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Count Down to Copenhagen - Earth Heating

Arctic temperatures are now higher than at any time in the last 2,000 years. The evidence is taken from ice cores, tree rings and lake sediments. Changes in the earth's orbit drove 1900 years of cooling, but in the last 100 years temperatures have been rising as greenhouse gas emissions rise. And the last decade from 1998 to 2008 stands out as the warmest in the entire 2000 years.

But what about the Medieval Warm Period about 1000 years ago when, historical records suggest, grapes were grown in Lincolnshire ? The new ice core analysis shows that temperatures were indeed warmer in the Arctic 1000 years ago, but not as warm as they are now, or 1000 years previously. How much energy we're getting from the sun is no longer the most important thing governing the Arctic temperature.

The recent warming of the Arctic has led to a drastic shrinking of the sea ice in summer. This loss of sea ice in turn leads to further warming as the dark sea absorbs more of the sun's heat than the white ice. This further warming melts more sea ice which in turn creates more dark sea to push the temperatures even higher, and so on .... a positive feedback.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is calling for world leaders to make bigger pledges of action in the run-up to December's UN climate summit in Copenhagen . Mr Ban says that many of the 'more distant scenarios' forecast by climate scientist are 'happening now.'

Alastair McIntosh, author of Soil and Soul, was speaking at Greenbelt this August. His message was tough: if the science is right, we must prepare spiritually for our grandchildren to face disaster, while doing everything we possibly can to live with the utmost ecological integrity.

On Sunday 4 October Christians joining Day of Prayer vigils in churches around the UK will pray that God's will be done during the decisive Copenhagen conference. 'Prayer is powerful in dispelling the illusion that we are gods; an illusion which has wreaked such havoc on the earth' (Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Bishop of London).

Barbara Echlin and Ruth Jarman

Back to Countdown to Copenhagen

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