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Effects of warming along the Pacific Coast
Jon Lebkowsky, 2 Aug 05

fish.jpgAlong the Pacific Coast this year water temperatures are increasing, dead birds are appearing on the beaches, fishermen are catching fewer fish, and there's relatively little plankton. CNN quotes Jane Lubchenco as saying "There are strange things happening, but we don't really understand how all the pieces fit together." Lubchenco, a Professor of Marine Biology and climate change expert, adds that this might be an anomaly or something more serious -- too soon to tell. Julia Parrish, associate professor in the School of Aquatic Fisheries and Sciences at the University of Washington, goes farther:

"Something big is going on out there," said Julia Parrish .... "I'm left with no obvious smoking gun, but birds are a good signal because they feed high up on the food chain."
In Washington State, they're seeing five to ten times the number of dead seabirds seen before, and this is related to rising ocean temperatures caused by a lack of upwelling, "a process that brings cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface and jump-starts the marine food chain." This brings to mind the ecosystem changes that were devastating marine and bird life in the Northern Isles of Scotland. If these patterns continue, they can be taken as increasing evidence of the impact of global warming.

What can we do, personally, about global warming? The Union of Concerned Scientists has a list of personal actions that can contribute to mitigation. The bottom line: determine what you're doing that could increase the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and stop doing it, or cut back. Use your car less, cut down on your energy use at home, buy efficient cars and appliances, and influence your community – these are a few actions you can take. Will this solve the problem? Unlikely at this point – but we might reduce the severity of climate change and its effects.

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How about Mother Nature and Plate Tectonics. There have been a great deal of quakes down to 7000 feet below sea level de Fucca and Gorda plates subducting under the N.A. Plate. Thus the activity of Mt. St. Helen [pop off valve] and quite possibly the release of large volumes of magma.

Posted by: eric on 2 Aug 05

Hopefully this is an unavoidable sign for the global-warming nay-sayers. Too bad it has to be this drastic.

However, there are some great things you can do to offset your CO2 emissions, which cause global warming. One solution is Green Tags, which certify that power is purchased on your behalf from renewable sources.

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Posted by: Ivan Storck on 2 Aug 05

"an unavoidable sign"

I doubt it, Ivan. Humanity's capacity for self-delusion is remarkable. This die-off will get blamed on natural cycles, or North Korea, or perhaps God getting angry over Portland liberals trying to pass a civil union law. Thousands in the region will suffer economically and note the loss of diversity with dismay, but America won't notice, because, you know, pffft! those tree huggers worry about everything and don't you know there's a war on?

When this starts happening all over, Red Lobster will switch to the All You Can Eat Guppy Feast. (Which its broad-bottomed customers won't notice anyway since everything is covered with an inch of fried batter anyway.)

When I first read this story in The Oregonian, I recalled, for the second time in the last few years, the environmental disaster subplot that was added to Harry Harrison's novel Make Room, Make Room! when it was adapted for film as "Soylent Green."

Heston's cop character, in the course of his investigation into a murder, grabs a scientific report put together by the Soylent Corporaton; he passes on to his housemate Sol (Edward G. Robinson) who gives it a good look-through. In a mostly-forgotten scene, he talks it over with some shocked colleagues. The krill has died off, and -- as Heston cries out at the end of the movie -- "The oceans are dying!".

Yeah, everyone remembers the "Soylent Green is people!" line, but Sol ranting about the greenhouse effect and that despairing "The oceans are dying!" is the warning that should have scared the shit out of us.

Posted by: Stefan Jones on 2 Aug 05

Thats more due to the fact that part gets cut out alot due to running time. Or voice overed by announcements about whats comming next... The shortened version doesnt even make any sense becuase of all the "unneeded" parts they cut out.

Posted by: wintermane on 2 Aug 05

well, for sure, this has me scared shitless.

Consider Pascal's cheesy wager, but then replace `God' with `anthropogenic global warming'

The latter version works far better logically, because while their are a multitude of gods to ruin Pascal's wager (which one to worship?),

there is only one earth.

Posted by: Jon S. on 2 Aug 05

I spend a lot of time with scientists who work on global environmental issues, and I can tell you that they are beginning to get scared silly. I mean really, *personally* affected by this stuff.

Whether or not this problem in the Pacific is tied to global warming, I'm amazed that my scientist buddies are suddenly all talking in whispers and saying "Oh my god" a lot more often than normal. The decline of the Pacific fisheries, record heatwaves across the world, the massive plankton bloom in the Baltic, the melting of glaciers across the northern hemisphere, and so on. This stuff is getting scary, and fast.

Until the last few years, most scientists who worked on these problems still kept the issue at a distance -- it was still an academic exercise, right? But I suspect, just by watching a bunch of them over the last decade, that the tone and seriousness of their observations has really changed, especially in the last few years.

Maybe it's just me. But I think an informal poll of scientists would reveal a much more serious tone -- way more serious than the concerns of only 5-10 years ago.

Just some food for thought. Does anyone have other observations to share here?

May we live in interesting times....

Posted by: Anonymous on 2 Aug 05

When I interviewed Dr. James White at the University of Colorado in 2001 for my Whole Earth Review piece about global warming, we discussed how scientists can be misinterpreted because of the way science works. However certain they might've felt about the fact and potential effect of global climate change, any predictions they made were expressed as hypotheticals, which made it easy for nay-sayers (e.g. the Bush administration) to suggest that scientists were uncertain. In fact they weren't (and eventually some scientists became more vocal and proactive, seeing that policymakers weren't getting it).

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 3 Aug 05



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