A Clear And Present Threat To Our Children

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<p>Trees killed by drought and beetles in Yosemite Valley</p>

Trees killed by drought and beetles in Yosemite Valley

Michael Piraino

I have always believed we have a sacred responsibility to assure the safety and well-being of all children. There can be no greater obligation than this. And yet, while we wring our hands about how our kids are doing today, there is a looming clear and present threat to their future well-being.

That threat is our changing climate. Virtually every prediction about climate change is coming true in the real world. Not in the halls of congress, not in scientific institutes, but outside everywhere on the planet.

Our short-sightedness on environmental issues today will have a devastating impact on our children and grandchildren throughout their lives. So below, I have collected facts about the already-occurring changes in our climate.

There are no pretend facts here. Nothing made up. Only things that are both well-documented and that you can go out and see, feel, touch and, for the most part, photograph. Whatever you think the reasons might be, our earth is changing for the worse, and we need to do something about it.

Increased global temperatures:

Higher ocean temperatures and mass bleaching of coral reefs:

  • The oceans have become steadily warmer since 1910.
  • Higher ocean water temperatures have caused three worldwide mass bleachings of coral reefs since 1998. Hundreds of miles of the Great Barrier Reef are now dead.

Melting sea ice:

  • The Arctic ice pack is now at least 60% smaller than in the 1980s.
  • Greenland's ice sheet is melting five times faster than during the 1990s.
  • 1 million square miles of arctic sea ice has been lost since the late 1970s. That’s equivalent to Alaska and Texas combined.
  • In October, 2016, sea ice was 28.5 percent below average — the lowest October level since records began being kept in 1979.

Retreat of glaciers:

  • Glaciers worldwide have been shrinking steadily since 1945.
  • The North Cascades glaciers have lost a third of their volume since 1984.
  • There are only 25 glaciers in Glacier National Park now, compared to 150 in the mid 19th century. At this rate, there will be no glaciers in Glacier by 2030.

Rising sea levels and flooding of coastal areas:

  • After remaining steady for 2,000 years, sea levels rose throughout the 20th century. The rate of rise has accelerated since 1990.
  • There has been increased nuisance flooding (“sunny-day flooding”) on the US east and gulf coasts.

Growth of ocean algae:

  • The annual growth of ocean algae increased 47 percent between 1997 and 2015.
  • Large algae blooms and dead zones have occurred in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay.

Reduced mountain snowpack:

  • There was a record low winter snowpack in the western US in 2015.
  • From 1955 to 2015, April snowpack declined by an average of 23 percent at more than 90 percent of the sites measured by scientists. Winter snowpack melts happen four weeks earlier than in prior decades.

Extreme and extended droughts:

  • The drought in California killed over 102 million trees, increasing the risk of large and costly wildfires.

Decline of wild animal populations:

  • 80,000 reindeer starved due to Arctic ice melting and the resulting heavy rains.
  • Polar bears are starving in summer because the ice they rely on for hunting melts earlier in spring and freezes later in fall. The bears are thinner and less healthy than 20 years ago.

Changed migration patterns of birds, insects and animals:

  • The average winter “center of abundance” for north American birds moved more than 40 miles north between 1966 and 2013.
  • Insects such as aphids are flying earlier and for a longer time.
  • Fish species are moving north to find cooler water.
  • Animals in Yosemite are moving higher to find cooler temperatures.

Bigger and hotter forest fires:

  • Forest fires now tend to be bigger and hotter.
  • The number of large wildfires increased from 140 in the 1980s to 250 in the past decade, and the acreage burned has increased annually since the 1980s. The wildfire season is now two months longer compared to the 1970s.

More powerful storms and increased heavy rainfall events:

  • Cyclones and hurricanes have been more powerful over the past 30 years. Six of the 10 most active cyclone years have happened since the mid-1990s.
  • There are more intense rainfall events and heavy flooding in the US.
  • There were at least eight events in the United States over two and a half years in which precipitation exceeded the amount that should just occur once in 500 years.
  • These extreme single-day precipitation events have increased significantly since 1980.

Acidification of the oceans:

  • Ocean carbon dioxide levels have risen as the oceans absorb some of the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Ocean acidity has increased 30% since the industrial revolution began.

Later freeze dates and earlier thaw dates:

  • Lakes freeze later and thaw earlier than in the past.
  • The growing season in the contiguous US has increased by nearly two weeks since the beginning of the 20th century.
  • Arctic spring melt occurs about three and a half weeks earlier on average, while the fall freeze starts three and a half weeks later. This has resulted in seven weeks’ loss of hunting habitat for polar bears.
  • Leaf and bloom dates occur earlier throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Decreased snowfall:

  • Spring snow cover throughout the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades, and that snow melts earlier.
  • Since 1930, many parts of the US have had decreased total snowfall.

Growth of insect populations and associated diseases:

  • The incidence of Lyme disease has doubled since 1991, as the deer tick’s range has expanded.
  • Mountain pine bark beetles have destroyed more than 60 million acres of American forest.

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