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Melting Ice and Stranded Penguins:
A Story About Global Warming

by Kathy Turco

The appearance of global warming in concrete ways in our lives is the great unspoken "elephant in the living room" of today's public dialogue. Lip service is becoming more widespread, but action has been sorely lacking.

In January 2000, a letter was circulated among the world's scientists, calling on this year's Presidential candidates to finally "get real" about this crucial issue.

Longtime radio journalist, biologist, and soundscape artist Kathy Turco took their call to heart, producing an 8-minute radio piece that puts the issue into stark perspective. In her typically adept fashion, the piece blends hard science, emotional resonance, and animal voices. She is offering the piece free of charge to any radio show that would like to help spread this important message.

Below you will find links to both Real Audio and MP3 versions of the piece, as well as the full text of the scientists' letter.



Download a [64KBS MONO MP3] (3.9MB)

Download a [160KBS STEREO MP3] (9MB)

A very special thanks to Dr. Bill Fraser and the Adelie penguins for helping me tell their story. Thanks to the National Science Foundation for permission to work at Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula; to research assistants Donna Patterson and Matt Irinaga for their wonderful help in the field; to the staff at Palmer Station for great logistical support; to the many scientists who kindly reviewed my manuscript and believed in my work, especially Dr. Dan Roby; and to audio engineer Ed Smith for his patience and great talent.


Kert Davies
Greenpeace Climate Campaign
Science Policy Director OZONE ACTION - Washington, DC
Phone 202-319-2455

Alaska's Spirit Speaks. . .
Kathy Turco, Owner/Recording Artist
Box 83305
Fairbanks, AK 99708
Ph 907-455-4286
Fax 907-455-4285

Mixed and Mastered by Ed Smith

Scientists Letter to the Nation on Global Warming
January 2000

In June, 1997 2,400 scientists joined in a letter confirming the seriousness of the climatic disruption then conspicuously underway. They took that unusual action because there had been systematic efforts from a coalition of petroleum and allied interests to undermine in the public eye the strong basis in science behind the observations of global climatic changes. Our own government, despite having joined virtually all other nations globally in ratifying the Framework Convention on Climate Change, has found itself powerless to act in addressing the purpose of the Convention: stabilization of the heat-trapping gas content of the atmosphere at levels that will protect human interests and nature. The costs of this failure are accumulating as irreversible changes in the composition of the atmosphere that are triggering increasingly costly global climatic disruption, including rapid changes in the mean temperature of the earth into the indefinite future.

Since the 1997 statement we have watched the steady further accumulation of evidence of the warming of the earth and its disruptive effects. The warming trend has continued with 1998 the warmest year ever. Recent data from the Arctic Ocean confirm a 40% reduction in the volume of the ice cover over recent decades. Observations from the Antarctic have shown massive losses from the ice shelves surrounding that frozen continent. There has been an accentuation of climatic anomalies such as the El Nino/southem Oscillation that brought drought and fires to the normally moist rainforests of the Amazon and Borneo and extraordinary rains and unusually severe and costly storms to Central America and the southeastern US. Shorter, milder winters are affecting the health and vigor of trees in mid-latitude and northern forests which become vulnerable to insects and diseases. We have seen damage to coral reefs due to warmer waters around the world. We have also seen a systematic expansion of the ranges of the great human diseases such as malaria, schistosomiasis, and dengue fever as the earth warms.

While these observations are in addition to the observations published by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change in 1996, they do not reflect the commitment to further warming already made in the present accumulation of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere. That commitment reaches well beyond current predictions into the realm of surprises involving changes in the circulation of oceanic water and major patterns of atmospheric circulation. In a world of six billion people these surprises are likely to be disruptive, unwelcome, and politically and economically destabilizing. The issues are real, immediate, unequivocally a part of our world and require our attention and that of the rest of the world. Constructive U.S. leadership is needed now.

During the 1990's, the United States emissions of greenhouse gases have continued to climb despite our commitments under the Convention and despite voluntary reductions proposed by the US under the Kyoto Protocol to the Convention. The Protocol, although signed by the US, has not been ratified. During the same period experience has shown around the world that reductions can be made in greenhouse gas emissions while improving not only human welfare but also economic development. Advances continue in alternatives to fossil fuels for industrial energy.

The elected officials of the United States, present and future, local and national, must deliver a concrete plan of action that will result in real and significant reductions in U.S. emissions of greenhouse gasses beginning immediately. Such a program for the US will provide the leadership for an international cooperative effort that is unlikely to emerge otherwise.

We urge business and other civic leaders to join in this national effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Avoiding an unfolding human disaster of continued global warming will take major efforts throughout the foreseeable future from the scientific community and from government, supported steadfastly and relentlessly by a well-informed and alert public.

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