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Chicken Little would be envious: USA Today blames unstable Highway 1 in Big Sur on climate change
Dennis Wyatt
Dennis Wyatt

Climate change is real.

So are those lobbing hysteria that climate change is destroying the earth so therefore is responsible for every disaster.

Case in point.

A USA Today story last week featured the headline, “See them while you can: Climate change is reshaping iconic US destinations.”

The clickbait subhead reads, “The process will be gradual but the result is clear: Some of America’s most famous destinations will be reshaped by a warming world.”

Served up as the top victim is California’s Big Sur Coast Highway that USA Today reports is “falling into the ocean.”

There have been more prolonged and intense winter storms of late.

Plus there have been more wildfires.

This has led to an acceleration in landslides.

No debate there.

Climate change has been reshaping the area of the planet we call California for millions of years.

Some 15,000 years ago as noted by State of California Senior Archeologist E. Break  Parkman in a 50-page paper published in November 2006, the Pacific Ocean was some 20 miles west of the  present-day San Francisco beach.

That was 15,000 years after the last significant ice age in California — the Tioga glaciation era.

For the record, there was a “little ice age” from approximately 1450 AD  to 1850 AD in California that advanced the size of existing glaciers and created hundreds of small glaciers. 

The Big Sur Highway is one of man’s many aberrations of nature that arguable]y never should have built.

Much of the stretch from San Simeon to Carmel-by-the-Sea was carved into a steep, unstable cliffs that have a tendency to plunge into the ocean.

The Big Sur coastline is part of the North Pacific Tectonic Plate that is heading northward while the North America Tectonic Plate heads southward.

The two are “zipped together” by the San Andreas Fault.

The movement of the two plates relative to each other in geological time had been an average of 0.4 inches a year.

Since the early part of the 20th century, that movement has increased to an average of 1.6 to 2.4 inches a year.

Every year, there are well in excess of 12,000 earthquakes in California, most of which are too deep and too weak to be detected except by monitoring machines.

Anyone who has been in an earthquake knows the power they have to transform land.

Quakes are clearly a contributing factor to landslides.

Does that mean climate change is causing more earthquakes?

Imagine the number of landslides if the Big Sur “highway” built in the 1930s had been upgraded to a four-lane freeway as was suggested by state transportation planners in the 1950s.

Other iconic areas that USA Today reports are being slowly destroyed by climate change includes Key West in Florida, the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and tourist sites in the Washington, D.C. area.

Surprise, surprise.

Sea levels have risen. It is why San Francisco today is a coastal city.

Maybe it’s man’s collective arrogance of  ignoring the forces of nature by building on coastal areas less than 2 feet above sea level, along rivers in flood plains, and building massive cities in historically arid regions that’s the real problem in terms of the short-term threat to civilization as measured on the geological yardstick and not climate change per se.

As for DC, the bigger problem is urbanization that has led to subsidence.

As such, aquifers are being depleted as more water is used for cities meaning nature’s underground water storage is not being replenished causing soil to compact.

Rising seas and sinking land is a deadly one-two combo.

Blame climate change on the first.

As far as sinking land, that is a real manmade problem.

We tend to forget we are not in charge.

Mankind won’t be around forever.

Science says the earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old.

Homo sapiens as they are known today started popping up 550,000 to 750,000 years ago.

The ancestors of mankind go back 6 million years.

Generally speaking, man has been on earth only about 1/800th of the planet’s existence.

Given what we know about the science of geology that means climate change brought the evolution of man as a species.

Sooner or later — and likely a lot later — mankind’s number will be up.

It would make sense to adapt to a changing world such as not building in flood plains, not crowding the ocean, not building massive cities in the dry desert, and not urbanizing areas prone to wildfires — issues that all existing before climate change entered the vernacular and there weren’t 7.34 billion people on planet.  

Imagine, if you will, if back in early days of a man’s existence if climate change was attacked with the vigor we are doing so today with the technology to push back somehow on the firsts if nature.

There would be a lot less iconic vacation destinations to lose.

Yosemite Valley would be anything but a valley.

Roughly 4 million people from all of the world wouldn't be flocking to the Central Sierra to see Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point, and El Capitan.

Nevada would have hardly any land and would be mostly under water as it and large swaths of what today are four neighboring states would have been covered by a gigantic lake of which Mono Lake is a remnant.

There would be no fertile Central Valley as there were still be a great inland sea between points we identify today as Bakersfield and Redding.

Climate change is not new.

None of this means we shouldn’t change our ways to reduce the damage it can inflict on civilization so mankind can stick around for another 100,000 years or so.

The key is finding the right solutions to adapt.

Not saying reducing air pollution that includes greenhouse gas emissions shouldn’t be pursued, but is it the best course of action to invest on?

Fossil fuel will not last forever. That is a given.

An argument can be made, though, that the best way to fight climate change is to rethink where and how we urbanize the planet.

Such a debate can’t take place if the climate change clickbait crowd keeps using hysteria to focus on greenhouse gas emissions instead of a more holistic approach to mankind living in a world that is ultimately run by nature.