As the Bush administration debates much of the world about what to do about global warming, butterflies and ski-lift operators, polar bears and hydroelectric planners are on the move.
In their separate ways, wild creatures, business executives and regional planners are responding to climate changes that are rapidly recalibrating their chances for survival, for profit and for effective delivery of public services.
Butterflies are voting with their wings, abandoning southern Europe and flying north to the more amenable climes of Finland. Ski-lift operators in the West are lobbying for leases on federal land higher up in the Rockies, trying to outclimb snowlines that creep steadily upward.
Polar bears along Hudson Bay are losing weight and declining in number as the ice shelf melts and their feeding season shrinks. Power planners in the Pacific Northwest, which gets three-quarters of its electricity from hydroelectric dams, are meeting in brainstorming sessions and making contingency plans for early snow melts, increased wintertime rainfall, lower summertime river flows and electricity shortfalls during hotter, drier summers.
With the issue of a warming planet shifting rapidly from scientific projection to on-the-ground reality, animals and plants are being compelled, along with businesses and bureaucracies, to take action aimed at self-preservation. They are doing so even as the Bush administration eschews regulations, laws or international treaties that would require limits on carbon dioxide emissions, which scientists say are the main cause of global warming.
A newly published synthesis of 866 peer-reviewed studies of the effect of climate change on wild plants and animals has found what its author, Camille Parmesan, an assistant professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin, describes as a "clear, globally coherent conclusion."