Year 4, Month 5, Day 8: The Song Is You

The Deccan Chronicle (India) notices climatogenic changes in bird migration patterns:

Kochi: It was a tradition in Kerala to wait for the vitthum kaikottum (seed and spade) call of the Indian cuckoo, which was the indication for farmers to begin sowing operations as the rains would not be long in coming. But that was then. Today, new species of birds have descended on the state, some never sighted here before. And climate change is said to be the reason. “The Aquila type of eagle, not historically reported in Kerala, is now commonly found.

These are commonly found in the very dry areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab and have migrated to Kerala. The sparrow type wheatear or buntings noticed in the dry areas of central and north-western parts of the country have also been spotted across Kerala in the last few years,” says professor at the College of Forestry of Kerala Agriculture University, P.O. Nameer.

This is a new phenomenon and the presence of these birds is an indication that they are equally comfortable in the southern tip of the country as in northern parts which were their original homeland.

Ornithologist R. Sugathan says these are indications of global warming. “Birds do not migrate or come for fun. When a moist deciduous forest changes into deciduous, shedding its moist tag, a new set of birds and animals takes the place of the old. This is obvious in the changing pattern of migration of birds to Kerala. Some of them are now found going to places in neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in search of food and breeding grounds.”

Anthropocentric thinking takes a hit. Sent April 26:

News coverage understandably tends to focus on the human face of climate change. Whether it’s an island nation anticipating its own disappearance beneath rising sea levels, or a farming culture grappling with increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather, there is no shortage of people confronting the grim realities of global warming.

But our own species isn’t the only one affected. At all levels of scale, from microscopic plankton to giant sequoias, the great web of Earthly life is being torn and disrupted by the consequences of industrial civilization’s two-century carbon binge. When hitherto unfamiliar bird species come visiting, it’s as much an indicator of climate change as melting glaciers or drought-cracked farmlands. While the arrival of the Aquila eagle or the Stonechat may be a brief boon for birdwatchers, it is an ominous sign of things to come. It’s not only humans who’re becoming climate refugees as the greenhouse effect intensifies.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 14: And Because I Love You, I’ll Give It One More Try

The North Andover Eagle-Tribune reports on climate change in New England:

One of the harbingers of change has been the lobster industry, which Wahle called a kind of “canary in a coal mine.”

Maine fishermen have set record harvests over the past few years, perhaps due in part to higher water temperatures and fewer groundfish, which prey on young lobsters. Fishermen off Newburyport have also reported good harvests, with last year being among the best.

Meanwhile, in southern New England, it’s an entirely different story. Mass lobster kill-offs in Long Island Sound have been caused by warming waters, Wahle said, while a disease that infects lobster shells has been spreading northward through the sound and into Massachusetts waters.

“(The disease) seems to have stalled out just south of Cape Ann,” Wahle said.

If the disease spreads further north, it could have a devastating impact on northern New England’s lobster fisheries, Wahle said.

As of Feb. 6, the comment thread on this article was 100% denialist stupidity. Sent, with an optimistic tag:

New England’s not alone in feeling the increasing impact of global warming. While specific symptoms of climate change vary from place to place, regions everywhere around the planet are affected. Whether it’s drought in the corn belt, unseasonal monsoons in Asia, or warmer winters fostering pine beetle infestations in Colorado, the consequences of the greenhouse effect are hitting people painfully. Some communities may reap temporary benefits — like Maine lobstermen who are hauling in a bumper harvest — but since warmer winters may bring an end to the state’s skiing industry, there’s no real positive economic impact on a wider scale.

If there is any upside to the accelerating climate crisis, it is that our species’ future requires us to realize that what we do today in our own narrow corner of the world will affect people thousands of miles — and hundreds of years — away. Only by recognizing that political boundaries and cultural differences are irrelevant in the face of the gathering storm can we humans make a happy and prosperous future for our posterity.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 7: Does It Mean You Don’t Love Me Any More?

USA Today notes that climate change is happening too fast for the birds and the bees:

From birds in the Plains to bighorn sheep in California to caribou in Alaska and moose in Minnesota, a new study says animals are struggling to adapt to the new climate conditions caused by the burning of fossil fuels, which produces the carbon dioxide that warms the atmosphere.

“Climate change is the biggest threat wildlife will face this century,” says the report released today by the National Wildlife Federation, an environmental group based in Reston, Va.

Though animals have adapted to natural climate variation since the beginning of time, the changes are happening much faster than they are able to respond. “The underlying climatic conditions to which species have been accustomed for thousands of years are rapidly changing, and we are already witnessing the impacts,” according to the report, called “Wildlife in a Warming World.”

I hear that clock a’tickin’, on the mantel shelf. Sent January 30:

When they admit the existence of the greenhouse effect at all, those who downplay the seriousness of climate change like to assert that species will “adapt” to the consequences of our warming atmosphere — a profound misunderstanding of the distinction between individual and evolutionary time. Climate science shows us that while Earth’s climate has undergone radical changes in the past, they’ve unfolded over millennia, giving animals and plants a chance to evolve and adapt to their new circumstances.

