Thursday, May 10, 2007

Acclimatizing to Climate Change

This week, a conference in taking place in Ann Arbor called "Confronting Climate Change." For those of you who read this and ask why we should care, I would say this:
  1. A recent report in Science magazine indicated that since 1990 (the publication of the first IPCC report), actual observed climatic trends have followed the upper bound trajectories of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, global temperature change, and global sea level rise.
  2. A report has come out from the CNA showing that retired US generals and admirals have stated that they believe that climate change is happening, and that we must anticipate the impacts for purposes of national security.
  3. If you thought that rising sea levels were the only thing to worry about in the oceans, you have forgotten your basic aquatic chemistry: greater atmospheric CO2 means increased water acidity (just think of any fizzy drink's ability to clean a dirty penny). This means in the short run that coral reefs will die out (causing massive problems to local economies - think Australia, Palau, Thailand, Egypt, Florida, Bermuda, etc.); shorelines will erode faster since reefs will not be acting as a energy disperser; and associated fish communities will crash causing sharp declines in local and international fisheries). In the long run, this can likely affect crabs, shrimp, and lobster - and all species that require the presence of CaCO3 in ready abundances (and not changed to CaCO2 because of increased water acidity).
  4. Increasing numbers of coal-burning power plants are being constructed each year. This will only exacerbate the volume of CO2 produced, leading to (potentially) upward deviation from even the upper-bounded estimates of the IPCCs future climate projections.
I'm not blaming anyone (although I do have a long list). However, much of the previous and current work in climate science (and climate change science) has been in the basic research. This conference (and my own personal belief) is that this needs to change. Already in 2007 the US we have seen:
  • unseasonable weather,
  • abrupt weather changes,
  • wildfires in Florida and Georgia scorching over 100,000 acres,
  • the formation of a tropical storm 5 weeks before the official start of the 2007 hurricane season,
  • massive ongoing drought in the southwestern states,
  • increased rates of flooding in the Mississippi River basin,
  • stronger tornadoes,
  • and the list goes on (and it's only May for F*ck's sake)!
The above maps and charts only show part of the story. The continuing economic impacts of not adapting our social, governmental, and economic planning to incorporate a future under a changed climate scenario is (IMHO) stupid. Without research into adaptation mechanisms running parallel with national and international climate change mitigation science and technology research, we might as well admit to ourselves and the rest of the world that we are driving blindly along a dirt road with no headlights, map, compass, or common sense.

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