Monday, May 22, 2006
Adaptation - Natural Response to Change Like Global Warming
All environments are constantly in flux. Sometimes the changes are minor; a tree grows a bit more, and its shade stops the sun from reaching some plants that had thrived in a patch of land for decades. Sometimes the changes are major; an earthquake changes the course of a stream, completely altering life downstream.
It isn't necessary to believe in Darwinism to agree that all living things respond to these changes by adaptation. Some die, some change their habits, some change their physical attributes. Those groups that don't adapt become extinct, whether this happens because many trees grow so densely as to cut off all light to a large area of forest floor, or because an major earthquake alters a major water resource.
Due to literally millions of changes in our ecosystem, the earth has gone through millions of climatic changes, minor and major, localized and planet-wide. The plant and animal life has adapted to these temperature swings. Some have died. Some have changed.
Now we find our planet in the midst of another climate change. As we have become more adept at measuring changes in the oceans, earth's surface, and the atmosphere, we are able to say with some certainty that the earth is warming. Consensus puts that change at 1 degree F over the past 100 years. Thus far the change has not resulted in very substantial challenges for man or other living things. But it would be less than prudent to not contemplate the potential risks and rewards associated with further potential increases. Then, upon determining what those risks and rewards might be, to take steps to adapt to and such changes.
In no case, however, should we resort to panic over this issue. Time magazine declaring on its cover that we should be "very worried" or Al Gore producing a movie showing apocaplytic results from this warming do nothing to help the situation. Rather they engender unnecessary fear, anxiety, and depression in folks who have much more pressing things to deal with. When one takes a long view on this subject, such talk by scientists, pundits, and politicians can only be seen as blatant scare mongering. The intent would appear to be selling magazines, increasing personal power, and/or raising research funding. If those who hold that substantial warming is coming were truly concerned only with raising awareness and creating action, then the tone would reflect that. Right now, the tone reflects something far less attractive.