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
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.
Listen in [MONO
Listen in [STEREO
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
Greenpeace Climate Campaign
Science Policy Director OZONE ACTION - Washington, DC
Alaska's Spirit Speaks. . .
Kathy Turco, Owner/Recording Artist
Fairbanks, AK 99708
Mixed and Mastered by Ed Smith
Scientists Letter to the Nation on Global Warming
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
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.