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It drips in

Everyone talks about the weather. The commitment that is conveyed through books, films and television programs has again placed the world's climate problems in people's consciousness.


[climate] 15 years ago, many families in the Nunavik villages in Arctic Canada were pleased to have their own houses and new, beautiful roads. Today some of the houses are totally destroyed. Others have so far only been skewed. The roads are broken up and almost inoperable.

Both houses and roads were built on the permafrost. Now it melts as a direct consequence of climate change. Thus, buildings and roads disappear into the ground.

In the town of Kuujjuaq in Nunavik, where just a few years ago, people spent huge resources on keeping houses warm, many today have air-conditioning systems installed.

- What we see in the Arctic is a serious wake-up call. It scares me, says Tim Flannery to Ny Tid.

The Australian, with the popular science book Värmakerne, has helped revitalize the climate debate in many countries. In September he visited Oslo with 20 degrees of heat.

- The rise in temperature will have catastrophic consequences for everyone who lives on earth now and in the future. Fortunately, it seems to have dawned on many that we are on our way to the precipice if we do nothing, says Flannery.

2006 is the year when the climate debate has really gained momentum in Norway. In addition to Flannery's book, books by James Lovelock and Al Gore – and not least the latter's film – have raised the temperature in the exchange of words. Here at home, NRK has had its Extreme Weather Week, while weather researcher and author Erik Kolstad has published the book Uvær.

The discussion is taking off

And now it's not just environmentalists and politicians discussing glaciers and the earth's average temperature. Author Torgrim Eggen is one of those who has had a personal awakening after reading Flannery's Weathermakers.

- This book is groundbreaking. Flannery paints a significantly blacker picture of the state of the earth than we are used to seeing, and he bases his book on the latest research. Most of the documentation was obtained in the period between 1998 and today, says Torgrim Eggen.

- We are living in the middle of a crisis. The climate crisis is here now, and it is now that we can do something about it. We managed to do something about the kfk gases that destroyed the ozone layer when a certain type of spray can was banned. Therefore, I also think we can do something about today's crisis. We must all realize that our lifestyle needs to change. Among other things, the use of energy and fossil fuels must be cut dramatically, says Eggen.

Flannery himself believes that there is a clear reason for the increased commitment.

- The climate issue is today more accessible than before. When these questions were first raised, we talked a lot about carbon dioxide and other difficult words that almost only scientists and specialists understood. The discussion was very theoretical. Now it is much more concrete. It's easier to point out what's going on and why, says Flannery.

Siri Kalvig, a member of the Norwegian Committee for the United Nations Environment Program and founder of the Storm Weather Center, also believes that something has happened in how most people think about the climate.

- Researchers have for many years been quite clear that climate change is man-made, but now politicians, the media and public opinion have come to terms with this and understand that we can not continue as we have done. It's time for action. It is great that we are now seeing this serious issue addressed. It is new that we also see that there is a political will to do something, she says.

On October 4, the government-appointed low-emission committee concluded that Norway can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds by 2050.

Climate expert in Greenpeace Norway, Truls Gulowsen is more pessimistic, although he also thinks most people understand the seriousness to a greater extent.

- People are beginning to understand what is happening. I just hope that we reach the mental climax before the climatic climax, he says, pointing out that we may already be out too late.

- The understanding of what is happening comes fifteen years too late. Now we need all the good forces that can fight to turn the tide. In ten years, it will be too late, says Gulowsen, who believes it is possible to get people to change their living habits so that climate change is slowed down.

How is the planet? The most recent documentation of developments in Greenland was presented in the journal Nature on September 21. Researchers Isabella Velicogna and John Wahr, from the University of Colorado, are behind the study.

- Our analysis of new satellite images shows that ice melting increased by 250 percent in the two-year period up to 2006, compared with the previous two-year period. It seems that ice melting took off in earnest in 2004, says Isabella Velicogna.

Soon unlovable

The ice cap is now shrinking by 248 cubic kilometers a year. This means that sea levels across the globe increase on average by over half a millimeter per year. It may not sound like much, but it is the biggest increase any research report has ever documented. Einar Kolstad writes in his book Uvær that it is feared that the net supply of fresh water will cause the sea to rise by up to half a meter over the next hundred years.

- Climate change is the biggest single threat to humanity. Among other things, it is significantly greater than the danger of terrorism. Al Gore obviously has a lot of credit for this being focused on now. But even Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, oddly enough, has meant a lot. He has gone against George W. Bush in this question, and it arouses great attention, says Kolstad.

He is not primarily concerned with Norway.

- But I think it will be uninhabitable in many places on earth in a relatively short time, he predicts.

Today, climate change is so clearly documented that far more people have the opportunity to see and understand what is happening, believes Pål Prestrud, director of Cicero – the center for climate research in Oslo.

- Climate change is far more serious than we have previously assumed. We have understood that man has his share of the blame. Today, researchers are able to present better documentation. I believe that we have now entered a period with more focus on solutions and what it takes to do something about the challenges we face, says Prestrud.

Prestrud believes that living in rational societies makes us base our knowledge and experience on scientific facts.

- When we have received enough facts and these are repeated often enough, we will understand the seriousness. Many small drops eventually create agreement about what is going on, says Prestrud.

The climate expert in Greenpeace agrees.

- Science comes with increasingly clear evidence of the challenges we face, and the evidence presented is more comprehensible. The UN reports that came a couple of years ago have been even better documented through more research, says Gulowsen.

When Ny Tid spoke to the head of the ACIA report in 2004, Robert Corell, he pointed out that the Greenland ice sheet then melted so fast that it could be gone in 200-400 years.

- The situation is even more dramatic than it was when Corell came up with his prediction. Today, satellite images show that ice melts three times faster than in 2004, says Tim Flannery.

Still more dramatic

He has the following to say to researchers like Danish Bjørn Lomborg (see next page), who believe that too much focus is on climate change compared to natural explanations for the changes.

- I know these people who claim that it will take many more years until the Arctic ice and the Greenland ice sheet are gone, and that the situation is not so dramatic. I can well follow their argument about historical development for a while. But they do not take into account that climate change has taken place at a much higher rate in recent years. Look at Greenland. They have experienced dramatic changes only in the last couple of years. We can not do without that, says Flannery.

- I wish I had better news. But unfortunately, there is no good news today. What I can say is that climate change is happening faster and more dramatically than ever before, he concludes.

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