Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Why You Should Care About Global Warming

A 2009 poll said that nearly 30% of all Americans don't believe global warming and climate change are happening or that it affects are overstated. This is a catastrophe. But this isn't the point of the blog. Let's assume, for writing sake, that you do trust that global change is happening. That you watched "The Inconvenient Truth", or that you've read "Dire Predictions" by Mann and Krump about the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change. Let's even assume you're skeptical about the how drastic the changes will be. 

Let me try to convince you that you should care. 

Assume the predictions are true. Assume that the polar ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet will eventually melt because of temperature rises of 2-3 degrees (three times that in the poles), that snowlines will rise at least 600 feet and that sea levels will rise about 12 feet or up to 21 feet.  Let's assume that severe storms like Katrina will increase nearly 50%, that there will be more fires (if you live in California, that should give you pause), and that oceans will sour and acid rain will increase. Let's assume that the growing season will shift and that our growing lands will become more susceptible to pests like the boll weevil and our cities to mosquitoes with malaria and West Nile. Let's assume that the frozen methane under the sea and the Siberian permafrost melts as temperature rises, since it's 23 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. 

Why should you care?

Let's extrapolate from these ideas. If the sea levels rise 12 feet, that means we'll lose a lot of mangrove forests, coastline, shallow water habitats, swamps, and estuaries. These environments play critical roles in regulating pollution, providing shelter to many different animals, food to many developing countries, and many other functions that we take for granted, called ecosystem services. 

Animals are going to die. They're going to become extinct as the ranges they inhabit shift, sometimes faster than the trees and plants can spread their seeds out from their traditional ranges. Snakes and other reptiles are going to starve when temperatures become higher during the day than they can stand, forcing them to abandon hunting for food. Fish, whales, dolphins, and other marine life are going to die off as the oceans get more acidic. People depend on fish and other marine life for their livelihoods. Polar bears are dying as their young have less ice sheets to rest upon, so they drown trying to travel. 

Pretend for a moment that you don't care about baby polar bears or snakes or any of the hundreds or thousands of other species that will die. 

You and your family, your future or current children, are not exempt from the power of nature. 
Diseases will increase. UV-B levels will rise, and cancer will increase. Food-borne diseases will increase, and nutrition will decline. Allergies and asthma will get worse as plant blooms shift and pollution increases, and there will be more cardiovascular disease from pollution. There will be less clean drinking water as the sea levels pollute the freshwater. Nature will kill more people from pollution, disease, and weather disasters. 

Now, taking all that into account, why should you change? 

Think long and hard about the world you want to live in. Even if this is exaggerated (and keep in mind, this is the mid-range estimate of effects), these effects are supposed to hit in the next 50 years. That's well within my lifetime, and probably within yours. Even if these actions are exaggerated, think hard. 

Do you really want to risk it?

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