My life is currently mired in the climate change debate. I just finished Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe. I spent the last week in Washington DC lobbying Oregonian members of congress on the issue. And I’ve been blogging about it — and some other blogs have picked up on the topic (WestFly has a forum string on climate change, and Jack Bog’s blog ran it this week as well).
One of the more surprising things I’ve noticed is how many global warming deniers are out there in Oregon. Not just skepticism (a healthy and intelligent response) but people who are out and out hostile toward the topic. I’m assuming people aren’t reacting to climate change yet because the effects aren’t particularly dramatic. But once they become dramatic, it’s going to be too damn late.
I’m not saying climate change spells the end of days. Nor am I saying that some unforeseen phenomenon couldn’t reverse it and we’ll be huddled up in furs or living in climate controlled tubes in decades to come. Global warming won’t be business as usual, but if we’re technologically advanced enough to alter the very atmosphere of our planet, we’ll probably be adaptable enough to avoid a total Mad Max scenario for the next couple generations.
But we’ve pushed a hell of a lot of species up against a wall, and this change is coming and it won’t be good for them. When the sea levels rise, are we going to let the marshes and wetlands ingress inland? Or will we spend billions of dollars walling off and shoring up our overdeveloped coastal areas, squeezing estuarine and marsh habitat out of existence — eliminating the last spawning and rearing habitat for anadromous fish?
When the west eventually dries up and it is literally impossible to sustain the retiree megalopolises in the desert without pumping the water of the Great Lakes through a transcontinental pipeline, will we chock it up to a failed experiment, dismantle the reusable materials and leave the rest in the sand? Or will we prop these places up with Rube Goldberg schemes, sucking the West’s river systems dry? Water issues have been dominated by competing interests of farmland, fisheries and development for generations. And these will only get worse in the years to come. How will we adapt and will our precious fisheries survive?
People can get on WestFly and call global warming discussions off-topic all they want — but it seems like the demise of our fisheries would play a pretty prominent role in the future of the sport.
Similarly, Oregonian’s can call climate change a left-wing hoax perpetuated by a money hungry Al Gore. But the fact is it’s happening now. Emphasis on now. University of Oregon evolutionary geneticists have actually discovered that recent, rapid climate change is already driving the evolution of animal species.
It’s easy to sit there on a February day and assume that five degrees increase isn’t going to have much of an impact on our lives. But when it does impact our lives, we literally will not have the means to address it — this momentum will carry into future generations.
Which is why I close with a selection from The Onion today:
In a statement channeled back across generations to the present day, the nation’s children and the nation’s children’s children called for an end to decades of passionate oratory over their well-being.
Signed by 150 influential members of the two forthcoming coming generations, the statement included requests to discontinue all debate over the potential future of such intangible resources as health, earth’s natural beauty, and the ability to sit together at the table of brotherhood. The children’s children furthermore asked their soon-to-be ancestors to desist all plans to plant trees or write letters to Congress on their behalf.