30 August 2010

Glacial Slowness?

Riggs Glacier in Alaska
Glaciers have long been a byword for slowness. But perhaps they are not the slowest thing around.

A recent New York Times editorial quotes Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri as saying, when asked why she saw no immediate need to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill, "You know, it took 50 years on health care."

The U.S. Senate is so sub-glacial in the speed of its deliberations that before it acts on climate change we may find that the glaciers (or more precisely the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica) have already voted, and not in our favor. The ice sheets will probably reach their tipping points before the Congress does.

In related news, the U.S. Geological Survey recently published "Glaciers of Asia" the ninth volume of its series "Satellite Image Atlas of Glaciers of the World", which finds "Many of Asia’s glaciers are retreating as a result of climate change." (Press release here.)

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