Sunday, February 28, 2016

Resources Are On the Move. The Good News - They're Heading Our Way.

Natural resources, both animate and inanimate, are on the move. In both hemispheres they're heading out of the tropics, poleward. This is the indisputable proof that climate change is real and it's deadly serious.

I've written about this for years. Out here we've been witnessing the migration of marine life - fish, mammals, birds - into our local waters out of the south.

One of my favourite memories of Hawaii was sitting at a beachfront patio while watching humpbacks cavort just offshore. It was spectacular sipping a drink while watching those majestic creatures maneuver through yachts and sailboats bobbing at anchor.

A couple of weeks back I went for lunch at a local waterfront watering hole, the Shady Rest. My favourite server of many years came over to tell me that I should have come in a few days earlier when staff and guests alike were treated to the spectacle of a pod of humpbacks cavorting just off the beach. I thought, well who needs Lahaina?

What they were witnessing was nature on the march. Herrings and sardines from the California and Baja area are leaving, heading north. Where they go their entire food chain follows. Seals, sea lions, white-sided dolphins, transient orca pods, even humpback whales. Sea lions from as far away as California used to migrate through our waters for the annual herring run. Now they've taken up residence.

Newsweek has a report on research published in Nature Climate Change of the scope and pace of movement of natural resources out of the south.

As the planet warms, plants, trees, fish and other natural resources are on the move, shifting toward the poles, in the direction of higher elevations and deeper into the seas, states a paper published February 24 in the journal Nature Climate Change. This natural capital has economic value, especially in developing countries where it accounts for a large share of resources. The team of researchers led by Eli Fenichel, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, say that where the fish migrate, money will follow, but that it’s not as simple as this.

The findings suggest that it’s not enough for policymakers to look for biophysical changes, such as the increase of fish in one place and the decrease in another, to see how wealth is shifting in response to climate change, but that they should also take “inclusive wealth” into consideration. Inclusive wealth is an economic framework that accounts for the sum of traditional, human and natural capital, in an effort to measure a country’s ability to sustain human well-being. Wealth that is stable or which increases over time indicates overall sustainability. The framework can be applied to track the broader impacts of climate change on local and global sustainability: When natural capital shifts due to climate change—either toward the poles or toward the mountains—its value changes in response to new pricing that takes into account these social considerations in addition to the biophysical change alone.

The study models potential outcomes in two fictitious fishing communities—“Northport” and “Southport”—where climate change has caused a shift in fish populations. Southport’s fish stocks decline as the climate changes while Northport’s stock increases; it’s a scenario that reflects changes anticipated in areas such as the mid-Atlantic and the waters off New England.

The report notes that the winners, Northport, will be better off but not nearly as much as the losers, Southport, will be worse off. It's not a net sum game. It's a lot easier to lose an industry and livelihoods than it is to create or expand industry and livelihoods. There's a lot of inertia involved and worry that the windfall might be illusory, passing.

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