A new year, a new twist on global warming: The Economist even agrees

Happy 2009, everyone.

Imagine my surprise when I see the new issue of The Economist, now talking about the major problems global warming will be creating called The Curse of Carbon.  When even The Economist is coming around on global warming, it seems like things might be changing on the climate change debate.  Who’s next?  The Free Republic?

From the article:

Copyright The Economist 2009

If the seas continue to become less alkaline at the current rate, the time will soon come when reefs will start to lose coral faster through erosion than they gain it through calcification. How soon? Some scientists think it could be in 60 or 70 years. Many fear that half the world’s coral will be gone by 2030.

The Arctic has lost over 40% of its year-round ice since 1985, 14% in 2004-05 alone. This will not do much directly to raise sea levels, because most Arctic ice is floating, but it suggests that the melting is speeding up, and that is confirmed by the flow of the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland, which doubled in speed between 1997 and 2003.

Everything depends on the speed at which the ice disappears. Computer models have been predicting that the Arctic will not be ice-free, even for a short time in late summer, until 2040, and at present only icebreakers and the occasional lone yachtsman are getting through. But some people believe change is coming so fast that the northern seas will open up much earlier than expected. They may be right.

If so, it will be seen as a harbinger of a another horror: the prospect of a shutdown of the North Atlantic conveyor. This is the current of water that takes enormous amounts of heat—about as much as would be generated by a million nuclear power plants—from the tropics and carries it to eastern North America and western Europe. The fear is that melting ice, along with increased snow and rain, could reduce the density and salinity of the top layers of the sea, making them more buoyant. At present, the conveyor depends on surface water sinking and travelling towards the equator, there to rise again and bring warmth back to the north (see map in the introduction). If this current stopped, the average temperature in Europe might fall by five to ten degrees Celsius.

They even have a video of the ice melt and the major problems that melting arctic sea ice will create.