Gregor has gotten phone calls about moose showing up in Northern Alaskan parks, higher up than they’ve ever been seen, and cougars arriving in Southern Alaskan parks, where climate change is happening faster than pretty much anywhere else on Earth.
It’s impossible for scientists to know how much of a beating climate change will dole out.
Will winters in Alaska warm by 4 degrees by 2100, or by 16 degrees, both of which federal scientists consider plausible? What creatures could possibly stick it out when the habitat they’ve spent millennia evolving for suddenly changes in a matter of decades? It’s Gregor’s job to figure that out, and the short answer is: not many.
“Elephants aren’t going to grow wings. A lot of species have a low adaptive capacity to change,” he said. In Yosemite, Gregor looked out over a ridge of dead pine trees towering dryly over the landscape, a common sight in California of late.
Faced with those tough choices, Gregor is finding new faith in a certain kind of darkness: nature will still be here after the worst of climate change has enveloped the planet.
“The tools we use, the words we use, we’re basically inventing them as we need them,” Gregor said.