In The Truth About Animals, author Lucy Cooke explains how incredibly wrong our ancestors got the facts about many animals because of our prejudices. The animals—sloths, bats, vultures, beavers, and many more—are still around and are now understood quite well. But it’s difficult today to imagine how strongly our ancestors believed the most ludicrous myths (migrating birds flew to the moon in winter) about these creatures. A little objective reasoning and keener observations would have relieved many people of their wild untruths about even the most common of animals.
Will those for whom we will someday be their ancestors wonder in jaw-dropping incredulity at our unbelievable intransigence on Climate Change? Why, might they ask, were we not convinced by the science of the day and the facts staring us right in the face?
The answer is that we too still hold prejudices about reality. In our case, it may be because the implications of our admitting the enormity of the crisis keeps putting us off from doing what is needed. Or, we just simply refuse to think about Climate Change. Period.
What we know today about Climate Change, including the consensus of climate scientists who know that this planetary warming is happening and that we are causing it, is that there are many indicators of Climate Change that reveal the wide-ranging changes going on. Climate indicators, observed changes in our climate system, often cover specific regions of our planet. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) indicators cover the US. California has some of the same indicators and some of its own.
Climate change ruining California’s environment, report warns Bigger, more intense forest fires, longer droughts, warmer ocean temperatures and an ever shrinking snowpack in the Sierra Nevada are “unequivocal” evidence of the ruinous domino-effects that climate change is having on California, a new California Environmental Protection Agency report states. The 350-page report released Wednesday tracks 36 indicators of climate change, including a comprehensive list of human impacts and the effects on wildlife, the ocean, lakes, rivers and the mountains. The study pulled together research from scientists, academia and research institutions and found that despite a marked downward trend in greenhouse-gas emissions in California, including a 90 percent drop in black carbon from tailpipe emissions over the past 50 years, CO2 levels in the atmosphere and in seawater are increasing at a steady rate. (May 9, 2018) San Francisco Chronicle[more on Climate Change in our area]
In the above study “Indicators of Climate Change in California”(May 2018) on page S-14, you get a glimpse of how these indicators are arranged so scientists can measure and track our climate crisis:
CLIMATE CHANGE DRIVERS: Greenhouse gas emissions, Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, Atmospheric black carbon concentrations, Acidification of coastal waters
CHANGES IN CLIMATE: Annual air temperature, Extreme heat events, Winter chill, Cooling and heating degree days, Precipitation, Drought
IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON PHYSICAL SYSTEMS: Snowmelt runoff, Snow-water content, Glacier change, Lake water temperature, Coastal ocean temperature, Sea level rise, Dissolved oxygen in coastal waters
IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON BIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS: On humans: Vector-borne diseases, Heat-related mortality and morbidity. On vegetation: Forest tree mortality, Wildfires, Ponderosa pine forest retreat, Vegetation distribution shifts, Changes in forests and woodlands, Subalpine forest density, Fruit and nut maturation time. On wildlife: Spring flight of Central Valley butterflies, Migratory bird arrivals, Bird wintering ranges, Small mammal and avian range shifts, Effects of ocean acidification on marine organisms (Type III*), Nudibranch range shifts, Copepod populations, Sacramento fall-run Chinook salmon, abundance, Cassin’s auklet breeding success, California sea lion pup demography (Note: A “Type III” indicator is conceptual; no ongoing monitoring or data collection is in place.)
After reading the entire report, you may not feel so queasy about California’s attempts to require solar panels on new homes. I know, people, especially people in the developed nations, do not like to be told what to do—so a rule requiring new homes to be built with solar panels may not go so well.
But besides the gloomy report from California, the world itself is seeing Climate Change indicators go through the roof. The Arctic was very warm this year. [See Another extreme heat wave strikes the North Pole a very warm Arctic this year, May 7, 2018 The Washington Post.] And, our planet’s greenhouse gas concentration is reaching new highs. [[See: Earth has crossed a scary threshold for the first time in more than 800,000 years, and it could lead to tens of thousands of deaths, May 9, 2018 Business Insider]
There are also some new studies, reported on this week, that indicate that there might be some more Climate Change indicators we need concern ourselves with: The Atlantification of the Arctic, the slowing down of ocean circulation, and a surprising amount of methane oozing up from our freshwater lakes. Much more methane (a very potent greenhouse gas) comes from our freshwater lakes than all the oceans—who knew?
Along with the dismal progress in the Bonn Climate talk last week, things are looking a bit bleak for our future. If we find ourselves laughing at how our ancestors thought the world worked back in the day, we might reflect on our own generation’s lack of appreciation of the speed at which our Climate Change indicators are shifting and our increasing disinclination to even look. We are dismantling our climate. Our children won’t think it all so humorous.