Star Photography gives me plenty of time to contemplate. After all, each photo has about a 25 second exposure period. At -20 degrees, there were not any other humans nearby and I could not detect any human-caused noises. It was quite peaceful. I wondered what the scene before me will look like mid-century. Probably the night-time scene will look the same. The mountains will erode a little but not a perceptible amount. The stars won’t change much. There will still be light pollution encroaching on the night sky. It is easy to be complacent and not consider the future.
But Climate Change is here and it is real. According to NOAA, “The January 2020 global land and ocean surface temperature was the highest on record. The four warmest Januaries documented in the climate record (past 141 years) have occurred since 2016; the 10 warmest have all occurred since 2002.” Do you want a few more unsettling statistics? “January 2020 marked the 44th consecutive January and the 421st consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average.”
The January 27, 2020 edition of the Jackson Hole Daily newspaper had a front-page article entitled “Study: Big burns brewing” that highlighted an article published in the journal Ecological Applications. The climate models predict warmer and drier conditions will lead to more fires. A combination of factors will lead to a land transition away from forests.
So, while the mountains and the stars will remain, the vegetation will change and so will the wildlife. Wildlife will either need to adapt, move, or die off. The prognosis for some species is extinction. Others, such as the Red Fox may increase in numbers as their range expands northward. But their range expansion is to the detriment of the smaller Arctic Fox that has to compete.
Regarding waterfowl, the folks at Ducks Unlimited estimate that, “Most major waterfowl habitats in North America face potentially significant, detrimental impacts from the effects of climate change”.
Climate change is nothing new. What is new is the rate of change; greatly accelerated by human activity. We can either choose to ignore the issue or work to slow down the rate of change, giving plants and animals more time to adapt to the change. What role will you play?