Better Drive To Alaska Soon

Ed Raymond

Three stories about global warming, climate change, “It’s hotter than hell,” or whatever you would like to call it hit the news recently. The road known in the past as the Alaska Canada Military Highway is sinking, rising, and breaking up in spots because some of it was built on permafrost, which is no longer so perma. (This is so serious that Russia is even cooperating with us on permafrost research. Much of Siberia is permafrost.) Did you see the NASA satellite pictures of Greenland taken on July 8? On that date, about 40 percent of the ice sheet that covers almost all of Greenland was going through surface thawing. In just a few days NASA reported that 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had melted by July 12. Climate scientists are presently calling it “a freak event that concerned scientists had never witnessed before.”
   We all know the Koch Brothers, Charles and David. They have made their billions from oil and pipelines, and they want to keep oil gurgling in their pipelines and money flowing into their huge pockets. Consequently, they have spent several hundred million dollars funding anti-global warming scientists and institutes. Professor Richard Muller of the University of California got tens of millions from Charles Koch to form the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project to prove that global warming was a hoax. Well, Charles must be very disappointed in his investment. In the last part of July, Muller published the following in the New York Times: “Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land had risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and half degrees over the most recent years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. Humans are almost entirely the cause.”  
   Geez, sorry about that Muller guy, Charles. It is carbon dioxide that causes global warming, and it’s humans who put it in the atmosphere. Perhaps someday even that great climate change scientist Rush Limbaugh will recognize his error and quit putting his own methane and carbon dioxide in the air.

The Greenland Tipping
Point Means Spilling
Water All Over The Place

   Global warming scientists have estimated that if average temperatures go up 2.9 degrees F. from pre-industrial levels, we won’t be able to stop the melting of the entire Greenland ice cap. We have already gone up 1.45 degrees F., and are soon approaching the tipping point where winter snows will not make up for summer melt. With the additional fresh water in the oceans, it means goodbye to Miami, Roanoke, the Maldives, New York City, California coastal cities, much of Bangladesh, Cedar Keys, New Orleans, probably much of the Arctic ice cap, and all those McMansions built on beach fronts around the world.
   Southern Baptists and other evangelicals see no reason to worry about losing much of their lovely Gulf Coast because God is going to save them. He will either institute global cooling or answer their prayers with the Rapture, thus ridding the evil world of a religious minority as they go to the big nudist convention in the sky. These believers rhapsodize about Oklahoma Republican senator James Inhofe, who has prayed and knows that God won’t let climate change happen because it is a hoax created by environmental Democrats. I guess the Holocaust never happened either. Republican president George W. Bush, using his brain to capacity, named Inhofe the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment during his presidency. Does Oklahoma have oil or what?
   At a March 2009 meeting of the House, Republican representative John Shimkus said carbon dioxide was just plant food and played no role in global warming. Besides, Shimkus quoted the Bible, saying that God promised Noah He would not destroy the earth by flood. Shimkus added, “I believe that is the infallible word of God, and that is the way it is going to be for his creation.” Shimkus was later named by the Republican speaker of the House to chair the House Committee on Environment and Economy, which has a central role in global warming policy. Well, if things don’t work out, if the Rapture doesn’t save them, by that time the Republicans will have enough yachts to save a strong minority from high water.

The Best Camping Trip
In North America

   The reason I’m so interested in the Alcan or Alaskan Highway is that our oldest son lives in Soldotna, Alaska, in the middle of probably the best fishing in the world. He sends us salmon and halibut. Corky and I have driven the full length twice, once in the fall, spending about six weeks on the road, and once in the spring. A motorhome trip through the Canadian Maritime Provinces is absolutely great, but Alaska beats them all. And the roads are as good as most in Minnesota and North Dakota.
   After Pearl Harbor, with most of our Pacific fleet on the bottom, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to build a 1,500-mile military supply road through mountainous territory covered with huge trees and surrounded by permafrost, swamps and bogs, and mosquitoes capable of draining a moose. The road from British Columbia through the Yukon to Alaska was supposed to be built in eight months, good enough to carry military trucks on its gravel base. This time the mission was accomplished. Some called it the second greatest engineering feat of the 20th century, only after the Panama Canal. The Corps finished it in October, about the same time residents have to bring in their brass monkeys and set them by the fireplace. It gets cold in Alaska. Check Fairbanks in a January cold wave. Sixty-five below is not unusual. There is an old film available about the struggles to build the road. Sometimes the muskeg would eat entire bulldozers. Sections of the road were called “corduroys” because the trees that were cut were used as the base in swamps and bogs.

