Sunday, 14 August 2011

Can’t see the wood for the dead trees

A comment to a letter I had published in the JEP on behalf of J-CAN (which was in answer to a previously published climate denialist eccentric’s letter) although otherwise spot on illustrated an error that some make in their appreciation of the threats from climate change. This particular online comment (from "Pip Clement") included this phrase:

 “Fortunately for most of the people on here they will be dead by the time the effects really become apparent”

This is what I replied:

“The effects are likely to become apparent way earlier than you suggest. Worse than that, if we do nothing, we will discover in our lifetimes (even the older ones’) that we have gone beyond the point of no return, when we will not be able to reverse the situation.

The dice will have been cast long before our grandchildren will need to the ones to “be lucky”. Who needs to be lucky? It’s us.”

The comments following my replies are worth reading too if seeing breath-taking stupidity and arrogance expressed floats your boat…

The dangers from global warming do not simply come just from effects directly attributable to the rise in average planetary temperature. Often overlooked, or not publicised, are the consequences of the effects on the ecosphere – all the animals, birds, trees, plants, insects, fungi, bacteria, plankton etc. that forms the vast interlocking web of life. These systems are far more sensitive to changes in planetary temperatures than climatologists’ thermometers and satellites and large effects are already obvious such as the acidification (reduction in alkalinity for the ultra-picky) of the oceans, the reduction in plankton numbers - in the past 60 years, algal biomass has decreased by about 40%  - click for Nature article - and now here is evidence, from satellite photographs, of the huge impacts on pine forests in the US of the epidemic of pinebeetle infestation

rocky mountains pines

Left: September 22, 2003. Right: September 25, 2010. Mountain Pine Beetles killed about 60 percent of the medium-to-large lodgepole pines on the western slopes of the park between the years depicted here. In the 2003 image, dense vegetation (dark green) is seen near the centre. In the 2010 image, the dark green has been replaced by shades of brown over large areas, indicating tree loss. Warmer winters are allowing more pine beetles to survive. In addition, summer drought stresses the trees and renders them more vulnerable to pine beetle attack   Read more here click this link or this one about a researcher investigating the die off. It’s not just a simple matter of more winter warmth = more pine beetles = more die off of trees, the full story is a bit more complex than that, but this is exactly the sort of large scale effects that will start happening to the natural world way before the climate changes are obvious in temperature trend lines to casual observers such as those who get their world view from the newspapers,  and opinionated television motor-mouths.


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