Bob Megginson: Climate change, polar bears and pine beetles |

Bob Megginson: Climate change, polar bears and pine beetles

Bob Megginson,
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor
University of Michigan

The Associated Press article “Arctic scientist under investigation” that appeared in the Summit Daily News July 29 deserves some amplification. Whatever the charges against Monnett turn out to be, the danger to polar bears from warming in the Arctic has been substantiated by many peer-reviewed studies since Monnett’s original paper, most recently one published just this month showing that polar bear cub mortality increases as they now need to swim larger distances due to shrinking Arctic sea ice (and that shrinking is not in question: You can measure it from satellite photographs).

Concerning Myron Ebell’s statement about global warming, that until bad things start to happen “we should just be sitting on our hands, observing”: I love Breckenridge, which I visit every summer, and I cannot believe that its citizens are content just to sit on their hands observing the beauty of their environment being hammered by the devastation of the pines by bark beetles. That is breaking my heart, and I bet it’s not just mine. The cause is well understood: It’s just not getting cold enough in the winter to keep the beetles down. This is not just some cyclical matter, since there is no evidence that the wholesale destruction of the trees seen everywhere from here throughout the west and well into Canada has happened before.

In a sense, I’m lucky to live in Michigan well below your elevations, since folks at altitude and in the far north will get hit earliest and hardest by human-caused climate change. But I still look forward to my time in the Rockies, and do not want to sit on my hands waiting until it is too late to do anything about the terrible problem awaiting you, then all of us.

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