Last week brought a Bush administration report on climate change indicating a possible shift in the president’s position on the role of human activity in global warming (this is according to the media; the administration denied such a shift). I wonder if Bush was influenced by the nation’s best picture book, National Geographic, which devoted this month’s cover story to global warming. The issue’s stunning photos illustrate climate change’s many warning signs, from melting glaciers (here’s the Columbia Glacier in Alaska, which shrank by eight miles from 1977 to 1999) to species shifts (such as gender imbalances in sea turtle populations), to droughts. One note, though: the Web site doesn’t come close to capturing the visual power of the print version.
The issue also illustrates that warming is hitting closer to home. Northwesterners will be dismayed that Glacier National Park’s glaciers have decreased in number from 150 to 30 since 1910; and the park’s famed Sperry Glacier has shrunk from more than 800 acres to 300 acres since 1901. As a transplanted New Englander, I was disturbed that Vermont’s maple industry may also suffer. With luck the magazine, which reaches some 6 million people every month will help a wider audience understand that the “slow news” (pdf article) of climate change is becoming more dramatic all the time.