By contrast, anthropogenic global warming unfolds within the span of a single human lifetime, a geological eyeblink allowing no time for the gradual processes of biological adaptation. It’s not a coincidence that the same lawmakers who deny the evidence of global climate change also consistently reject the even more overwhelming evidence of evolution. America’s policies need to be based on facts, not ideologically-driven sloganeering. We continue ignoring science at our own peril.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 8, Day 7: Water Wings. That’ll Help.

The Long Island Press for July 19 runs an article on polar bears and their increasingly difficult lives:

A new study reports that polar bear cubs have a higher mortality rate as their icy habitat melts. As their habitat melts away at faster rates than before polar bear cubs alongside their mothers are forced to make longer trips swimming across the icy waters, leading to an increase in death rates.

According to Reuters, the new study shows that these long distance swimming trips pose great risks to the survival of polar bear cubs. Polar bears are not aquatic animals. In fact, the majority of their lives are spent on ice or land–where they hunt, feed, and give birth.

I sure am glad I’m not a polar bear, facing eventual extinction. Oh, wait…

Sent July 21:

As the poster children for Arctic ice loss, the world’s polar bears get quite a bit of media attention. No wonder: they’re photogenic, their plight is arresting, and they are sufficiently distant from our day-to-day lives that news about them constitutes a distraction of sorts. But in our sympathy over bear cubs losing their habitats, we should not forget that these charismatic predators are only one of millions of species existing under the very real threat of runaway climate change. All forms of earthly life are vulnerable — environmental shifts can trigger rapid extinctions within a very short time — but some are more vulnerable than others. Our complex and intricate human civilization is no protection against a collapsed food supply. Looking down the road a bit, it’s frighteningly clear that polar bears aren’t the only ones who’ll be facing an uphill struggle to survive. Are humans an endangered species?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 7, Day 29: Today Is The First Day Of The Rest Of Our Lives

According to the Detroit News for July 13, the worsening climate is starting to hit a little closer to home:

Climate change is impacting some of the major national parks in the Great Lakes region, according to a report released today.

Michigan destinations such as Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks and Isle Royale National Park were among the five parks studied in a report that targets global warming as the cause of a host of negative impacts on the parks. Those include:

Birds dropping dead at Sleeping Bear Dunes due to outbreaks of botulism.

Declining moose population on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.

Temperature changes allowing Lyme disease-carrying ticks to show up for the first time on Isle Royale.

The deterioration of shorelines at each park resulting from decreased winter ice.

The study was put together by the conservation groups Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization.

I visited Isle Royale as a kid when I was on a cross-country trip with my family. What a beautiful place. Sent July 13:

It’s been pretty easy for most Americans to dismiss concerns about climate change. Most people have believed for decades that the effects of global warming will be felt only in distant places or in the distant future. The NRDC/RMCO report on Michigan’s National Parks irrefutably confirms both that the Arctic and the Amazon aren’t the only places feeling the heat, and that the “distant future” has already begun. We can no longer claim ignorance; climatologists have predicted the disastrous consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect for years. What is happening to our National Park System is happening to our towns and cities, to our agriculture and to our oceans, and to the other countries with whom we share this planet. There may yet be time for us to bequeath a green and bounteous prosperity to our children and our children’s children — but the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 7, Day 17: And In The Left Corner, In Yellow Trunks…

The L.A. Times reports on the recent (July 1) ruling that the Polar Bear is going to be allowed to keep its status on the Endangered Species list.

A U.S. District Court on Thursday upheld a Bush-era decision that polar bears are a threatened species, despite challenges by the state of Alaska and others seeking to strip the bear of its protection.

Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to protect the bear because of the melting of the Arctic sea ice was well supported and that opponents failed to demonstrate that the listing was irrational.

“Plaintiffs’ challenges amount to nothing more than competing views about policy and science,” Judge Emmet Sullivan wrote.

Them pesky liberal judges.

Personally, I’d like to watch a polar bear and James Inhofe battle it out.

Sent July 1:

As one of the most recognizable of the world’s charismatic megafauna, the polar bear’s become a symbol of wildlife endangered by climate change. While Judge Sullivan’s ruling on the threatened Arctic predator’s status is welcome news, we need to recognize that it’s not just the big, furry and picturesque that need our protection. All over the planet, creatures great and small are coming under attack from a faceless enemy — but the ultimate victims are not the animals and plants themselves, but the living networks of interdependency of which they are a part. The world’s ecosystems are in grave danger; as they lose their resilience, we’ll see ever-greater numbers of inarticulate climate refugees searching for new habitats. It’s unfortunate that there is no category for Endangered Environments, for it’s not just the polar bear, but its entire support system, that is under assault from the greenhouse effect and its consequences.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 20: Sorry, Darling. We Didn’t Know How To Tell You Earlier.

