Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change - We Should Prepare To Adapt

Well, I have to say that I was a little disappointed when I heard that this year's Blog Action Day was voted "overwhelmingly" to be devoted to climate change. It seems to me like there are many issues out there that we have far more ability to control that could be discussed. Still, I respect what Blog Action Day stands for, and I do believe that climate change is a significant issue... just not in the way that most people have now been taught to believe.

It is a fact that our earth's temperature is rising. It is a fact that this could have major consequences for our environment ranging from crop production to ocean levels. Another fact, one that is seldom talked about, is that the earths climate is constantly changing, and has been doing so for eons of time before humans first harnessed fire and artificially released CO2 into the atmosphere - let alone drove the first gas guzzling SUV. The earths geological history is full of periods of dramatic global cooling (what we call: "Ice Ages") and warming.* The last ice age that our planet experienced was actually in the late middle-ages** and stretched on until around the founding of the United States (notice the ice blocks in the painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze; the Delaware has never been known to freeze in recent history). This "little ice age" ended in the 1800's, which means that since then, the earth has essentially been in a stage of "global warming". All this without the aid of fossil fuels.

Now that I've vented my skepticism toward our ability to start climate change (and therefore our ability to stop it) I'd like to again recognize that it is a reality, and say that I think it's important to think about, and prepare for.

Preparedness should be our main concern. If the current trend of global warming and subsequent rising ocean levels continues, it is going to put nations with a lot of coastline in a very bad way. Many of these nations are highly impoverished and will likely be unable to deal with the humanitarian crisis or thousands or millions of people being displaced. A plan should be put into place to deal with this situation now, before it occurs.

The other chief concern should be agriculture. If climate zones change, then crops that grew well in one area may suddenly find their ideal habitat has moved North or South. Farmers will need to be prepared to adapt to the new environment. Given the huge scale and factory orientation of most farms today, such a change may prove difficult for farmers to finance on there own, and the government should plan on assisting in the change, as well as provide expert advice and counseling on what steps should be taken.

While climate change in the past may have altered human history, it has never seriously threatened our survival as people. This has been because we adapted to it; not because we tried to stop it. Preparation to adapt should be our primary concern with regards to climate change.

* Glacial periods. Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition [serial online]. January 2009;:1. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 15, 2009.

**Fagan, Brian M. The Little Ice Age: how climate made history, 1300-1850

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