Saturday, December 24, 2011

Santa's Climate Problems

“I’m sorry, Mr. Claus,” said the U.N. Assistant Deputy Undersecretary for Planetary Climate Affairs. “But your credentials for future climate changes conferences has been permanently revoked.”

“Now see here, young man,” said Santa in his best stern voice. But he was cut off abruptly.

“Sir, you may appeal to the Deputy Associate Arctic Office for Indigenous Member Appeals.” Santa grimaced, and not just from the familiar pain in his back. “Good day to you, Sir.” The call ended.

Good day, Santa grumbled as Skype asked him to rate the call. Idiot--we've got 24 hours of darkness up here. Santa turned to the elf sitting across his desk.

“Well, Eugene, you’ve gone and done it again.”

“All I did in Durban was point out that the world continues to ignore this problem,” protested Eugene, pushing his glasses up the slope of his nose. “This place isn’t getting any colder, you know.”

“But did you have to get Vixen involved?” said Santa. “You know how she is since she became a grandmother.”

“Besides, credentials are the least of our problems,” said the elf, glancing down at his iPad. “The sea ice volume is down again this year. They do know we live and work on this stuff, right?”

“Of course, Eugene, of course,” said Santa with a sigh. But Eugene was just getting started—again.

“Arctic sea ice volume is down 48 percent since 1979,” said the elf. “And the National Snow and Ice Data Center says area—excuse me, extent—is decreasing at 4.7 percent a decade.”

Santa had been hearing this for years. “But Gordon says it’s increased since 2007.” Frankly, he just wanted to get back to his list, which this year was longer than ever.

“Gordon,” smirked Eugene. “Gordon won’t admit the climate is changing until he’s ankle-deep in sea water. This is about the long-term trend, as Gordon well knows.”

“Well, what do you want me to do about it?” said Santa, exasperated. “I’m not the one emitting all this carbon dioxide.”

“We do our share,” said Eugene, smugly. “Sure, reindeer power the sleigh, but do you know how much oil is burned shipping their straw up here? Not to mention the wood that goes for toy construction.”

“No, but I’m sure you can tell me,” said Santa. He had no head for figures, and besides his shoulder ached.

“Per-capita, and including reduced sequestration from tree harvesting for the toys, plus the enteric fermentation from that ground beef you like…”

Santa cut him off. “Eugene! For crying out loud.”

The elf stopped. He pushed his glasses up and sniffed his ever-runny nose. Chastened, he said, softly, “Well, carbon dioxide warms planets, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” said Santa with a humpft.

“It’s only a trace gas,” Eugene said, “but without that small amount the world would be about 12 degrees colder. Fahrenheit. So it’s no surprise that our carbon dioxide emissions will cause more warming.” Santa simply looked at him.

“And satellite measurements show less heat escaping the planet since 1979,” said Eugene, “and that it’s being blocked just where CO2 and methane absorb heat.”

His peace said, the elf pushed at his eyeglasses and sat quietly. The fire in the hearth crackled. A blast of wind battered the window. Neither the man nor the elf spoke for a long time.

Finally, Santa said, softly, “Eugene, let’s just do what we can, OK? Insulate, turn off the lights, run those numbers for a wind turbine again. But for now, my friend, we have toys to get delivered.”

“Yes Sir,” said the elf, turning off his iPad. “Thank you.” He bowed his head and left.

Santa sat alone for ten minutes, then twenty, staring into the fire. Advil, he thought. I need Advil. Finally he picked up his own iPad, cringing when he saw there were 16,217 new messages in just the last half-hour. Soon we’ll need a bigger server, he thought to himself.

He would revisit the problem in the new year. Taking a deep breath Santa sat up, and, with a few taps, opened the file named “List.” He scrolled through it, checking it for the second time today, looking again to see who had been naughty, and who had been nice.

by David Appell

1 comment:

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