Polar bears in Hawaii?

I’m going to miss polar bears in the arctic.  The way the ice is melting, they are going to have to relocate to Hawaii.  They are a grand mammal.  As a human, I’m reconciled to the fact that my species has put many other species out of business.  It’s unfortunate, because there is so much that they could teach us.  They don’t call it survival of the fittest for nothing!

Melting ice, rising seas, stronger storms and longer droughts.  Instead of complaining about them, let’s do something about them.  How about moving our cities to higher ground?  That will make a lot of great job openings in the construction and furniture moving industries.  Insurance rates will have to rise.  That will mean lots of great jobs for adjusters, actuaries, and salespeople.  Food prices will rise and become less predictable.  Maybe that will help drive more people to buying good, natural, organic local produce.

There’s a good chance the next hurricane or earthquake will catch us by surprise.  Precious funds will be spent rebuilding instead of relocating.  Those same funds won’t be available for science, or for maintaining our infrastructure.  Society will slowly decline.

Then again, perhaps the rising sea will activate a country like China to take a bold move.  Something we have been dreaming about for decades, but never had the courage or commitment to enact.  Perhaps, like a tiger backed into a corner, the Chinese will spend their resources on developing a colony on the moon.  In this way, though many would perish on the shrinking coastline remaining on Earth, a few courageous colonists would transport the culture to a new world.  It’s like putting some of your valuables in a safe, or putting your eggs in two baskets instead of one.  The Chinese may be able to safeguard their culture in ways our own nation can no longer afford.

After all, it first takes recognition of the problem (climate change – rising seas – etcetera), the ability to plan for the long term (Chinese communist government creates 5 year plans), a population that is relatively easy to lead, and a whole lot of cash!

So, climate change may not be as bad as “they” say it is.  Warmer winters up north, and maybe a Chinese colony on the moon.

As far as our behavior is concerned, there is a far more serious threat to our existence.  science likes to say that in climate change we are fiddling with Mother Nature.  And Mother Nature does NOT like fiddling; and she takes no prisoners.  However, we are fiddling with Mother Nature in ways that are far more serious than anything climate change can bring.  But that’s for next week.

In the meantime, I’m going to hug my stuffed polar bear.

 

Can you change your underwear without changing the climate?

The North Pole is melting!  My beach is getting smaller!  Polar bears are moving South!  And carbon dioxide is hazardous to your health!

We’ve all heard the news, especially on a hot or cold day.  In the US we have the added benefit of also hearing from climate change deniers.  It remind me of when most Europeans thought Columbus would fall off the edge of the Earth.  Denying reality can make for good politics, but lousy science.  Oh heck, who am I kidding?  Denying reality is what politics is all about!  We’ll focus on politics another day, when we’ve both had more to drink.

Today I want to talk about climate.  What is climate?  Climate is the weather that you expect to get.  What is weather?  Weather is what you actually get!

Now, here’s the big idea for today’s entry; mankind has been altering the climate ever since we’ve been old enough to smoke!  No, I don’t mean smoking the evil weed.  I’m referring to FIRE!

But wait, there’s more.  We’re not the only species that’s guilty of this heinous crime, if it really is a crime.  It turns out that all life has been altering climate ever since, well, life itself!  Here’s the crime scene.  A tiny rocky planet, bombarded with watery comets and lots of dust, about 4 billion years ago.  It gets cool enough to start thinking about a vacation in Alaska when suddenly some blue goo appears on the beach.  Fine, not exactly “suddenly,” but you get the idea.  In fact, we have no idea how life started, but we do know about the goo.  There was enough of it that it formed hard layers in the early seas and hardened into rock.

The cool thing about this blue goo is that it was able to use the sunlight to take apart the atmosphere in such a way that it could feed itself; photosynthesis.  The blue goo was algae, and the atmosphere was pretty much all nitrogen and carbon dioxide.  A real bummer if you were an oxygen breather, but for CO2 beings life was great.

The greatest think about blue goo was that it took in CO2 and “pooped” oxygen.  In fact it took a few BILLION years for the algae to make enough oxygen to make it worthwhile for us oxygen breathers to bother being born.  Today there’s just enough oxygen to keep us breathing easy, but not enough to set the world on fire.  Literally.

So the algae “terraformed” the planet, making it habitable for us humans.  Did anyone complain back then?  I can imagine the cover of the “Algal Times” as it must have appeared 2 billion years ago.  “Experts claim climate change inevitable. Oxygen rising to dangerous levels! All life in danger!  Film at 11!”

The papers were partly right – climate change did occur.  But life didn’t die out, not all of it anyway.  It partially died, while others took the opportunity to use this new powerful gas and went on to create millions of new species… including us.

All life changes our planet in some small way, simply by existing.  The real question is, how much will it change?  How much of that change is due to our “natural” behavior, and how much is “willful” or unnatural?  Even more important are these last questions, how do we want to react to the coming changes.  Can we ignore it?  Or should we start learning how to swim?

I hope I don’t run into a polar bear.