Green Fatigue

Global Warming Threatens Santa's Workshop and Reindeer, Expert Says

Global warming threatens to sink Santa's workshop and push reindeer toward extinction, a renowned climatologist tells New Times.

As we've read in recent months, climate change could melt the ice cap at the North Pole during the summer in 10 to 20 years, according to some estimates. Scientists aren't sure about the timing, and Al Gore recently got dinged for predicting an ice-free North Pole in fewer than seven years. But the meltdown is apparently only a matter of time -- and that doesn't bode well for the fat guy in the red suit.

How Santa's workshop -- usually depicted in the media as a mansion or small castle, though no verified photos exist -- has managed to stand for so long on a foundation of shifting ice is one of the greatest mysteries of science, says Glen MacDonald, head of the UCLA Institute of the Environment.

But Santa's architectural magic will eventually face its greatest challenge yet: The total lack of a solid surface.


"He'll have to move his workplace somewhere," says MacDonald, who was on his holiday vacation when we bugged, um, reached him by cell phone.

Skeptics of global warming, of course, would scoff at such dire predictions -- they believe the ice will remain under the feet of Santa and the elves for centuries to come.

Either way, it's theoretically possible that Santa could anchor the workshop to the ocean floor or float it like an oil rig. If the North Pole became ice free yearly, the popular mythology of Santa's workshop will have to change along with the new climate. 

But even if that problem is solved, Santa may have to worry about the potential extinction of reindeer and caribou. MacDonald says the animals' population is dwindling because the warmer Earth means less arctic vegetation to eat.

Again, Santa's magic may come to the rescue. Old Saint Nick has obviously found a way to slow down the aging process, so perhaps Rudolph, Dasher, and the rest of the flying reindeer are essentially immortal. They'll survive the warming, perhaps, but might be awfully lonely.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.