The Road Of Jade

   If you plan on driving the Alcan, get a copy of The Milepost, a guidebook that takes you through practically every mile. When you drive back from Alaska, take a risk and drive the Cassiar Highway in British Columbia. It is on the east side of the B.C. coastal mountains. We have done it twice, but it takes planning. It’s 543 miles long, with two gas stations on the route and almost nothing else. In one campground, we ran across a wife marooned because a transmission went out on the couple’s truck pulling a fifth wheel. Her husband was with a tow-truck driver taking their truck to the closest garage, 650 miles away, for a new transmission. Stuff happens.
  On both the Alaska and Cassiar Highways, the scenery is magnificent and the wildlife is plentiful. Alaska alone has three million lakes, 3,000 rivers, 100 state parks, and 17 of the 20 highest mountains in the United States. On one trip we took three grandchildren, two boys 11 and 14 and a girl 18, and two dogs. We saw so many black bears and grizzlies that when we saw bears and yelled “Bear!” they wouldn’t even look up from the laptop and computer we had in the motorhome.
   When driving the Cassiar, one sees green rock everywhere for the taking. It’s dark green jade–mountains of it. Actually, 95 percent of the world’s jade comes from British Columbia. There even is a little town named Jade City.
   Fairbanks is the northern-most point on the Alaska Highway. If you want to go further north, you can test your sanity by trying the Dalton “Highway” to Prudhoe Bay and oil country. You won’t get far. From Fairbanks take a left south to Denali National Park and Mt. Whitney, the highest point in North America at 20,320 ft. You must take shuttle buses to travel through Denali—and it’s a wise move. Otherwise park police would be rescuing tourists all the time. The natives say Mt. Whitney is covered by clouds 80 percent of the time. We were lucky and hit a clear day. We saw practically every large North American animal known to man on these shuttle trips: moose, deer, caribou, elk, grizzlies, black bears, mountain lions, lynx, and bison. Lynx are very secretive animals, but we saw one dash in front of the bus.

Orchids In Northern
British Columbia

   Another hot spot to stop at on the Alaska Highway is the hot springs in Liard National Park, just off the Liard River. Two hot pools were developed as rest spots for U.S. construction workers on the highway in 1942. A warning: if you are roaming around the Northwest Territories, Alaska, or other western Canadian provinces, pay attention to park people and signs. When we visited the Liard Hot Springs, we were warned about berries and bears. To reach the hot pools one must walk on raised walkways for about 300 yards over muskeg surrounded by bushes and trees. The springs are hot enough to allow 14 species of orchids and many sweet berries to grow in the area. Hungry bears and berries go together. Sometimes bears have been discovered eating berries within ten feet of tourists. Bears also like spas for an afternoon break. Over 50 bears have had to be killed over the years because they have attacked tourists and killed some of them. The hot springs have two different temps: very warm and very hot. Absolutely great, but be careful. Your neighbor in the spa could be very hairy.

A World Apart—Climate
Deniers And Facts

   Scottish adventurer and explorer Jock Wishart at 55 years old has been to the North Pole so many times he has lost count. He’s going again. This time he has to take a paddle with him because global warming has melted so much sea ice there is now a summer waterway to the North Pole. Hoping to increase awareness about global warming, he has an expert opinion: “Ten years ago, we never would have thought it was remotely possible.”
  Travel-adventure agencies that sponsor new and exciting trips to exotic places are now offering hikes in early springtime in Greenland, which was impossible just a few years ago. You can now go on organized spring hiking trips to eastern Tibet on trails that have been completely covered with snow and ice year-round for thousands of years. Glaciers in the Peruvian Andes have melted so much that you can now walk on trails at 17,000 feet that were completely iced-in five years ago. You can arrange that hike through Andean Treks, based in Watertown, Mass.
  Gardeners and truck farmers are familiar with growing zones mentioned in produce catalogs. Twenty years ago, Nebraska was generally in Zone Four. Now it is almost all in Zone Five (the higher the number, the higher the temperature). Ohio used to be in Zone Five. Now it’s in Zone Six.

   Half of the world’s chocolate supply comes from Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture says the temps are rising so fast in those countries that they may not be able to grow cocoa trees by 2050. Of course the trees could be grown in other areas, but it would be extremely expensive to move the industry to new digs. This group also says climate change is responsible for a 30 percent decrease in sugar production in Indonesia. This is cane, not beet sugar.
   A research article in The Atlantic magazine estimates that climate change will totally eliminate the maple syrup industry in New England by 2100. Perhaps by that time even Fox News anchors will be eating Yukon Maple Syrup.
   This spring it rained a downpour in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, when the temp reached 109 degrees. This is new for the planet during a period when a third of the Arctic summer ice has disappeared. In March of 2012, the United States set or tied 7,000 high temperature records.
  At a recent Minnesota banquet honoring Iraqi War vets, Republican senator John McCain was asked, “Is this warm, freakish weather ... a coincidence?” McCain: “I just returned from the Yukon, where I was presented a 4,000-year-old tomahawk by a village elder that was found in melted permafrost. The short answer? No.”