Monday, August 23, 2010

Even Warmer

In 2007, Science Daily noted that geographers have projected temperature increases due to greenhouse gas emissions to reach a not-so-chilling conclusion: climate zones will shift and some climates will disappear completely by 2100. Tropical highlands and polar regions may be the first to disappear, and large swaths of the tropics and subtropics will reach even hotter temperatures. The study anticipates large climate changes worldwide.

Now, in 2010, we're seeing the global impact of this temperature and humidity increase. Science Daily notes that not only are the bioclimes shifting, but the impact of regional drought is significant on global plant productivity. Global plant productivity that once was on the rise with warming temperatures and a lengthened growing season is now on the decline because of regional drought, according to a new study of NASA satellite data.

The obvious issue here is the ability to grow crops and food, as well as feed livestock if agricultural productivity goes down because of drought and plant diseases fostered by new bacterium and insect vectors. One example of a serious problem here in California is Xylella fastidiosa, otherwise known as scorch, which is spread by the glassy-winged sharpshooter and affects grapes, citrus and many ornamental plants and trees, such as magnolias and oak trees. It could potentially devastate the Napa grape region.

This means that climate change is creating kind of a perfect storm of plant destruction, which is the source of oxygen and a means of tempering the local biozones. The various fungal and spore agents that are responsible for the decimation of the forests in the southwest, such as sudden oak death that appeared in 1995, are part of a growing decline in the ability of natural ecosystems to survive the temperature increases and drought that are also impacting these ecosystems.

We're facing a significant challenge on all fronts to maintaining a functional ecosphere, and one can only hope that immediate and effective measures can be implemented to prevent catastrophic change, but unfortunately the will does not seem to be there. The United States Congress, which is responsible for making decisions to protect our resources and population, has failed to make the hard decisions necessary to avert the runaway effects that are coming with climate change. It's too inconvenient. It's just more profitable to boycott world dialogue on this issue and keep burning carbon, and implement the cap-and-trade shell game as cover.

Unfortunately for all of us, it will take a climate shock to jolt us into belated, and possibly futile, action.

Update 11/24/18: On a warming planet, the climate zones shift