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ARE HUMANS THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND DESTRUCTIVE CLIMATE CHANGE?

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EDITORIAL

People here on the reservation probably find little time to consder the implications, but recent pleas for massive carbon dioxide reduction worldwide, coming from the European Union (EU) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at their New Zealand conference of world leaders, are still not enough to truly lessen the impact of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), known as “climate change,” or stem massive wildlife disappearances now occurring globally, and points to other signs of an increasingly unstable climate across the planet.

Earlier this year, the World Meteorological Organization reported that the world is roughly five times as prone to disaster as it was just 40 years ago.

China and the United States last week announced new pledges on greenhouse gas emissions, which American Republicans immediately denounced, further displaying to the world their anger that an African-American sits in the White House. With nearly half the country literally enraged that a black man presently sits in a post they believe was reserved by the founding fathers for white men only, the next president in 2016 may find it difficult upholding any promises made now.

President Barack Obama said the historic move with China would be contrasted with his setting a new goal of reducing U.S. levels up to 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. China did not set a specific target, but said its emissions would peak by 2030, from which it could then act.

Considering how much the planet already is being affected by climate change or ACD every year with continuing new emission records being reported by scientists around the world, these gestures may seem to fall far short of what we think governments should be doing.

The same might be said of the recent IPCC statement announcing that fossil fuel use, such as burning gas and coal, must be completely eradicated by 2100.

And warning signs of progressing ACD continue to mount, not only in carbon emissions from the oceans but from ice melt.

Caribou feces found in a 700-year-old ice layer contained an infectious virus, reminding us of unintended consequences from overheating the planet. According to the report, potential threats to people and wildlife through melting caused by ACD are increasing. It confirms that virus particles are good time capsules that preserve their core material, making it likely many unknown prehistoric viruses are still infectious to plants, animals and humans.

Warmer winters in Alaska are causing geese to forego their usual 3,300-mile migration, evidence of how climate disruptions are affecting wildlife. Before 1977, fewer than 3,000 of one bird species wintered in Alaska. In recent years, more than 40,000 have remained, and as many as 50,000 stayed last year.

The Amazon rainforest has been degraded by for-profit corporations to the point where it is actually losing its ability to regulate weather systems.

In California, sandhill cranes are finding their habitat squeezed by the ongoing drought in that state, as more birds are being forced into smaller areas.

Over in Europe, common birds like the sparrow and skylark are in decline across the continent, having decreased by more than 420 million in the last three decades, a recent study showed.

A report from a global analytics firm described ACD as affecting 32 farming-dependent nations, which now face “extreme risk” of civil unrest, even full-fledged wars, over the next 30 years.

ACD has been added as one of the causes for fewer bees, according to new research. The increase in global temperature could be disrupting the “synchronization” that has evolved over millennia between bees and the plants they pollinate.

Elsewhere, more than 50 percent of China’s arable land is now degraded, according to its own scientists. The country now has a reduced capacity to produce food for the world’s largest population, and ACD is named as one of the leading causes.

If you are feeling down about all the bad news about ACD, there’s good reason. Professor Camille Parmesan, an ACD researcher who shared a Nobel Peace Prize, is blaming her depression on ACD.

“I don’t know of a single scientist that’s not having an emotional reaction to what is being lost,” Parmesan said. “It’s gotten to be so depressing that I’m not sure I’m going to go back to this particular site … because I just know I’m going to see more and more of it dead, and bleached, and covered with brown algae.”

Maine’s shrimp season has been cancelled for the second straight year. A committee report said the 2014 spring shrimp survey showed the shrimp population for this year was at its lowest level in 31 years, and worse than last year, and attributed the dramatic decline to rising ocean temperatures.

An ocean sunfish turned up in the net of some researchers in Alaskan waters. The sunfish is usually found in the tropics, and incredibly rare in Alaska. A few days later, another showed up.

“Not only did we get two aboard in one week,” said Wyatt Fournier, a research fish biologist, “but my commercial-fishing buddies started telling me they were bumping into them when fishing for salmon.”

Melting Arctic ice is likely the cause of increasingly extreme weather in the United Kingdom, and a more turbulent Arctic Ocean will dramatically affect currents like the Gulf Stream. Troubling when one considers that the Arctic is warming at least twice as fast as the global average.

