Year 3, Month 6, Day 15: …But The Words Aren’t Clear….

Bud Ris, the CEO of the New England Aquarium, has a perspective on the oceans’ message to us that’s definitely worth a read:

As we celebrate World Oceans Day on Friday, it’s worth pausing to reflect on the current state of our oceans and the biggest challenge they face: climate change. This is no longer a problem for the future; climate change is already underway.

We now know, for example, that the heat content of the upper layer of the oceans is on the rise. Just a degree or two of change can make a big difference.

As oceans warm, the water actually expands and takes up more space. This is a basic physics phenomenon called thermal expansion. This means that as water temperatures rise, sea level will rise as well, as it has in Boston by about 11 inches over the last 100 years. (Land subsidence is also a factor)

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The data now show that the pace of sea level rise is clearly accelerating, meaning that one to two feet of additional sea level rise by the end of the century is now likely. Much more is possible if ice atop the land masses in Greenland and Antarctica also melts. This has major implications for buildings and public infrastructure along Boston’s waterfront and other major cities. The risks of flooding during storm surges will increase.

Ocean warming won’t just affect humans. The geographic distribution, feeding patterns, and reproductive cycles of many marine animals are sensitive to temperature changes of just a few degrees and to changes in salinity and pH, caused by more freshwater runoff and increased carbon absorption. That may explain why most of the North Atlantic right whales that migrate annually up and down the East Coast didn’t show up in the Bay of Fundy in 2010 for the first time in 30 years — and why now — two years later — we are seeing the result in emaciated mothers and calves and a precariously low birth rate. It might also help explain why lobsters are molting weeks earlier in Maine, and why lobster populations south of Cape Cod are in decline.

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Sent June 5:

It’s increasingly apparent that all our planet’s ecosystems are trying to tell us something. Whether it’s bushes transforming into trees in a warming tundra, forests decimated by invasive insects, or acidifying oceans endangering multiple species of marine life, there’s no doubt that the web of life on Earth is under siege.

Why, then, are we seemingly unable to hear the distress calls of the oceans, the forests, or the tundra? Why do so many deny the rapidly accumulating evidence that climate change is an ongoing catastrophe of epic proportions?

While a selfish resistance to inconvenient truths is certainly part of the answer, it’s also true that industrialized humans have separated themselves from the natural world so completely that its messages might as well be in Etruscan. If we are to survive the climate crisis, we must relearn the languages of ecological interdependence along with the hard facts of sustainability.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 25: The Pitter-Patter Of Little Feet

The Boston Herald (my local Murdoch rag) runs an article from the Seattle Times on a problem with animals:

SEATTLE — As climate change transforms their habitat, some animals are already on the move. But a new analysis from the University of Washington warns that many species won’t be able to run fast enough to survive a warming world.

On average, about 9 percent of the Western Hemisphere’s mammals migrate too slowly to keep pace with the rapid climate shifts expected over the next century, says the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In some areas, including parts of the Appalachian Mountains and the Amazon basin, nearly 40 percent of mammals may be unable to reach safe haven in time.

They’ll never print this one in a million years, but it was fun to write. Sent May 15:

If the thousands of mammal species whose slowly-changing migratory patterns put them at risk of extinction just knew that climate change is a hoax engineered by a worldwide conspiracy of scientists and liberal environmentalists, it would undoubtedly make them feel much better about the loss of their irrecoverable habitats.

But only humans are susceptible to the misdirection practiced by conservative news networks, which means that those endangered animals will just have to get used to their newly inhospitable ecological niches, or die. Ultimately, though, it’s not just regional and local ecosystems that are being transformed, but the entire planet. That’s what “climate change” means — global, not local; long-term, not short-term — and the implications of the University of Washington study should be a wake-up call for any still living in the denialist dreamland.

Humans are mammals, too. Where will we go when our habitats will no longer sustain us?

Warren Senders

Ha ha! The joke’s apparently on me. They printed it. And boy oh boy did it attract a fusillade of stupidity in the comments.