Well. This sucks:

The population of Adélie penguins in Antarctica has declined by 50 percent in recent years, and everyone who has watched a nature movie or television show knows that the reason is the rapidly melting sea ice that has limited the size of their winter habitat. But what everyone knows may be wrong.

New research, published online Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the penguins’ real problem is the severe decline in the abundance of Antarctic krill, their main food, a problem affecting the ice-avoiding chinstrap penguins as well.

“For the last 30 years, the adults have been able to rear chicks as they always have,” said Wayne Z. Trivelpiece, the lead author. “But the young aren’t coming back. Ninety percent never make it through their first year. They are not finding the food they need.”

As an atheist, I have no available profanity that conveys my feelings. Sent April 11:

The Anthropocene Epoch looks to be one of devastation for many of the world’s other species — even those which we claim to cherish. The latest sobering example is the news that climate change is drastically reducing krill populations, and therefore condemning the penguins which feed on these tiny marine creatures to an evolutionary bottleneck. I contemplate the conversation with dread: how will I explain to my daughter that the world’s penguins are dying because human beings can’t be bothered to change their way of living? As the greenhouse effect continues its rapid heating of our atmosphere, we can expect many more such announcements; a microscopic species lost here, a few types of algae snuffed out there — gradually undermining humanity’s own food chain. The penguins’ fate may well be a preview of our own.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 2: By The Time This Gets Posted, They May All Be Dead.

The M.S. Oliva, a Malta-registered freighter, has run aground and broken up on a tiny island in the South Atlantic. Nightingale Island just happens to be the home of forty percent of the world’s remaining wild Rockhopper Penguins. Not for long, apparently. At least 20,000 of these birds are now oil-soaked, looking forward to a merciful extinction.

And that’s not even the best part:

Conservation groups said the wreck could pose a different ecological threat to the chain as rats could have come ashore from the vessel, which was carrying 66,000 tons of soybeans from Brazil to Singapore. Several islands in the archipelago are rodent-free, and a rat infestation could potentially do more harm to bird life than any oiling, experts said.

Soybeans. I have no available profanity left.

Sent March 23:

It is a dreadful irony. Looking closely at the photograph of the crippled freighter, one can see the giant letters overlooking the deck: “Safety First.” Indeed. Twenty-two years after the Exxon Valdez, we’ve learned remarkably little; it takes a special kind of talent to run a vessel aground on a place as small as Nightingale Island. The Oliva’s breakup is devastating to the Rockhopper Penguins whose home is now surrounded by a toxic slick; the combination of oil-soaked feathers and the likely introduction of rats to the island may prove a tipping point for these delightful birds. What can we learn from the Valdez, the Oliva, the Deepwater Horizon and thousands of other petro-disasters? Simply this: the heavily-touted “cheapness” of fossil fuels is illusory. How much will cleanup cost? What’s the dollar value of a single penguin? Of an entire species? Of humanity’s future on a clean and healthy planet?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 1, Day 26: Bellwethers

The Taipei Times runs a piece from the NYT’s Elizabeth Rosenthal, discussing the fate of endangered species in a climate-changed future. I have a cold and I’m sniffling constantly, which doesn’t help my mood.

The next few decades will see increasing loss of animal and plant species due to climate change. These localized tragedies, unintended consequences of humanity’s ongoing environmental transformation, are harbingers of our own future. Biodiversity is a planetary survival strategy; the greater variety of life exists, the more likely it is that something will always survive. Similarly, cultural diversity is under threat from the same forces that are wreaking havoc on our climate. Pervasive industrialization and consumerism are homogenizing our humanity, making it ever harder for indigenous cultures to sustain themselves, and making our own lives ever less integrated with the global ecosystems of which they are a part. We human beings are doing to ourselves what we are doing to animals like the Hartlaub’s turaco and Aberdare cisticola; their endangerment is saddening for its own sake, and for what it foretells about our own future.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 1, Day 8: More On Our Failed Media Experiment

The title of this post is one of the regular tags at John Cole’s blog, “Balloon Juice.”

The San Francisco Chronicle notes a newly released report from the Endangered Species Coalition detailing the likelihood that climate change is going to cause big, big, big problems for a lot of creatures. If the past is any indication, this report will be handled like all the other reports which say the same thing: a newspaper article and a couple of blog posts followed by a lapse into innocuous desuetude (kind of like first performances of modern classical compositions).

It’s definitely “Getting Hot Out There,” as the Endangered Species Coalition notes in its just-released report on the implications of climate change for many of the world’s most fragile natural ecosystems. While the impending extinction of a significant number of species should be sounding alarm bells throughout our society, we can expect this news to be received with a collective shrug by our distracted and economically frayed society. Why would we ignore such an ominous augury? The answer lies in another type of extinction. Over the past decade, responsible, scientifically-informed coverage of climate change issues by our news media has become increasingly rare. Even as the atmosphere has been steadily heating up, American broadcast news has treated global warming with cool dismissal, regularly giving more on-air minutes to tea-party political theater and the latest celebrity scandal du jour than to the single greatest existential threat our species has ever faced.

Warren Senders