in the Arctic Ocean has been occurring earlier and earlier each summer since 1997, according to a recent study in the Global Change Biology magazine. These green blooms occur in the same areas where scientists have been reporting decreased sea ice in early summer as a result of climate change. Phytoplankton is the base of the marine food chain, feeding creatures that eat the tiny plants, including fish and tiny animals called zooplankton that in turn feed larger animals up the food chain.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass at an accelerating pace, perhaps suggesting that this loss is overtaking ice loss from Earth’s mountain glaciers and ice caps as the main contributor to global sea level rise, according to a study in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. “What is surprising is this increased contribution by the ice sheets is already happening. If present trends continue, sea level is likely to be significantly higher than levels projected by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007,” said lead author Eric Rignot of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Americans are more comfortable with the concept of “climate change” than of “global warming,” according to a recent study by University of Michigan psychology professors. Sampling 2,267 adults, the study found that 74 percent of those who heard climate change agreed that temperatures have indeed risen over the past century, while 68 percent agreed if they heard global warming. Also looking at politics, the study noted that 60 percent of Republicans believe in climate change compared to 44 percent for global warming, while 86 percent of Democrats accept either term used for environmental changes caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

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