The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Global Warming Is Real
by Ro Wauer

With a New Year just around the corner, I need to get something off my chest that’s been festering for a long time! That is the truth that so many folks, particularly those ultra conservatives and the many politicians that are controlled by big business, have totally ignored. And what is even more unbelievable is that those some folks have put every conceivable excuse in the way of doing something that will turn around a problem that will very likely destroy life as we know it. Of course, those of us of the age that we probably will not be about 10 to 20 years from now, don’t need to worry so much. But those of us with children and grandkids need to!

Is Global Warming only a myth, as some conservative talk show hosts claim? Or can we believe the National Academy of Sciences report that stated "that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years." Why do we ignore some very real facts that the ice pack in both the Arctic and Antarctic is shrinking, that the glaciers in the Himalayas and the Alps and Greenland are retreating, and that the glaciers in our own Glacier National Park in Montana are expected to be gone by 2030? All this melting is expected to raise sea levels that will not only swallow whole islands in the South Pacific but also create extensive flooding along our own coastlines, including portions of Florida, Louisiana, and New York City. And what about the biological changes in our oceans, such as our loss of coral reefs and much of our fisheries? And why are we finding more birds and butterflies further north than anytime in the past? Why are birds migrating sooner, pests are spreading to new areas, drought conditions are more extensive than in the past, and deserts are expanding? Purple martins are now arriving in Texas several weeks earlier than ever before. Why?

Why is it that we have recently experienced the highest temperatures and the worst storms on record? Think Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne in 2004 and Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2006! Some argue that everything is cyclic and things will eventually get back to normal. It certainly is true that everything in nature is cyclic, but that relates more to our native plants and animals. Population fluctuations in wildlife are proven ecological principles. But when entire habitats in which our wildlife depends on their very survival change, those changes can be catastrophic to those creatures that cannot move elsewhere. Here are some examples:

Polar bear numbers are rapidly declining due to sea ice meltdown. Spring melts are coming two weeks sooner, before the bears have built up necessary fat reserves, resulting in drowned and starving bears and lower cub-survival. To the south, drought conditions throughout much of the American Southwest have seriously affected numerous plants and animals. Many wetlands on which our wildlife have long depended upon, are going dry. Even some of our amidland wildlife species, such as the desert tortoise and bighorn sheep, are in sharp decline. The little brown moth, an invasive species first found in the Florida Keys that can totally wipe out pricklypear cacti, has been moving north and west at a rate of about 100 miles per year. Major areas of our woodlands are being lost because of the lack of rainfall or to invading pests that take advantage of stressful conditions.

Global warming is a difficult concept to understand. You can't see it or taste it or touch it. Unlike smog, it doesn't burn your throat, and it doesn't directly kill birds and fish like an oil spill. It is easy to ignore or deny! But it is real! It is when carbon dioxide and other gases that occur naturally in the atmosphere trap warmth from the sun. These same "greenhouse gases," in lower amounts, help sustain our planet by keeping it warm. But human beings have spewed so much greenhouse gas into the air since the Industrial Revolution that today's carbon dioxide levels are nearly 100 parts per million higher than they were in 1750. That, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, is a 650,000-year high. And it's warming the planet!

The very first step in addressing a problem, whatever it might be, is to believe there is a problem, and the next step is to understand the problem. There is a pertinent quote from African environmentalist Baba Dioum who said: "In the end, we will save only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."


At 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'tis a shame that Texas is rushing to build more coal plants--the ultimate global warming power generator.


Post a Comment

<< Home