Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Some Climate News

More people seem to be aware of the problem of climate change these days. Via RealClimate, I found a poll from Zogby showing that the vast majority of Americans are aware of the problem and believe that global warming is real. The numbers are quite striking:

Nearly three of every four – 74% – are more convinced today that global warming is a reality than they were two years ago, the survey shows. Dramatically, it is a sentiment shared by a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and political independents. While many more Democrats believe in global warming (87%), 56% of Republicans concur. Among independents, 82% think we are experiencing the effects of global warming. These numbers indicate a shift in the momentum of global warming believers.
Whether this will transfer into action at the ballot box and action in Congress remains to be seen. Many other issues, particularly the war in Iraq, will come into play. However, there does seem to be a consensus in favor of requiring action from industries to clean up emissions. 72% of likely voters wanted to see such action, including 61% of Republicans.

A majority of voters cited recent weather events as influencing their opinions. Most agreed that intense heat waves, such as the one this summer, and more powerful hurricanes are influenced by warmer average temperatures. Of course, the major event that called the public's attention to the connection between global warming and violent weather was Hurricane Katrina.

Katrina left a mess in its wake, and much of the recovery work remains to be accomplished. This is as true of natural habitats as it is of New Orleans. The ecological disaster caused by the storm was at least partly manmade. Canals allowed the storm surge to penetrate further inland, and the destruction of wetlands removed a natural buffer. One major problem has been the penetration of salt water via canals into the wetlands; this has depressed rice productivity and destroyed cypress swamps.

Unfortunately, long term solutions to these problems are hampered by the prospect of more powerful hurricanes in the future. Piping sediment to eroded coastlines is one possible solution, but it could get washed away before it has time to set. Rebuilding wetlands around New Orleans needs to be a priority both for the protection of the city and people living there, and for the wildlife that depends on those ecosystems.