Mosquito-borne diseases expanding their range. Hurricanes intensifying rapidly. Unprecedented amounts of seaweed washing up on our beaches and covering the sea in the channel between St. Croix and St. Thomas.
Is Climate Change coming to the Virgin Islands early? It is sloppy thinking to connect one incident to Climate Change. The real question and the connection to be made – What are the patterns we see; do they relate to what the scientists are telling us?
Two large concerns climatologists have are sea level rise and coral bleaching. I have not scientifically studied these areas. However, what I have observed and have heard from National Park Services rangers who have studied these areas gives no reason for comfort. Snorkelling at Tamarind Beach and diving off The Wall, I have seen dead coral. Walking Ha’Penny beach for a decade, I have found that it appears to be getting smaller and smaller.
But let’s leave those two concerns alone now. Let’s take mosquito borne diseases. In June of this year, the Virgin Islands had its first confirmed case of chikungunya, by September there were fifty cases. Chikungunya was found in Africa in the early 1950s, moved to India and Indian Ocean islands in the 1980s; now it is in the Caribbean in full force. Of course, we can’t off handily attribute chikungunya to Climate Change. Many factors are involved. What is worth noting is that this spread fits the predictions of scientists and it fits a pattern.
Here is what a report in the Health and Human Rights Journal said earlier this year. “Chikungunya is a re-emerging arbovirus that causes significant morbidity and some mortality. Global climate change leading to warmer temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns allow mosquito vectors to thrive at altitudes and at locations where they previously have not, ultimately leading to a spread of mosquito-borne diseases.”
Climate Change denialists are correct in saying we can’t prophesize the future. However, human life has thrived because humans have been able to make calculations based on observations and use those calculations to make some good guesses about what is going to happen next. It might not be politically correct or economically comfortable to see what our continued addiction to fossil fuel holds for the future, but wise people should not ignore scientific observations and predictions.
Let’s look at seaweed. Yes, algae blooms come and go. In recent years ugly green stuff has been growing by the boardwalk near Seaborne. And it appears to be spreading further down toward Brew Pub. We can let that one go, too. It can be attributed to run-off of sewage in the area and not necessarily attributable to Climate Change, although scientific observations tell us algae of all sorts grows better in warm water.
It is harder to discount the huge amounts of Sargassum seaweed that is piling up on our beaches. It is not there because of sewage run off. John Farchette, who works at the East End Marine Park and a native Crucian, says he has never seen anything like this before. We can attribute this to changing ocean currents. But guess what, scientists long time ago predicted that rising sea surface temperatures would cause changes in ocean currents.
Maybe, it is time to pay attention to what those scientists are saying. According to them, we are pumping 34 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere with our use of fossil fuel and other human endeavours. Half of that is sucked up by trees and the ocean (which is becoming more acidic, but that is another potential calamity we are too busy to think about now). Each 7 billion tons of CO2 raises the parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere by one or two parts per million. The scientists then alarm us with charts showing a correlation between the C02 in the atmosphere and temperature rise. It is easy to question those charts going back hundreds of thousands of years. How do they really know that? This is the place where the science denialist makes his confusion. Most lay people don’t understand the science behind those charts, so some one can say it is just a scam made up by the scientists to enslave people. Well, if you believe that scientists did not really land a man on the moon, you can believe this is a scam too
However, the argument that Climate Change is a scam gets hard to justify when trends that are predicted get verified with observations -- personal observations as well as those contained in scientific papers.
The scam option also loses credibility when noted that the politicians who advocate the scam position hold their offices because of money supplied to them by those who profit from the use of fossil fuel.
Why are we not taking bold steps to save our environment?
The analogy of the addict is appropriate. The alcoholic or the drug addict ignores the mishaps along the way. The addiction just feels too good to give up. The addict goes until he hits rock bottom. Sometimes, with drastic action, recovery is possible. Sometimes it is too late.