Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The American Pika will soon be extinct

I was very tempted to title this post: "Republicans are Evil, Part V". Lara Hansen, Senior Scientist of Climate Change at the World Wildlife Fund came to give a talk about the impact of global warming on animal habitats, and mentioned in passing that the American Pika is one of the most affected by global warming.

I asked her why if there was such consensus among climate scientists that global warming was real there's so much controversy in the papers. Her response was that the press loves to find "balance", and always quote the same 5 "scientists" in Virginia who on the "opposite side", even though 3000 other climate scientists all come to the same consensus: that the effect is real, and that if we do everything we can, we might be able to limit warming to 2 degrees centigrade. My guess is that those 5 "scientists" were really bought off by the petroleum industry, which like all big-business spends a lot of money lobbying the GOP. (Not to say that Democrats can't be bought off, but they tend to have opposing special interests to support that balance their desire to be bought off by big corporations)

You can see the same effect at work over the so-called Intelligent Design controversy: the only people who see the theory of evolution as being "only a theory" are the same right-wing idiots at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, yet the New York Times (amongst other newspapers) insist on treating those idiots with the same amount of respect as serious scientists like Richard Dawkins.

Anyway, a little bit about this picture: Lisa & I shot this picture in 2002 on a backpacking/hiking trip through Grand Teton National Park. I felt very lucky to be able to get this close with a 200mm lens --- at that time I certainly did not know that the Pika will be a victim of global warming. That trip was photographically very rewarding, and I can only hope that the Coast-to-Coast next year will also be as productive.

American pikas are particularly vulnerable to global warming because they reside in areas with cool, relatively moist climates like those normally found in mountaintop habitats. As temperatures rise due to increasing emissions of heat-trapping gases, many alpine animals are expected to seek higher elevations or migrate northward in an attempt to find suitable habitat. Yet, American pikas in these regions have little option for escape from the pressures of climate change because migration across low-elevation valleys represents an incalculably high risk-and perhaps an impossibility under current climate regimes-for them. Posted by Picasa
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