Scientist Jon Riedel, studying glaciers for more than 30 years, announced that North Cascades National Park has lost roughly 50 percent of its glacier area since 1900.

“The glaciers now seem to have melted back up to positions they haven’t been in for 4,000 years or more,” Riedel said, explaining how natural influences alone could not account for glacial retreat on such a scale, and that humans were now considered a major influence on climate change. “As a scientist, every time I come back here, this place has changed,” he said.

Back in Alaska, the massive Harding Icefield on the Kenai Peninsula is showing dramatic signs of melting. According to measurements taken by scientists this fall, nearly 28 vertical feet of ice was lost. The Exit Glacier has melted more in one year than since annual mapping of its terminus began.

Common knowledge among scientists is that the Arctic is the “canary in the coal mine” of ACD. It is warming faster than the rest of the planet.

“I think I have never, anywhere, seen such a large increase in temperature over such a short period,” said Gerd Wendler, the lead author of the study.

As ACD continues to melt the Arctic sea ice, California’s future droughts will be deeper and longer than even the current drought that is wracking the state.

Sao Paulo in Brazil, Latin America’s largest metropolis, is running out of water. For this mega-city of 20 million residents and the country’s financial hub, many of its taps have already run dry, and the future looks dire. The lakes that supply half of all water to the city have been drained of 96 percent of their water capacity; Brazil is in the midst of its worst drought in 80 years.

In the United States, with California now into the fourth year of its record-setting drought, the small farm town of Stratford is seeing its ground literally sink. Farmers having pumped so much water out of the ground that the water table below the town has dropped 100 feet in two years.

Satellite mapping provide a clear picture of why the entire western United States is in deep trouble when it comes to future freshwater supplies. Few enterprises that use large amounts of water, like farming and nuclear plants, have tried to change how they use water.

U.S. coastal cities are now flooding regularly during high tides, thanks in large part to rising seas from ACD.

Across the globe, the groundwater supply crisis is becoming so severe that the depletion of groundwater is now driving many conflicts around the globe.

Tornadoes in the United States are increasingly coming in “swarms,” rather than as isolated twisters.

Oceanographers are reporting that larger “dead zones,” (oxygen-depleted water where nothing lives) in the oceans are expected to intensify and grow due to climate change. According to the study, 94 percent of places where dead zones are located average temperatures are expected to rise by approximately 4 degrees Fahrenheit by the turn of the century.

The Antarctic ozone hole, letting in deadly sun radiation, reached its annual peak in September, and the size of this year’s hole was 9.3 million square miles, an area roughly the size of the entire continent of North America.

Still, denial of climate change in the United States persists.

A libertarian think tank sued the White House over a video that tied climate change to last year’s “polar vortex” that raked much of the country with extreme low temperatures.

Senate Republicans, soon to be the majority, are targeting the federal government’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

If you haven’t noticed, the “I’m not a scientist” excuse, or variations thereof, has been the predominant talking point for Republicans when it comes to climate change. When any group of politicians, lobbyists or corporate spokespeople begins saying the exact same thing, you know they are being coached.

The parent company of Fox News lost millions of dollars due to Superstorm Sandy, so now they are warning that climate change may bring more extreme weather.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said he feels a “deep responsibility” to “try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in” and stop them warning about climate change.

Another factor related to ACD is overpopulation—which tends to be shied away from most of the time, despite the obvious fact that more people consuming greater amounts of resources on an already far overtaxed planet is an equation that does not provide a happy ending. Populations which are already taking it on the chin from massive floods, intense heat waves and rising seas are those who are the most vulnerable.

In the wake of recent news of global emissions rising 2.3 percent in 2013 to shatter yet another record and marking the largest year-to-year increase in 10,000 years, scientists say the world isn’t moving anywhere near fast enough to slow down the massive impacts ahead due to climate change.

In South Dakota, residents will face worsening drought, more extreme weather, and eventual loss of water to the point that many people will be forced to move elsewhere in search of relief.

Wildlife worldwide will continue to grow scarcer, and humans will hold on as best they can. Once the human population decreases, whether through disease, famine, war, or migration to other planets or moons in the solar system, to the point that the Earth can begin healing itself, stabilizing a destructive climate, and replenishing its exhausted resources, a new dawn will arrive for humnkind. But perhaps we have all done this once before, in our distant and forgotten past.

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