The toll of climate change
Dan Aspenwall’s letter of June 14 finds fault with the idea that human carbon use is causing climate change, and that the geologic record of ice ages and periods of warming prove that humans are not the cause of global warming. Climate change is not a random occurrence, but always the result of a cause. Some ice ages are the result of Earth’s cyclic changes from a more circular to a more ovoid orbit. The Earth’s tilt on its axis is also not stable and effects climate. These variables result in slow, predictable climate change. Catastrophic events such as meteor strikes and major volcanic events can cause rapid climate change.
The catastrophic event that is now causing rapid climate change is the result of human technology, i.e., the industrial revolution with mechanized extraction and combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. It is estimated that since 1870 humans have burnt 135 billion barrels of oil. We are now consuming about 100 million barrels per day. To dismiss this consumption as inconsequential to climate, and in contradiction to climate scientists is without evidence. It is only wishful thinking to justify not changing our behavior. If climate scientists have been wrong about the effects of releasing greenhouse gases, they were only wrong in underestimating the speed of change that would and has occurred.
Global warming is creating chaotic and unprecedented weather behavior that is detrimental to agriculture and harmful to human infrastructure. While the cost of changing to new technology is great, the cost of not changing will be even greater. Many people around the world have already experienced great hardship as a result of climate change. Unprecedented numbers of hurricanes, tornados, flooding, droughts, extreme heat events, and changes in the duration of seasons, are all taking a toll on economics. Fires are raging in rain forests where previously it was not considered possible. Like the burning of forests and the melting of arctic tundra, many symptoms of climate change are a positive feed-back loop that increases the rate of climate change.
Just go look
For those who are skeptical or undecided about the need for thinning unnaturally dense forest stands, I have a suggestion: Just go look. By all means, drive up Buttermilk Creek Road to see what is happening in the Mission Project. But, if you go, for context please take a little longer and go there by way of Thompson Ridge Road. This will take you through part of the 2021 Cedar Creek Fire.
Coincidentally, these areas are roughly equivalent in size. The Mission Project encompasses 50,200 acres, of which 10, 100 acres is being thinned, including 1,800 acres of commercial logging (amounting to less than 4% of the project area). The fire burned about 55,000 acres, utterly destroying about 24,000 acres of forest (amounting to 44% of the burned area). If you go, you will see miles of devastated landscape, including the charred remains of many old growth trees that had survived multiple previous fires. There is nothing natural about the fires that have been destroying vast swathes of our forests in recent years. If the losses we have sustained since the 2014 Carlton Complex Fire were natural, there would be virtually no forest on the landscape.
I am not arguing that the U.S. Forest Service gets everything right and am all in favor of continually improving landscape management planning and implementation. That is called adaptive management. However, despite inevitable shortcomings, I strongly support the Forest Service’s efforts to conduct landscape management projects. Time is of the essence: if the Twisp Restoration Project has already been implemented by 2021, the Cedar Creek Fire would likely have been far less destructive.
Before you make up your mind about this debate, please, please, please, just go look.