Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What have we done to our home?

Three articles in today's NY Times:

The first article, In the Rockies, Pines Die and Bears Feel It talks about how Grizzly Bears in Yellowstone are making such a strong comeback that the federal government wants to consider lifting Endangered Species Act protections from the grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.

The second article, World Scientists Near Consensus on Warming, talks about the climate changes that will occur over the next several centuries.

And the third article, Can Humanity Survive? Want to Bet on It?, talks about Dr. Martin Rees, a cosmologist at Cambridge and Britain’s astronomer royal, who is betting that civilization has no more than a 50 percent chance of surviving until 2100.

What links the three articles is a bit more than simply Global Warming. It is what Dr. Rees refers to as the new global village idiots. He is so sure of his prediction that he posted a wager on Long Bets that says: "By 2020, bioterror or bioerror will lead to one million casualties in a single event." He also says that bioerror he means something which has the same effect as a terror attack, but rises from inadvertance rather than evil intent.
Examples of bioerror: The US not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. The United States (U.S.), although a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has neither ratified nor withdrawn from the Protocol. The signature alone is symbolic, as the Kyoto Protocol is non-binding on the United States unless ratified. The United States is as of 2005 the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

Back to the Grizzly Bears. During winter, Grizzly Bears eat seeds of the whitebark pine, the pine nuts, which also feed Clark’s nutcracker birds and red squirrels, which store the nuts underground. The whitebark pine is a slow grower, which may not even grow pinecones until they are about 50 years old. They have no commercial value, but they anchor the soil, they trap snow which helps the spring run off, and they are lovely.

And recently, the whitebark pine has become a meal to the mountain pine beetle. The beetle has usually focused on midaltitude lodgepole and ponderosa pines, but has expanded its range as it adapts to the warming temperatures in the Rockies. Yes. The temperature in the Rockies has risen two degrees since the mid-1970s, and the effect is the spread of this ravenous beetle. Beetle attacks have added to the toll taken by a disease called white pine blister rust. In the northern Rockies, the beetle infests 143,000 acres. Entire forest vistas, like that at Avalanche Ridge near Yellowstone National Park’s east gate, are expanses of dead, gray whitebarks. One prediction is that global warming will reduce the acreage that has the kind of cold and high altitude climate where the trees now grow by 90%.

Meanwhile, the scientists in Paris at that big ole conference have concluded that:

¶The Arctic Ocean could largely be devoid of sea ice during summer later in the century.

¶Europe’s Mediterranean shores could become barely habitable in summers, while the Alps could shift from snowy winter destinations to summer havens from the heat.

¶Growing seasons in temperate regions will expand, while droughts are likely to ravage further the semiarid regions of Africa and southern Asia.

They also warned that squabbling among teams and government representatives from more than 100 countries — over how to portray the probable amount of sea-level rise during the 21st century — could distract from the basic finding that a warming world will be one in which shrinking coastlines are the new normal for centuries to come.

We can act. We can make change. Last night, I had a vivid dream of becoming a home-based agent - such a small thing, to not actually drive to work, to work from home. We have the technology, and it would be an asset to the air we breathe. We all need to make changes.


pissed off patricia said...

Did you see any of Waxman's hearing this morning on global warming? It was amazing how far this administration has gone to keep the facts of science out of the hands of the American public. Hopefully that will change soon. Once the public sees what science sees, maybe they will take this seriously.

Peacechick Mary said...

I was watching a beautiful old tree being taken down yesterday and I had to come home and cry. Don't people realize that trees are absolutely necessary for our survival. They do so much for us. Here they were taking it down to build a McMansion. Sad, very sad commentary on mankind.

Spadoman said...

I am reminded of a speech made by Chief Seattle in 1854 when he was told that Washington DC wanted to buy his land and put the Squamish Tribe on a reservation:


The words have been interpretted many times, but the main thrust of the message is there. Seattle's wisdom about the land and its value to the people is there along side the comparison of what the settlers have proven to be what they do to the land when they come to live on it.

I feel he knew something that others didn't about how things were going to change.

betmo said...

diva- it has to be us- otherwise nothing will change. we have to pressure the government to make the changes or big corporate polluters will continue to pollute. we pushed in the 1980's for recycling and it is almost universal here. small but worthwhile. now that the genie is out of the bottle- they can't put it back. we have some momentum.

robin andrea said...

There are so many battle fronts these days, so I hope the global climate change report doesn't get short shrift in the midst of other horrible news. This is such a serious matter, and I hope we all keep figuring out ways to leave smaller footprints. It can and must be done.

Tina said...

News like this makes me so damn sad Diva. Today, I posted a pix of our snow covered backyard and commented about the Waxman hearings, too. Dear God... when will we mere mortals learn??