Just about anyone not living in a cave, or clutching hopefully to the “It’s just weather” line could write about the serious changes we’re seeing because of global warming. In the last two weeks I had some weird or possibly serendipitous events that brought the subject to the forefront of my attention. It made it very clear that I myself am on the front lines, stuck in the same boat with everyone else.
I spent a couple of weeks in Machias ME, that’s in the far northeastern corner of the continental US, and sweated through several days of 90 degree heat and 90% humidity. Surprising for a place that used to have ice form on the edges of the lake on some summer mornings. Machias, home of the first US naval battle, benefits from it’s proximity to the ocean. That body of water smooths out temperature extremes making Machias a temperate place, albeit cooler than most.
To escape that we went to St John in New Brunswick, going further north and farther east. It was nice, especially when listening to what was going on back in New York city and Morristown NJ. The murderous heat kept our three sons in the basement running up the electric bill. However, while listening to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) we heard a story about the current state of Canadian crops. Apparently Global warming is not bad for everyone.
It seems that the wheat fields of Alberta and Saskatchewan, which are vast by the way, will be delivering a huge surplus this year. Farmers commented that because of the drought on the American side of the border the price of wheat is expected to rise and they should make out very well this year. The normally shorter growing season has changed, growing longer and stronger much to the benefit of Canadian farmers.
That report got me thinking about the movement of our nation’s “bread basket” right out of the country. The temperate zone necessary for crops like wheat and corn is shifting northward, or rather has shifted. A few days later I came across an article by two NASA scientists which concerned the difficulty of convincing the public of the reality and effects of Global warming/Climate change.
They postulate that because people normally only think about the last 10 years when doing weather comparisons, it’s difficult for most people to understand the changes that are taking place. That itself may change as the the rapidity of climate change is accelerating, far beyond what climatologists predicted. Although recent polls reveal that more than 70% of Americans aren’t buying the “Climate change is a conspiracy” line anymore.
As much as we hear comparisons of present times to earlier climate events, there really has never been a change like this since our original evolution. That little tidbit came up in a paper by a couple of Stanford researchers. We and most of the species we know all evolved under particular climatic circumstances. We essentially evolved bodies to suit the Earth and it’s weather during a time that is fading.
That may not be a huge problem for us, we’re smart, we have resources. The problem we be for all the other creatures and plant life who can’t turn on an air conditioner or go for a swim on a hot day. Evolution takes a long, long time so we can expect to loose almost 60% of the current species (except the bugs, damn it) if the pace of the change continues.
Not tomorrow 0f course, but in 20 to 50 years fish, fowl and everything in between will be stressed to the point where the least adaptable will start to die off. That includes plant life by the way. Cactus for breakfast, again?
Coincidentally, I then noticed a piece by Richard Muller, physicist and noted climate change skeptic (he is best know for vigorously challenging the “Hockey stick” graph), saying after a three year effort with the Berkley Earth surfaces temperature project he has now confirmed that the IPCC was correct about the pace of change and the extent of climate change. He went a little farther, he said it is our fault. Not magic, not the result of mystical solar influence, or even “Just one of those things we go through from time to time,” nope, we did it.
“Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”
He goes on to say the the IPCC was wrong to attribute some of the changes to solar influences or “natural occurrences,” The best fit for the data is industrialization and fossil fuel use. Everyone will be thrilled that skeptics have begun to pull apart the study and remain generally unconvinced.
The last event to ensnare me on this line of thinking was seeing the new name of of the Epoch we are beginning. Remember the Pleistocene? It ended 75,000 years ago (that’s when we evolved to our current state). Then came the Holocene, when we rose (after almost becoming extinct from a multi-year freeze due to a volcanic event) to take over the planet. According to current thinking we are just starting a new epoch, the Anthropocene. Named for us, because we now cause most of what happens in Earth’s environment.
I haven’t figured out if that’s cool yet.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2012