Many people, myself included, refused for a couple decades to acknowledge that people could really affect the weather. My religious beliefs hold that God is in control of all things, yet God did put Adam as steward of the planet. Whatever your belief, in my lifetime, I have witnessed barely breathable polluted air over Southern California, rainy years, drought years, colder and milder winters, hotter and milder summers. Hurricanes. Tornados. Floods. Climate change is the topic that every schoolboy in the industrialized countries of the world has had stamped into their consciences in recent decades. Everyone from politicians in California to European “Green” parties demand humanity stop using resources that are “proven” to destabilize our climate and pollute the planet. For the last twenty years, politicians debate and people divide into camps. But does anyone really know a solution?
“something must be done”
There have, as yet, been no realistic nor popular solutions proposed nor any process enacted. One nation refuses to hinder their industrialization by employing technologies they cannot yet afford to mitigate pollution. Other nations have no solid infrastructure to enact regulation. In the First World, taxation is the first response to climate change, but hinders any real discussion or experiments at solutions that are not “lobbyist”-championed projects. (Several of these have all-but-embezzled millions of tax dollars.) For those of us who work many miles from our homes, lack of public transportation to get there is at odds with the government actions to dissuade personal vehicle use. (Population in most cities outside California is many factors more dense so personal vehicles are less efficient than mass transit.)
climate impacts humans
Geologically, human existence has been a blip on the clock. It is still unclear whether volcanism, sun spot activity, and tectonic forces are responsible for the oscillations in weather over millions of years. Weather changes created Ice Ages and in-between glacial periods caused sea level change. Drought, lasting decades and even centuries, put pressure on feeding ancient populations and caused ancient civilizations to decline.
A volcanic eruption of Santorini in the Mediterranean was a primary factor the successful Minoan civilization faded around 1500 BCE. From the Bible and other texts, years of record crops followed by drought and famine in the Middle East occurred. Yet history teaches us that human beings in sufficient numbers can alter the environment as well. The millennia that Middle Eastern, Egyptian, Roman and Greek people cut the “cedars of Lebanon” for ship timbers and structures has all but eliminated them. .
In northern Michigan 7000 years ago ancient ancient people mined copper; tailings and debris left behind tell the stories before 19th Century mining began there. But the growth of the world population and the demand for resources have caused more debilitating changes in many aspects on the planet. In more recent times, denser populations along the coasts – the heavy industrialization using coal, oil and natural gas for energy first in the Americas and Europe, then Asia and Africa have had unrestrained and inefficient (heavily polluting) consequences. After several decades, each region in turn developed a conscience about limiting “acid rain” and early deaths from lung diseases and cancers. Before government management in the Americas, clear-cutting forests and mining were damaging what we later preserved through government intervention. This is still rampant in Brazil and the Amazon Basin.
Strip mining that ruins the land and the chemicals used to extract metal poison groundwater in many developing economies. Of course, the topic that give California Jerry Brown the largest headache, is burning hydrocarbon fuels for energy,- releasing billions of tons of chemicals that were deposited over millions of years within the last century or two.
Less than two months ago, the Sonoma region of California became an inferno.
This week, another tragic environmental calamity is occurring not only a couple of hours north of me in northern Los Angeles but forty miles north of my home, the Lilac fire, in the hills at the edge of San Diego County. Wind-propelled wildfires have consumed the lives, property, and dreams of hundreds of residents, displaced thousands more. and killed dozens of stabled horses in the last days. Ten years ago, my third of the county was being turned to charcoal by wildfire. Coordinated effort of thousands of firefighters, military and civilians have managed to keep human casualties few while battling the environment.
Perhaps the Government and the governed can put down their acrimony long enough to work through “defensible space” in residential areas. Tangible efforts such as clearing wider swaths of highways near open country might prevent vehicle-caused brush fires. Remove diseased and non-native species of trees and plants, many of which are very flammable, by dedicated planned cutting and clearing. Allow natural clearing through regular controlled burning.
Living at the tectonic boundaries of continents, Asia-Pacific and western North, Central and Latin American residents, earthquakes, and the infrequent volcanic eruption destroy property, kill people living in un-reinforced structures, and wreak havoc. The residents of central Asia suffer a major quake every dozen years of so. A decade or more ago, a major earthquake severely damaged eastern Japan, and one previously induced tsunamis from Thailand to India. Volcanic eruptions occur over a geologic timescale, so it is often ignored by people from Indonesia, to Naples, Italy, to some Caribbean island residents who live on their slopes.
For those who live at tectonic boundaries, nations can provide technical expertise with construction, but it will be up to the affected nations to employ these methods and materials. While many nations do not have infrastructure, others have corrupt or ineffective leadership in their economies.
Hurricanes or cyclones or typhoons, and tornadoes are either more damaging now – or are more reported in the twenty-four hour news cycle. El Nino or La Nina cyclic ocean heating or cooling contribute to heavy growth of fuel for fires in wet years in the western US, then in dry years contribute to tinder-dry fire conditions; hot winds blowing toward the Caribbean from western Africa mix to become tropical depressions and then storms that churn into the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico or Eastern seaboard. For this hemisphere, it is a roulette wheel every June through September where storms will make landfall. Hurricanes in 2017 have ruined large swaths of the Caribbean, and flooded southeastern Texas. For other hemispheres, cyclones or typhoons have often killed many and displaced thousands in the Philippines, and coastal Indian Ocean countries.
Nature has a way of mitigating hurricanes through dense miles of mangrove swamps; humans building in flood-prone regions, building over land that would absorb or deflect flooding has had devastating effects. Home owners who have properties along the beaches where hurricanes have come ashore frequently make a choice to live there, yet the debris that piles up and down the coastline is environmentally damaging and take a long time to remove. With storms such as that which struck New York in winter, or Houston, or Puerto Rico and the eastern Caribbean this year, there may be more frequent and stronger storms in future years. Sea walls, restored wetland, stronger levees, stockpiled supplies and more durable materials are some of the things that people can demand.
From westerly ” Santa Ana” winds out of the deserts of California that dry out vegetation in the forests and hills every Fall (and sometimes Spring through Fall), to the tornadoes that develop in the Central and Eastern United States when cold air masses clash with the warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, to hurricanes, wind is a major force to be reckoned with. As part of the whole climate debate, people want to use wind to generate power yet curse it when it accelerates fires, lift roofs off schools, blow down trees or sink ships at sea. As a natural force, wind is not going to be stopped by human will. However, more intelligent design for buildings may mitigate storm damage.
I am so exhausted listening to everyone blame climate change for the problems in the world. It is not the weather “why” I care about. It’s how the world population – as a whole – intends to alter in meaningful ways the slide to more unstable and unpredicable future. As long as there is President Obama-style unilateral initiatives or Congressional “legislation” or California bureaucratic fiats without real adoption in the new industrializing regions of the world – there is no leadership. However social media page “Likes”, group-think, hysteria and the resulting inaction is a poor gift for future generations.