Friday, March 28, 2014

Climate Change: A Background Noise of Our Daily Lives

There doesn't seem to be any way to make climate change a fun topic to discuss.  I suppose it inhabits an obtuse region in our minds that is best ignored, least we start to worry about something that we won't be around to have to cope with.

I attended a conference in the last several days in which the state of many of the most beloved American national, state and city parks were discussed.  The conversation frequently returned to the reality that increasingly large portions of the limited funds for our parks are now being directed to try to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In the East Bay Regional Park System, more than two million dollars per year now needs to be directed toward eucalyptus tree removal.  These trees are becoming an increasing fire hazard with the increased intensity droughts.  It was mentioned that many of the lakes, which also form part of the East Bay watershed, may be dry for part of the year in the not too distant future.

On the east coast, the directors of several parks on the eastern seaboard, including of one park on Long Island that is a popular weekend vacation spot for New Yorkers, mentioned that rising sea levels are driving the need for complete park redesigns and flood control.

In the same conversation, a planner of Central Park mentioned that a single extreme squall in 2009 had destroyed 500 trees at one end of the park in just a few minutes.

These are only the most obvious impacts.  The longer term more gradual impacts, the species extinctions and shifting ecosystems, are buried away in scientific papers.

One woman, a coordinator of a major park system in Boston, mentioned that her now adult children, who had experienced the coral reefs in the Caribbean while growing up, recently had told her that there's no point in teaching their children about coral reefs because they soon won't exist.  She and her children already had witnessed the disappearance of these reefs in many places.

Not discussed in the conference, but strangely experienced in the last year by people I personally know, were the related "hundred year" floods in Boulder, Colorado and Calgary, Alberta.

There doesn't seem to be much in the press.  All of this mounting evidence of climate change just becomes part of the background noise of our daily lives.

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