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Posted at 06:24 PM ET, 03/08/2011

Study: Ice sheets melting, sea level rising faster than previously thought

The vast ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are melting faster than previously thought, and that melting is accelerating, according to a new report that verifies 18 years of melting via two independent techniques.

Left unchecked, the extra water dumped into the oceans could push average global sea level 6 inches higher by 2050, the report finds. That would mark the ice sheets as the largest contributors to sea level rise, outstripping melting from Earth’s two other huge, frozen reservoirs, mountain glaciers and polar ice caps.


A new study finds the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland is accelerating, outstripping previous estimates of their contribution to sea level rise. (Eric Rignot)
The new estimate of ice sheet melting – and the subsequent rise in sea level – outstrips more modest figures offered by the International Panel on Climate Change in 2007, the last time that international body published a comprehensive assessment of the ice sheets.

“It’s going to be a concern for people in coastal areas,” said Isabella Velicogna of the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a co-author of the report online at Geophysical Research Letters. “It looks like [the IPCC estimate] will easily be an underestimate of the sea level rise.”

While six inches of additional sea height may sound small, the increase will distribute unevenly across the globe, Velicogna said, and disproportionately impact low-lying countries like Bangladesh.

The study used two techniques to measure the melting of the ice sheets. The most thorough data set, from 1992 through the present, employed satellite radar readings of ice movement, soundings of ice thickness, and other ground-based observations to build a complete picture of the size of the ice sheets from month to month.

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Posted at 11:49 AM ET, 03/03/2011

EPA: Proposed House budget cuts would harm public health

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson told a Senate committee Wednesday that a proposal to cut a third of the agency's budget would gut a plan to reduce carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act and undermine efforts to limit water pollution in areas such as the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Jackson said the House Republicans' plan to cut more than $3 billion from the EPA would have a major impact. "Big polluters would flout legal restrictions on dumping contaminants into the air, into rivers, and onto the ground," she said. "There would be no EPA grant money to fix or replace broken water treatment systems. And the standards that EPA is set to establish for harmful air pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes would remain missing."

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Posted at 11:00 PM ET, 03/02/2011

EPA says proposed budget cuts would jeopardize plans to protect public health

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson told a Senate committee Wednesday that a proposal to cut a third of the agency’s budget would gut a plan to reduce carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act and undermine efforts to limit water pollution in areas such as the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson at a previous House hearing on Capitol Hill. (Brendan Smialowski - Getty Images)

Jackson said the House Republicans’ plan to cut more than $3 billion from the EPA would have a major impact. “Big polluters would flout legal restrictions on dumping contaminants into the air, into rivers, and onto the ground,” she said. “There would be no EPA grant money to fix or replace broken water treatment systems. And the standards that EPA is set to establish for harmful air pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes would remain missing.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, said Senate Democrats could live with the Obama administration’s proposed $1.3 billion EPA cut from a year ago, but not the cuts called for by House Republicans.

The House proposal would significantly reduce a program to establish a more aggressive “pollution diet” to limit the nutrients that run off cities and farms into the rivers that flow into the Chesapeake.

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Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 03/01/2011

Report: Peer into the 'deep past' to divine future warming

To move ahead, sometimes you have to look backwards.

That's the message of a new report from the National Research Council that pushes for more science on the wrenching changes that wracked Earth's climate during our planet's "deep history."

Studying these past periods, when the Earth flipped from an "icehouse" state to a "greenhouse" state, will provide vital clues to how the planet is responding to continued greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, the report says.

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