Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Is the Arctic Warming — Again?

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Dr. Aevar Petersen, chair of Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), recently told the Foreign Ministers of Arctic countries that the tree line in that region may grow 300 miles further north by 2100. “Changes seem to be happening even more rapidly than we had anticipated just ten years ago.… The tree line is moving north quite rapidly.”

Faster melting of snow and ice, according to those who believe in global warming, will let pine trees and foxes move to more northern climates. Evergreen shrubs could take over tundra currently containing only grasses, mosses, and lichen. One reason proposed for the supposed increased warming in the Arctic region is the recession of light-reflective ice and snow, allowing more exposure of darker soil and water, which can absorb more sunlight.

Petersen also warned of dangers to wildlife if the ice begins to melt in the Arctic regions. “We do fear for the polar bear if the ice is melting. It really hasn’t anywhere to go.”  Some radical reports suggest that the Arctic Ocean could be free of ice during the summer within the next 30 to 40 years. Not only polar bears will be affected, they say, but birds that nest on high ground in the region may find their chicks and eggs vulnerable to predators if the region warms. A report by CAFF claims that species in the northern part of the Arctic regions are decreasing while those in the southern areas are increasing.

The Foreign Ministers attending the CAFF meeting agreed to more cooperation in search-and-rescue operations for wildlife as the region becomes more accessible to drilling and mining for oil and other natural resources. They were warned that although a warming of the Arctic region would bring more forests, timber firms may not profit from the increased number of trees because pests and forest fires would also increase.

An analysis of the history of the specific regions covered by CAFF raises some questions about projections of alleged global warming over the next 90 years. A look back several hundred years in history demonstrates that our resilient planet has undergone several cycles of warming and cooling, with no long-term adverse effects. During a period of roughly 500 years, ending about 700 years ago, for instance, Europe experienced what was known as the Medieval Warm Period. During these centuries, there were a number of well documented effects. The Vikings were able to travel through ice-free waters that today are full of ice. Plants flourished in Iceland and Greenland that are not cultivated there today. Grapes grew much farther north than the Mosel River in Germany, which today is generally considered the northernmost area of growth.

The Medieval Warm Period was followed by a Little Ice Age, which lingered and affected both Europe and America as late as 1816. In that year — known as the “Year Without Summer” — snow fell in June throughout New England, and rivers and lakes in Pennsylvania were still frozen in July and August. Aside from our recent Little Ice Age, geologists know that there was an Ice Age thousands of years earlier in which a great part of North America and Europe was covered with glaciers.

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Because humans, wildlife, and plants survived these dramatic changes —  significant shifts between cold and warm and cool — it seems reasonable to assume that a warming of the climate that pushes the tree line a few hundred kilometers north in Europe and North America will have no more effect upon the long-term survival of living organisms than did the Medieval Warm Period.

Of course, it may be that the climate of our planet is not changing at all. If that is the case, then we live in very unusual times. Weather, by its very nature, is change. The dramatic natural occurrences of earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes  — not brought about by any works of man — can cause changes in the climate. The creep of glaciers has been accepted since the advent of modern geology to be evidence of constant, gradual climate change. And as these changes have been observed over the centuries, sciences such as geology, meteorology, and climatology have developed.

The warming of the climate, as the history of the Medieval Warming Period suggests, produces a flourishing of human civilization. The opposite is true when the planet cools significantly. The Little Ice Age, during which the Famine of 1315 occurred, has been associated with the Black Death — the bubonic plague — one of the most devastating pandemics in all history.

The earliest human civilizations prospered in semi-tropical climates such as Mesopotamia, the Nile Delta, and the Indus and Yellow River valleys. The history of the United States has been one of steady migration from the cooler Northeast to the warmer Southwest, as a chart of the demographic movement of the nation’s population shows. The warming of nations such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia should provide more habitable space, less need for fossil fuels to heat homes and buildings, and greater crop yields. 

Certain animals may find smaller areas in which to roam, but the science of wildlife conservation has shown that through the regulation of hunting seasons and other moderately calibrated measures, the populations of deer, bears, waterfowl, and other animals can be kept at healthy levels. It is a well recognized fact among state wildlife conservation departments that even without climatic changes, animal populations fluctuate a great deal from season to season. A modest tweaking of when certain animals can be hunted enables man to maintain those populations. Indeed, hunting is a highly effective means of actually helping to preserve species and monitor changes in animal populations.

Is northern Europe warming? The prediction of any climate change is not an easy task, as anyone who watches weathermen's "long-term forecasts" is well aware. One thing, however, is certain: Man, and God’s other creatures, are remarkably resilient. Early man adjusted from living in warmer weather to making fur coats from the animals they hunted as the climate cooled significantly. They survived, and so did the game they lived upon. Millions today around the Earth live happily in tropical regions as well as Arctic areas.

Our divinely created home was intended to let us be fruitful and multiply. It has served that mission well.