Very few people deny anymore that our climate is changing, even though a few years ago many still insisted it wasn’t. Now they say: “Of course it’s changing. It changes all the time, but we can’t know how much of an effect human actions have on it.” They also say we should slow down, study how much climate instability matters before taking severe action.
We don’t want to push ourselves into a recession, they say, harming our economy just for the sake of using renewable fuels, which are far more expensive than cheap coal, which we can clean up by using gasification and other methodologies. Look at all the jobs that have already been lost, and all the others that will be, if we abandon coal and oil. Ignore the new jobs created by renewable fuels.
Anyway, does it really matter if polar bears die out? If they can’t adapt to a warming arctic, then maybe they don’t deserve to survive. What about survival of the fittest?
However, it’s not just about polar bears or moose or the northern spotted owl. It’s not just about dying oaks or pines or ash trees. It’s about people. It’s about the increasing threat to our survival due to incremental global changes.
The mountain pine beetle, for example, has moved north for years, now devastating forests in all 19 western states and Canada. Partly this is due to warmer winters. The temperature rarely falls below –40ºF (–40ºC) anymore, the temperature at which the beetles begin dying in large numbers.
And although temperatures in the Rocky Mountain West have gone up only two degrees in the past half-century (still a lot), winter minimum temperatures have soared 15-20 degrees.
This could potentially result in more forest fires, but it certainly results in fewer trees to absorb water, which means more potential for flooding as well as more likelihood of long-term drought – because denuded coastal forests can result in desertification of interior lands. Trees are really good at recycling water. Without that efficiency, water runs off more rapidly and evaporates quicker, drying out the land.
Or consider the blacklegged tick (deer tick), which is increasing its range throughout the U.S., carrying Lyme disease to vast segments of the population. Lyme disease can be difficult to detect in its early stages, and yet if left untreated, it can spread to the heart and the nervous system. Although these ticks prefer warm temperatures, they’ve even spread into Canada.
How about the mosquito? It transmits dengue, yellow fever, Zika, malaria and encephalitis, among others. We think of many of these diseases as Third World maladies, and yet they persist and have begun to make inroads into the developed world. With warming temperatures, they threaten more northerly climes than ever before.
So climate change is presenting challenges beyond the rise of the oceans, beyond the increasing intensity of hurricanes and droughts. It’s affecting our health. It’s allowing more diseases to spread, more pests to encroach on our territory, forcing us to devise ever more clever solutions.
And someday, we might not find a solution in time. So we need to decrease our consumerism, find ways to recycle and reuse items, convert to renewable energy (which creates new high-tech jobs) and stop population growth. Or else the pressures we’re putting on the planet will burst, like steam out of a kettle, burning a sizable chunk of the populace.
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