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K. Kris Hirst

Quote: Why Is Climate Change Insurmountable?

By July 3, 2013

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Global climate change is a reality, no matter what politicians try to tell you, and the issue we need to face now is how best to cope with the coming changes. This quotation is from a 2008 article in the journal Daedalus by biologist Camille Parmesan called "Where the wild things were", and while it is not strictly speaking about archaeology, it does speak to something archaeologists and everybody else should be concerned about. A melt water lake seen under a glacier. September 03, 2007, East of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
Photo by Uriel Sinai / Getty Images
A melt water lake seen under a glacier. September 3, 2007, East of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Scientists believe that Greenland, with its melting ice caps and disappearing glaciers, is an accurate thermometer of global warming.

What is it about climate change that makes it so insurmountable? First is its global nature. We're seeing impacts of current warming on every continent and in every ocean. We're seeing its effects in every type of plant and animal that has been studied---from butterflies in Finland to fish in the North Sea, from foxes in Canada to trees in Sweden, from birds in Antarctica to starfish in Monterrey Bay, California.

Second, climate change is conducting the most massive relocation of species since the last ice age. Forty percent of wild species are showing changes in their distributions---shifting their ranges north and south towards the poles and up mountains. An astonishing 62 percent are showing changes in their seasonal timing: spring is earlier and fall is later. Birds arriving for their spring migration, butterflies emerging from wintering, trees leafing out after winter dormancy, and flowers blooming for the first time are all about two weeks earlier than they were thirty years ago across the northern hemisphere. Globally, we have estimated that recent, human-driven climate change has affected half of all wild plants and animals in some form or another.

...The most obvious action available would actually alleviate many of the impending ethical dilemmas---to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions drastically and prevent the worst-case scenario from becoming a reality. ... Having participated in ten years of meetings, reports, and policy sessions (all with similar recommendations), followed by pathetically slow changes in governmental policy and even less real reduction in emissions, I'm pessimistic that drastic emission reductions will come in time.

Camille Parmesan 2008 Where the wild things were. Daedalus 137(2):31-38. Used with permission.


October 5, 2008 at 12:52 am
(1) Dan Noel says:

Indeed, governmental action on climate change has been pathetic. But so is their action -or lack thereof- on many other straightforward issues of public interest. Climate change points to a much deeper worldwide problem: the fact that public service is not about serving the public. After all, governments, aided by pliant media, gave “us the people of the Earth” the 9/11 false flag attacks, its 3,000 vicious murders, its cover-up, its censorship, and the ensuing phony war on terror.

Climate change may not be addressed properly until “we” wake up and demand that governments start, at long last, to do their job. Whenever this happens, not only climate change, but just about every major political and social problem will promptly be alleviated.


July 9, 2013 at 8:48 am
(2) keith baker says:


Maybe the climate change scammers on both sides of this rather naive discussion should read the above;

Winter is coming…. And all will crumbly before it, as it has done for millions of years. Only the experience of the Holocene to continue will be encoded in the DNA of the humans, and other domesticated species.

Get real guys, cut the short-term-ism on both sides.

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