Year 4, Month 11, Day 14: Since You’ve Been Gone

The Pittsburgh Journal-Gazette, on autumn foliage:

Unusually warm October weather and less September rain explain why leaves failed to produce brilliant splashes of gold, orange, red and purple, with many remaining green into the first week of November.

It also raises the spectre of climate change.

Every year has seasonal variations, but some scientists say this year may be a harbinger of a more likely occurrence in coming years — warmer temperatures pushing back the peak foliage season from the third week of October to later in the month or even early November. Such a trend also forebodes duller leaf coloration.

Warmer fall temperatures and resulting duller leaves also signal that local tree species, including sugar maples, will begin migrating northward with other plant and animal species, in search of ideal climate. More extreme temperatures, storms and droughts are anticipated.

“This is precisely the sort of thing we expect to happen,” said Penn State University climatologist Michael E. Mann. “Fall comes later, spring gets earlier and summer gets hotter. NASA just reported that the globe just saw the warmest September ever.”

In coming decades, he said, extreme weather conditions and warmer autumns “will become the new normal.”

The comments on this article are pretty depressing. November 4:

Colorful autumn leaves are one of the most visible and celebrated markers for the yearly change of season, a recurring transformation that’s been a steady feature of our lives for countless generations. But there are cycles and shifts happening on timescales far larger than our own, and the diminished hues of fall foliage should remind us of a different sort of shift that is now underway.

Since the development of agriculture at the dawn of civilization, humans have made steadily more significant impacts on the world we live in. Now, thanks to industrialization’s century-long carbon binge, we’ve initiated a chain of climatic events which are ushering in not a new season but a new epoch: the end of the Holocene and the beginning of the Anthropocene.

The die is cast; there is no turning back from this grim future any more than we can wish away the frosts of November. What we must do is prepare ourselves for the totally different world which is emerging — one which evidence suggests will be far less hospitable to us and our posterity.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 6, Day 19: Bad Earth Rising

The Boise Weekly runs a little squib on the UN Climate Change Conference and all the bad news its delegates are confronting:

When delegates from about 180 countries begin meeting tomorrow at a major global energy conference, they’ll be met with a sobering bit of news: The world’s greenhouse gas emissions are hitting record highs and global warming continues to rise.

The new report issued today by the International Energy Agency indicating high fossil fuel emissions is just one of several studies expected to be released this week at the session in Bonn, Germany. This week’s meeting, dubbed a “framework convention,” is in advance of the annual United Nations conference on global warming, which will be held at the end of the year in South Africa.

Yup. Sent June 5:

The world’s industrialized nations have inadvertently set in motion a cascade of climatic events which will affect not only all of humanity, but all forms of life on Earth. The accumulated carbon resources of millions of years are now being burned and reintroduced into the atmosphere with incredible speed; previous “climate change” events tended to take place over spans of millennia — still rapid in geological time, but long enough to allow adaptive evolution a chance. The climatic transformation of the Anthropocene, by contrast, looks like it’s happening in a frame of centuries — the geological equivalent of hitting a wall at 100 mph. The delegates to the U.N. Climate Change Conference have their work cut out for them; they must develop strategies for coping with unprecedented planetary phenomena, while combating a level of ignorance and denialism in the world’s media and political systems that makes effective action essentially impossible. Uh-oh.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 5, Day 7: Sawing Off The Branch We’re Sitting On

A very depressing article in the Sydney Morning Herald about worldwide mass extinctions. Some days this letter-writing thing is no bloody fun at all.

Sent April 28:

As the slow-motion catastrophe of climate change triggers countless extinctions across the globe, it becomes increasingly apparent that our anthropocentric worldview is an essentially destructive one. No living thing on the planet exists in isolation; everywhere we find greater and lesser synergies between different forms of life, each depending on the other for nourishment, for reproduction, for its very survival. Yet in the newly minted Anthropocene Epoch, our species fails to acknowledge the many and varied webs of interdependence that bind us to the rest of creation, as we heedlessly rend the intricate fabric of earthly life. Let us paraphrase John Donne, and recognize that “no living thing is an island, every living thing is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Humanity risks its own survival; unless we change our ways, we will learn too late that the bell tolls for all of us.

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 22: Imagine…

I figured I’d push the Pakistan/post-climate-change-foreign-policy angle a few more times, and found a suitable article in the NYT to hang it on. This one came out rather well, I think. In any event, I relish any opportunity to use the word “epiphenomena.”

Post-flood Pakistan will not only be a nation full of shattered lives and human misery. It will also be an opportunity for the world to demonstrate a new approach to foreign policy that takes into account the reality of anthropogenic climate chaos. For twenty-five years, climatologists have predicted that the greenhouse effect would lead to ever more erratic and freakish weather; it’s finally here, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Which means that more of the world’s nations will be battered by climatic forces beyond their control. More heatwaves, droughts, massive floods, blizzards, storms — leading to more human misery and political instability. If we as a species are to survive in our self-created Anthropocene epoch, nations must learn to share resources and infrastructure against this common enemy. In an age of climate chaos, war and its profitable epiphenomena are luxuries we can no longer afford.

Warren Senders