Are human CO2 emissions starving baby sea mammals?

Yesterday, I read “Mysterious whale die-off is largest on record”:

Observers have found 308 dead whales in the waters around Peninsula Valdes along Argentina’s Patagonian Coast since 2005. Almost 90 percent of those deaths represent whale calves less than 3 months old, and the calf deaths make up almost a third of all right whale calf sightings in the last five years….

Only a few clues have emerged so far regarding the cause of death, such as unusually thin layers of blubber on some dead calves. Whale calves typically have lower chances of survival during their first year of life, but the high rate of death at Peninsula Valdes is unique.

This morning, I read “Sea Lion Pups Starving Along California Shoreline”:

Starved and emaciated, sea lion pups are beaching themselves along the Pacific Coast.

A strong El Nino tropical weather pattern is to blame. Unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the western Pacific are moving east, forcing the sea lions' natural food sources — squid, hake, herring and anchovies — to seek out cooler waters.

Adult sea lions have enough fat stored up to survive the resulting food shortage, but their pups aren’t so well-equipped.

Could we PLEASE take emergency action on global warming?!?!?! Too many people are refusing to look at the overwhelming evidence (and are instead focusing on the occasional sloppy scientist or anecdote that supposedly refutes global warming). And too many more think, “So what if the average temperature rises five or ten degrees in my lifetime? That might even be nice.”

Even small changes are already having dramatic negative impacts on life globally. And we’re only just beginning to witness what will prove to be excruciating, wrenching environmental disasters later in our lifetimes and our children’s and grandchildren’s. So far, climate change has been relatively slow, and ecosystems can re-equilibrate in response to slow change. But change is accelerating as we lose buffers (like glaciers and cold oceans that have soaked up a lot of excess heat) and begin to wake up sleeping giants (like massive quantities of methane gas trapped in Siberia). And ecosystems will collapse in the face of rapid climate change.

The large-scale death of sea mammal babies is a(nother) global fire alarm. Will we respond?

Posted by James on Tuesday, March 30, 2010