COMMENTS: Water's Edge

Finally the negotiations at the United Nations Bali Conference on global warming got a glimmer of attention. NBC had Anne Thompson update us on a compromise about how much greenhouse emissions will be reduced by 2040, but she was not on the scene in Indonesia to report it out. Based in the New York studio Thompson relayed reports that the United States and the European Union are "both going to get a little bit of what they want." The US succeeded in keeping a 25%-40% reduction out of the text of the communique; the EU succeeded in having those specific numbers cited in a footnote.

Global warming was not skipped over utterly, however. Ignoring the dry discourse of diplomacy, both NBC and ABC reported on the impact of climate change on the water's edge. ABC's New York based Bill Blakemore covered a prediction by NASA that the first summer to see the complete melting of the Arctic Ocean will be sooner than expected--2013 instead of 2040. Blakemore reminded us how the Arctic acts as a "cooling system" for the entire planet: "Ice, because it is white, reflects the sun's heat right back into outer space." An ocean of water would absorb that heat instead. NBC's In Depth feature sent Ian Williams to the Sundarban Islands of the Bengal Delta, population four million, land that the United Nations has warned "could disappear completely as a result of more severe storms and rising sea levels." Williams showed us the islanders replanting shoreline mangrove forests and retrieving mud at each low tide to rebuild embankments.

Confusingly, Williams warned that "sea levels are rising faster than elsewhere in the world." So in Sundarban, apparently, water fails to find its level.

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