Climate Change?

Richard Mark Glover
Mojave rattlesnakes have been seen around Alpine. Is it because of the rain?
Mojave rattlesnakes have been seen around Alpine. Is it because of the rain?

ALPINE - The population of New York City swelled by about 300,000 Sunday as climate change protesters gathered in anticipation of Tuesday’s United Nations meeting. Protesters are hoping the leaders from around the world will address global warming.

The Kyoto Treaty, an environmental protection agreement signed by over a 100 countries with the exception of several, including the United States, expired in 2012. Protests simultaneously took place in over 2600 cities across the planet urging governments to take action against industrial pollution and fossil-fuel addicted societies that burn over twenty billion tons of oil, coal and gas every year.

 While out here in the Big Bend, with an almost perfect summer, monsoons right on schedule keeping clouds in the sky, temps down and rain a-coming, it was hard to focus on planetary heat.

Yet NOAA announced last week that the August air temps were the hottest August on record. The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for the June–August period was also a record high for this period, at 0.71°C (1.28°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), beating the previous record set in 1998. California remains in exceptional drought, climate change refugees now number over 20 million and places like Mongolia smack in the middle of Eurasia, are seeing a huge shift in their demographics, ostensibly because of spooks in climate.

According to the New York Times (NYT) half of Mongolia’s three million people now live in the capital city of Ulan Bator(UB). In the countryside, nearly a million practice the age old art of nomadic herding, shepherding about the vast desert, tundra and rolling steppe grassland with camels, horses, cattle, sheep, yaks and goats.

They live in dome-shaped tent called gers. For thousands of years they learned to thrive in harsh often bitterly old climates in a harmonious perhaps spiritual understanding of weather cycles. But according to some Mongolians, in recent years the cycles have become less cyclical and more abrupt.

The NYT chronicles the story of Urgamaltsetsg Suvita, 47, a herder in the Gobi Desert who lost her herd of goats, sheep and horses in an intense winter storm in 2010. She doesn't know why the winters bring too much or too little snow and the summers are drier and hotter but she admits that she is worried about the changes.

Mongolia’s average annual temp has risen nearly 4 degrees since 1940 and winters have become colder. Streams and lakes are drying up and wildfires have scorched the steppes. According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change up to 70 per cent of Mongolia’s grasslands are “degraded.”

But back in the Big Bend it seems we hardly feel climate change. Maybe the region will benefit from it, no doubt some areas will become milder even wetter but that’s change too. Walking the kids home from the bus stop yesterday I may have got a little taste of that change; a green Mojave Rattlesnake swished across the road. Mesa saw it first. A strange satin green glowed from its devilish torso followed by black and white rings before the cluster of rattles. You’ve got to watch these serpents, not everybody survives their bites. I’ve seen this most deadly rattlesnake species in lower elevations near the Rio Grande but never in Alpine. Ten minutes later swarming bees covered a branch of our pine tree in a thick thousand-bee-glob, spring-like but this is fall. Evidence of climatic change? Not enough to go on - but I’ll be watching.

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