The Burden of Proof
By Bergin Parks on 07/03/2012 @ 12:00 AM
So far this year, more than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires nation-wide. In my home state of Colorado, this has been the most destructive and costly fire season ever. Drought, combined with what in the past would have been considered unusual heat is an indicator that the fire season is probably not over.
The Pine Beetle, one of the largest exacerbating factors in wildfire danger in the Rocky Mountains, burrows its way into tree trunks, exuding a toxin that suffocates the tree. In previous decades, the majority of the beetles at high altitude would die off annually during the coldest months of winter. This seasonal die off is a thing of the past, symptomatic of the malfunctioning metabolism of the larger ecosystem, no longer regulated by a relatively stable climate.
FCNL uses the term “anthropogenic climate disruption” because the term “climate change” is no longer accurate with respect to human influence, and therefore a little misleading. The climate is always changing, perpetually in flux, and that is natural. Many of earth’s systems are dependent upon the temperature variation that this dynamism provides. Anthropogenic climate disruption is the unnatural, human caused disruption of the natural variation in the temperature range responsible for localized weather events such as flooding, drought, heat waves, wind events and wildfires.
3,215 daily high temperature records were set in the month of June. Since Jan. 1, the United States has set more than 40,000 hot temperature records, but fewer than 6,000 cold temperature records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
18 people died and 2.2 million people remain without power in the mid-Atlantic region, three days after a "super derecho" storm brought down power lines with near hurricane-force winds.
The worst monsoon floods in a decade killed more than 80 people and forced around 2 million more to leave their homes over the weekend in India. As sea levels rise, climate refugee numbers will increase, along with food and potable water shortages. Food and water shortages already fuel conflict in the developing world. In areas prone to flooding, sanitation issues and waterborne disease outbreaks will be of growing concern in the future.
What amazes me the most about these concerns is not that we see them manifest in the real world, but that some insist that human beings have nothing to do with it. A friend of mine lost his home to a wildfire in Colorado. Many of my co-workers remain without power and therefore air conditioning during a record breaking period of warmth. Without dependable electrical infrastructure, refrigeration and water pressure aren’t dependable either. Take a really dense urban environment like Washington D.C. that has no agricultural potential whatsoever. If, for example, refrigeration and water pressure were compromised by, say, a windstorm, the potential for food shortage and sanitation concerns becomes very real.
There are times when I wonder if we, as a species, have the collective potential to act in our own best interests. The world will continue on in one form or another, and there will likely always be some form of life present here. But in the grand scheme of things, human beings are incredibly fragile, and the conditions under which we can live, let alone thrive, on the surface of the earth actually do not afford us much room for error. The natural world is providing tangible proof that the scary theories hold water.
With what frequency and what degree of severity will these events finally grab our attention? What more could it possibly take?
I guess the most difficult thing about acknowledging the existence of a problem is that the next stage is doing something about it.