How Climate Change Affects Vacation Priorities


So, when the climate change poop hits the fan, who is going to be in for the worst ride? What parts of the world should I vacation at now because they will be uninhabitable in the future? Exactly where will be the safest place for the gringa and the caveman to diddle away their golden years?

Well, we better get busy and visit all the beach hotspots that are alive and kicking right now. With sea levels rising, the coastal cabanas of today will be reef material tomorrow. And, considering that climate change creates erratic and extreme weather patterns such as: heavy rain here, drought there, devastating tornadoes everywhere; well, there is no uniform model of what’s going to change where or when. The only concrete expectation right now is what models predict about low elevation islands and coastal beachlands. They are pretty much going to be history, some maybe within my lifetime.

Other areas scientists expect to change dramatically are regions that have a delicate ecosystem balance and are already experiencing hyper-sensitivity to environmental stressors. These areas include:

  • Arctic, specifically the tundra region
  • Boreal forest belt – This is the conifer forest that stretches across North America, particularly dense in the Pacific Northwest
  • Tropical Rainforest
  • Alpine regions
  • Steppes of Asia and the Americas
  • Prairies of Asia and the Americas
  • Deciduous forests of South America and Australia

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth. The permafrost layer is melting. Glaciers are getting smaller and sea ice is disintegrating. The wildlife of the Arctic will probably be a loss to the world. They depend on a habitat that is going to grow too warm to support their needs. The indigenous people of this region will experience a loss of their culture that is strongly dependent on the wildlife and natural geography. The humans will have the adaptation advantage that the wildlife and fauna do not have. But the loss of their culture is still something to mourn over.

The boreal forests of North America are important carbon sponges for the earth. What will a degree or two warmer mean? As temperatures warm the center of the United States, the boreal forest will shift northward. Predictive models sees the United States losing its boreal forest as it relocates to Canada and Alaska. So, we won’t lose them, they will relocate. That’s good news in the aspect that at least the Earth will retain a critical carbon filter.

Researchers in tropical rainforests mark trees and track them for years, measuring them to see how they are responding to climate change. A group in the Bolivian Andes are studying a swath of diverse trees and plants that thrive in a limited temperature range. As temperatures rise, so do the trees. New, baby trees are growing uphill. Just as the North American model predicted a forest migration, the same is expected of the tropical rainforests. They will abandon the lowland jungle regions and migrate up the mountainsides, seeking cooler temperatures.

Alpine regions are going to experience the same forest creeping phenomena. As glaciers continue to recede, alpine plants will continue to move upwards looking for cooler temperatures and water. However, eventually, when all the glacier water has melted and run off or evaporated, this critical component of the annual water budget will be gone forever. Plants and trees dependent upon it will eventually be extinct. So Alpine ecosystems will not only migrate, they will migrate to a slow death.

The upside of forest migration is that the Earth is trying to compensate and save herself. The downside is that the migration process is slower than the warming process. This means there will still be catastrophic loss of tropical rainforest and alpine habitat. This will affect the wildlife dependent on these ecosystems as well as their indigenous people.

Experts predict the possibility of losing over half of the steppe habitats due to the effects of climate change. They are not modeling a migration of fauna, but a loss. Steppes are critical grazing areas. As the steppes experience habitat loss, growing smaller, overgrazing occurs on the remaining areas. The effects then are coupled: climate change related drought and overgrazing. Things look dire for the future of the steppes and the animals and shepherds and ranchers who depend on them. The steppes could become the Earth’s future Sahara’s.

Unlike a conifer boreal forest or tropical rainforest that are green year round, a deciduous forest becomes barren in the winter season as the trees lose their leaves. Deciduous forests exist in tropical and temperate climates. Climate change models predict warmer winters affecting deciduous forests. This could lead to tree loss from pests and disease. In regions where devastating drought occurs, there will be higher tree loss. When a tree dies in the forest it also becomes fuel. In regions experiencing drought related tree loss, the dry conditions and increased fuel of more dead trees makes conditions ripe for voracious wildfires. So, if the drought or the bugs don’t wipe out the deciduous forests, the wildfires probably will.

