Friday High Five: Climate Change

We’ve been sharing some amazing/horrifying/telling photos of the effects of climate change on social media over the past week, and judging from the response, we’re not the only ones who find it fascinating and troubling. So this week’s Friday High Five is a climate change special.

Melting glaciers: visual proof of climate change

Greenland’s Birthday Canyon, a meltwater channel around 150 feet deep. The black deposit at the bottom of the channel is cryoconite, a substance that speeds the melt.

Greenland’s Birthday Canyon, a meltwater channel around 150 feet deep. The black deposit at the bottom of the channel is cryoconite, a substance that speeds the melt.

This photo (from Vanity Fair) is from an amazing series of photographs of melting glaciers and ice sheets, by photographer James Balog. You can view the series here.

A colossal chunk of Greenland’s Ilulissat Glacier floats out to sea.

A colossal chunk of Greenland’s Ilulissat Glacier floats out to sea.

‘In an effort to provide concrete visual proof of climate change and its devastating effects, Balog embarked on a years-long project that spanned the northern reaches of the globe. He set up cameras from Greenland to Alaska in order to capture horrifying—yet undeniably beautiful—time-lapse photos that reveal the unprecedented rate at which glaciers are receding.’

Hurricane Sandy, climate change and the scientific facts

This Businessweek cover story is a striking symbol of the way Hurricane Sandy has put the issue of climate change back on the national agenda in the US. In his first press conference since his re-election, President Obama has pledged to act on climate change in his second term, aiming for ‘short-term progress’.

But how far can we blame climate change for Sandy? A terrific and comprehensive article on the Washington Post blog Capital Weather Gang lays out the scientific facts for exactly how climate change ‘juiced up’ the storm and its effects. It concludes that climate change was a factor, though not a large one.

There is a mountain of evidence manmade climate change is real and poses risks to society and the environment, especially if its pace accelerates. Stronger hurricanes are just one of many possible unwelcome consequences. There’s really no need to oversell connections between storms like Sandy and global warming to build a case for responding to these risks.

A New York subway tunnel, after the clean-up.

A New York subway tunnel, after the clean-up.

Venice: Both flooding and sinking

In this photo, taken in the past week, people sit at a table in a flooded Piazza San Marco in Venice.

In this photo, taken in the past week, people sit at a table in a flooded Piazza San Marco in Venice.

Heavy rains and high tides have brought some of the worst flooding to Venice, Italy in years. While rising sea levels due to climate change push the water level higher and higher, the city faces another problem, too: it is gradually sinking, at the rate of two millimetres per year.

People order coffee in a flooded Venice shop.

People order coffee in a flooded Venice shop.

Tuvalu: An island under threat

Photojournalist Rodney Dekker travelled to Pacific islands Tuvalu and Kirabati for Oxfam to document how climate change is affecting the lives of locals. The ABC has published a selection of his photographs, with quotes from the locals.

Teuga Patolo stands in king-tide waters that surround her neighbour's house. Oxfam: Rodney Dekker

Teuga Patolo stands in king-tide waters that surround her neighbour's house. Oxfam: Rodney Dekker

Tuvalu resident Reverend Tafue Lusama wrote about the situation for Crikey: ‘Many Tuvaluans worry that an international agreement won’t be reached in time to save our island and way of life. We are dealing with the prospect of having to relocate, either further inland as the coast erodes, or to another country when there is finally no more land. Sea levels are rising by five to six millimetres annually, and Tuvalu sits just four metres above sea level.’

In the late afternoon, people gather and play sport on the airport runway at Funafui in Tuvalu. When king tides occur, sections of the runway are flooded. Oxfam: Rodney Dekker

In the late afternoon, people gather and play sport on the airport runway at Funafui in Tuvalu. When king tides occur, sections of the runway are flooded. Oxfam: Rodney Dekker

New evidence suggests Mayans felled by climate change

The demise of the thriving Mayan culture has long been a mystery - and it’s one we’re coming closer to solving. New evidence suggests that climate change may have played a major role. And what’s more, the Mayans may have contributed to that change themselves (even without fossil fuels).

‘There were tens of millions of people in the area, and they were building cities and farms at the expense of the forest,’[NASA] climate scientist Benjamin I. Cook said. Widespread deforestation reduced the flow of moisture from the ground to the atmosphere, interrupting the natural rain cycle and in turn reducing precipitation.

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