Thoughts on the Climate Change

With all the strange weather we’ve had the past few years, climate change has risen to the top of the pool of public topics. People debate over whether there’s a such thing or not. Whether it’s human caused or natural. Whether Al Gore invented it or not.

For one torturous year, I took graduate-level atmospheric science classes. If you think meteorology is just looking at radar screens and stuff, you’re wrong. It’s math. Heavy duty math. Math involving the rate of accretion of a water molecule falling through a cloud of a certain ambient temperature with so much humidity and a wind velocity of something. And at what point would it turn from a molecule to a water droplet of what diameter. Ugh. It had been 10 years since I’d had differential equations so I didn’t remember them too well. And the partial differential equations in the cloud physics equations did me in—I’d never taken the class. About the only thing I remember from that class is the professor said there was no such thing as climate change. I wonder if he’s changed his tune in the last 21 years?

Personally, I think the climate may be changing, but it’s not a new phenomenon. Remember hearing about the Ice Age when glaciers covered the northern half of North America? The climate changed and warmed up enough to melt all those glaciers. Animals species died out, like the mammoth, giant sloth, and saber-tooth tiger. Some people think that those animals died off when over-hunted by prehistoric man, but others think that with the warming earth came new botanical species. With a change in grass and forage species, the diet of animals was likely impacted. Some survived while others didn’t. But whatever the reason, climate and species diversity changed after the Ice Age without influence by mankind. Back then, the animals followed their food supply and prime habitat wherever it happened to be. Humans followed the animals, their food supply. There weren’t too many political boundaries back then so they could follow them easily and adapted to the new conditions right along with the animals.

Then settlements came and political boundaries and following food supplies became impossible. The Little Ice Age lasted from 1350 to 1850. Winters were very long and very bitterly cold. Summers were short and cool. Poor crop yields caused wide-spread starvation which brought on political upheaval. Places that had food were seen as new territory for conquest so wars were pretty common during those times. Forced migrations moved the population around. In short, a lot of people suffered and died during the Little Ice Age because of its effects on food supplies. A book called The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850 by Brian Fagan explains the time period in detail. Interesting reading on the effects of climate change.

Climate has never been stable in the long term. It’s dynamic and ever-changing. Is it changing now? Probably. Is it man-caused? I think it’s exacerbated by human activities, but human activities are not the sole cause of climate change. Climate changed in the past and there’s no reason to think it would quit changing at this point in time. It’s called uniformitarianism. So nothing is new under the sun other than our expectations that everything will always stay the same. It’s like building a house on the edge of a creek and expecting that the creek will never flood. Mother Nature may have other ideas.

Our problem is that humans are less and less adaptable to their environment. The animal species are moving again, following their food supply and habitat just like they have always done. Humans don’t—or rather can’t—do that anymore. So we sit and suffer the consequences of climate change. The food crops in California have already been affected. Instead of arguing about whether the climate is changing, we should spend more time on what we can do to adapt crops and lifestyles to future climate conditions. That’s just my opinion on the matter.

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