The gringa thinks the list of vacation priorities should go something like this:

  • Arctic expedition
  • Steppe pack-mule trip
  • Deciduous and Alpine forest camp outs
  • Beach parties around the world
  • Tropical rainforest excursion
  • Bigfoot safari in the boreal forests of the Pacific Northwest

I don’t think climate change is going to sound the death knell for planet Earth and mankind. The gringa does believe it will be the end of many species of animals and plants that are with us today. It is also highly likely that entire cultures will be wiped out when they lose the habitats they rely upon. And usually species loss does not mean a gaping hole is left behind. Usually, another species fills the gap or a species evolves and adapts. So, the key word to focus on is “change”. It’s climate “change” not climate “loss”. But the change is as significant as the past disappearances of entire civilizations such as the Maya or entire animal classes like the dinosaurs.

At this point, I believe the consensus among scientists is that we have passed the tipping point. There is no going back and “fixing” things. We simply have to ride the lightning and deal with it. So, if a person is able and so inclined, they need to enjoy the world as we know it today and document it for the children of the future.

 

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Credit: http://www.notenoughgood.com

 

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Here Comes The Sun, Little Darlin’


China may be one step closer to saying, “Bye, bye,” to fossil fuels. With their latest invention, an artificial sun of hydrogen gas, in fact, an incredibly dense artificial sun of hydrogen gas that is triple the power of that glorious glowing ball of gas high in the sky, they may very well have a limitless power source.

The first thought is, “Hurrah! The global energy crisis is over! Human caused acceleration of climate change can be ceased with no more use of fossil fuels!” However, the gringa hates to be the cynic and rain on everyone’s parade. I will withhold my judgement that this incredible invention will work successfully, everything going as planned. And, if it does, that it will be put to use for humanitarian purposes for the benefit of mankind. The gringa will “wait and see”.

China’s Institute of Physical Science in Hefei is the brainchild and creator of a magnetic fusion reactor that has produced this seemingly inexhaustible source of hydrogen based energy. This is a direct outgrowth from technology developed over 60 years ago by Soviet scientists who created the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). It is a metallic chamber shaped like a figure-8.  The reactor can produce hydrogen energy up to 50 million Kelvins (that’s almost 50 million degrees Celsius or 122 million degrees Fahrenheit). Wow, that’s enough to curl my hair! Consider that the sun burns at about 15 million Kelvins. So, China’s man-made sun is more than three times as hot as the real McCoy. It’s not as big a deal as it seems because scientists were only able to maintain this core temperature for less than two minutes.

Now, really, this artificial sun news is really no new news. The Germans claimed to have created such a thing already. The real news is the length of time the existence of the “sun” lasted. However, at two minutes a pop, the gringa doesn’t see how this is really going to change the energy game around the world. China, Germany and Russia are still years, probably even decades, away from perfecting the technology to the point that it will even matter to mankind.

And really, despite all the fuss being made over China, artificial suns are actually a dime a dozen. The technology has been around for ages. And every nation that has a decent scientific community has one. Consider Coelux. This Italian invention uses nano technology to create the natural lighting of the sun and sky. This technology is being used around the world in museums, shopping malls, airports, subways, garages, and even homes.

However, the gringa’s favorite use of Italy’s artificial sun is in healthcare. The medical community is responding to the human aversion of being confined. By introducing artificial natural light (if THAT’S not an oxymoron!) into treatment rooms that are usually windowless, medical professionals are seeing patients respond positively through the psychological and physiological benefits of being in a space illuminated by the sun and sky.

People can even enjoy this at home. Even on a rainy day you can be enjoying the rays of a tropical sun. And the Italians are not just scientifically sterile in their lighting craft. Channeling Italy’s deep roots within the art community, they offer lighting perspectives for every taste: dramatic tropical sun, a gentle Mediterranean sun, or a cool Nordic sun. The gringa thinks this is sensational, um, I meant “sunsational” (darn you, auto-correct)!

Sources: South China Morning Post, www.scmp.com, www.coelux.com

Photo credit: www.coelux.com