Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Maybe you don't give a damn, but you should

Colorado suffered the most destructive wildfire in state history
It’s hot! More than 1360 counties in 31 states have been declared natural disaster areas due to a drought the likes of which we haven’t seen since dust bowl days. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 55 percent of the nation’s pasture and rangeland is in poor to very poor condition. Wildfires have plagued the nation the last two years. Last year it was drought-plagued Texas that suffered the worst of the fires. This year it’s Colorado, which suffered the most destructive wildfire in state history. Some holdouts on the global warming issue are beginning to wonder if climate scientists might actually have it right. There’s nothing like climate effects hitting close to home to change minds about global warming. But climate scientists will be the first to tell you that weather isn’t climate.
Weather is what we have today (did I say “hot!”). And what we had a few weeks ago, thunder storms, with an impressive display of lightening. Weather is the wind blowing our 8-iron shot in the canal on the Canyon Lakes golf course, and the overcast days we experienced early in the year here in the Mid-Columbia.
Climate is what weather does in a particular region over the long term, usually 25 to 30 years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), when scientists talk about climate, they're looking at averages of precipitation, temperature, humidity, sunshine, wind velocity, fog, frost, hail storms, and other measures of the weather that occur over a long period in a particular place.
So do we really need to worry about all this hot weather this year? Well consider this:
  • June 2012 was the fourth warmest June since records began in 1880
  • The Northern Hemisphere land and ocean average surface temperature for June 2012 was the all-time warmest June on record
  • The globally-averaged land surface temperature for June 2012 was also the all-time warmest June on record
  • World-wide ocean surface temperature ranks as the 10th warmest on record
  • Longer term, global surface temperatures have increased since the late 19th Century and the linear trend for the past 50 years is nearly twice that for the past 100 years
So the answer is, “Yes,” we have to worry, not because it’s hot this year, but because it keeps getting hotter year after year.
Now you might ask, “So what? Isn’t this a natural warming cycle, maybe caused by sun flares, or water vapor, or political Super PAC ads? Why should I worry. It’s not going to effect me, is it?”
Let me answer your question concisely: It’s not a normal warming cycle. It’s caused by human activities, including burning fossil fuels and forest destruction, and yeah, it’s going to effect you, but if you live here in the Mid-Columbia, it probably won’t effect you as much as it will people in say, Bangladesh, who you don’t give a damn about anyway, right? Right. It will almost certainly effect your grandchildren, but you don’t care enough about them to do anything about global warming either, right? Right.
Now here’s the kicker. If our climate reaches a “tipping point,” then all bets are off. The climate will destabilize; droughts will spread and persist, desertification will take place,  ice will melt, hurricanes will blow, wildfires will roar across the land, tornadoes will rip apart whole cities, oceans will rise and flood coastal cities, and, in short, all hell will break loose. At that point, global warming will effect you and you’ll complain, “Why wasn’t something done!”
"Is this scenario even possible?" you ask? Yeah, it is. I’ll explain in a future post.

No comments: