QUESNEL, B.C. -- Millions of acres of Canada's lush green forests are turning red in spasms of death. A voracious beetle, whose population has exploded with the warming climate, is killing more trees than wildfires or logging.
The mountain pine beetle has infested an area three times the size of Maryland, devastating swaths of lodgepole pines and reshaping the future of the forest and the communities in it.
"It's pretty gut-wrenching," said Allan Carroll, a research scientist at the Pacific Forestry Centre in Victoria, whose studies tracked a lock step between warmer winters and the spread of the beetle. "People say climate change is something for our kids to worry about. No. It's now."
Scientists fear the beetle will cross the Rocky Mountains and sweep across the northern continent into areas where it used to be killed by severe cold but where winters now are comparatively mild. Officials in neighboring Alberta are setting fires and traps and felling thousands of trees in an attempt to keep the beetle at bay.
21mil acres = ~ 85,000km2 and that was in 2006.
They can fell the trees for up to 4 years afterwards but with the american building industry almost dead there is no market for it and the trees will likely just rot.
The sheer multitude of these kind of disruptions is a big reason why global warming is so dangerous.
Those who dont stop to consider the cumulative impact of change just glibly cast them aside in exchange for the fanciful idea that we can 'live with global warming', especially a 'few degrees of change'.
We have no natural analogues to tell us how the complex web of physical and biological interactions will all respond to drastic climate change. We are driving into unknown territory, and, given the present imperfect state of physical and especially ecological simulations, with a windshield heavily encrusted with mud.
All we know is that the potential for such disruptions is there, especially with agricultural diseases, human diseases, and parasite infestations (including potato blight, bark beetles, West Nile, and malaria) which can all expand their range with warming.