I struggle with maintaining a positive attitude about what we have done to our planet. I struggle to think about the climate refugees in Bangladesh that are fleeing the rising water, the wars for drinking water, and starvation caused by droughts. On a daily basis, I think about our garden and if we are on target with the right plants in the ground with changing climate zones. I obsess over the dark metal roof I picked out for aesthetics instead of a white one that wouldn't heat up as much. I research lightweight green roof soils and fantasize about a randomized complete block design to see which sedum species and soil particle size and bulk density combinations would do best on our south facing roof real estate. We could ameliorate the urban heat island effect with some nice flat, lightweight, planters up there. We can fix this. I find myself researching germination rates of sedum mixes. And then I realize I haven't done any work for 22 minutes and I go back to grading the lab reports of my students.
To see exactly how bad the warming is, I go to NOAA's website for the current information. I found their awesome site where you can graph temperature patterns over time and see the departure from normal. Probably the most intriguing and upsetting page was the analysis of last month, March of 2016. One paragraph stood out in particular. Read it carefully. I have pasted it below and cited it afterwards.
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for March 2016 was the highest for this month in the 1880–2016 record, at 1.22°C (2.20°F) above the 20th century average of 12.7°C (54.9°F). This surpassed the previous record set in 2015 by 0.32°C / (0.58°F), and marks the highest monthly temperature departure among all 1,635 months on record, surpassing the previous all-time record set just last month by 0.01°C (0.02°F). Overall, the nine highest monthly temperature departures in the record have all occurred in the past nine months. March 2016 also marks the 11th consecutive month a monthly global temperature record has been broken, the longest such streak in NOAA's 137 years of record keeping.
Wow. The past nine months have had the 9 highest departures from normal and March was the 11th month in a row that was have broken a high temperature record. This is terrifying. I view it as irreversible and it is on the scale of a generation or two. I compare climate change with an old friend that you see periodically that needs a hip replacement. You first detect a slight limp. A few years later, it's worse. But after 7 years, they are really walking funny. After a decade, you can spot their awkward gait from a quarter mile away. But they don't think it's as bad because it has been so gradual. I am afraid this is what it will be like. Will we be aware that it is happening? It's only a little warmer. Today was such a nice day. Maybe 80 in April is ok? But it isn't for the plants.
With regard to species composition, will we be able to comprehend the meaning of the loss of an individual organism? My favorite old oak tree might not make it. I would certainly be sad. What about a whole grove of trees though? What about when all the trees in Savannah die? That would surely generate some fear. Eventually some species would go locally extinct (extirpated).
I don't have any conclusion here though. I fast forward to the future. I see myself as an old man stumbling out of my underground house onto a post-apocalyptic landscape blinking awkwardly into the sun. I need to collect some rainwater, but it's really hard to carry the rain bucket with this bum hip I've got. Maybe I can do some stretches and loosen it up though...