Yeah, I know that it just snowed for the first time in a long time on the Cape and its looks to be cold the next few weeks, so maybe this isn’t the best time to tell you that 2020 was tied for the warmest year in recorded history. An aberration you say. I say not. The six warmest years on record have been the last six. The ten warmest years have all been since 2005. It is pretty clear that we are in the middle of a trend, and one that bodes poorly for many, including Cape Cod.
Just last week we saw at least three more homes wash into the sea in Sandwich, aided and abetted by the interruption of sand migration to Sandwich beaches by the breakwaters at the east end of the Cape Cod Canal. Man-made structures prevented natural processes from mitigating the impact of rising seas and increased storm intensity to exact a heavy price on coastal landowners who are not the first, and certainly not the last, to pay a heavy price when the abstract became very real to them. The same storm worsened an overwash on North beach in Chatham that threatens more homes and promises to significantly change the ecology of Pleasant Bay if it deepens and widens.
Natural systems, as much as we often want them to be, and especially those we cherish, are not static systems. Nature is always changing and always will, but the rate of change we are experiencing now is perhaps the most rapid in human history and may well be outpacing our ability to adapt. One need only look at the rate of acceleration of extinctions to rightfully wonder where we fit on that list.
I am heartened that the United States has rejoined the Paris Accords, that the Department of Interior has restarted the review and prioritization of offshore wind projects, and that science is back as a basis for decision making. Heck, even General Motors has committed to producing only electric vehicles by 2035. The market has begun to weigh in and that’s a good thing. Market forces are not subject to reversal through executive action, and big investment drives long term behaviors.
We are changing our ways, just like nature does. The big question is, can we pick up the pace enough to have it matter.