China powers up while Greenland melts

Another year, another 90 gigawatts of generating capacity added to China's electricity grid. Are they paying attention in Bali?

By Andrew Leonard

Published December 11, 2007 11:00AM (EST)

Two data points to consider about while the world's environmental ministers bicker on in Bali about how to proceed on the great challenge of limiting greenhouse gas emssions.

The Financial Times reported on Monday that China will add 90 gigawatts of electricity generating capacity to its power grid in 2007 -- equivalent to the entire United Kingdom's annual use. 85 percent of that electricty is generated by burning coal.

Also on Monday, a climate scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder reported that the Greenland ice sheet melted at the fastest rate recorded since measurements began in 1979, reports Reuters.

"The amount of ice lost by Greenland over the last year is the equivalent of two times all the ice in the Alps, or a layer of water more than one-half mile (800 meters) deep covering Washington DC," said Konrad Steffen of the University of Colorado at Boulder...

The extent of the melt area was 10 percent greater than the last record year, 2005, the scientists found.

Greenland is about one-fourth the size of the United States and about 80 percent of it is covered by the ice sheet. One-twentieth of the world's ice is in Greenland; if it all melted it would be equivalent to a 6.4 meter global sea level rise, the scientists said.

UPDATE: Real Climate has more on the situation in Greenland, along with a summary of a distressing speech by John Marburger, President Bush's science advisor, at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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