Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sailing Into Uncharted Waters

You don't have to like it but you're going to have to live with it.

Climate change is setting in - hard.  It's already here and we're going to have to come to grips with what it means.

I spoke with my daughter in Chicago on Tuesday.  It was 80F there.  On my end of the phone, here on Vancouver Island, it was snowing.

I went with a friend yesterday to help him pick up some materials.  We were both stunned at the snowpack on our local mountains.   Not only did we see massive amounts of snow, the snowpack reached far lower on the mountains than either of us had ever seen it before.

While I was admiring the beauty of the snow-clad mountains I was struck with the thought of what might befall us if the weather turns suddenly and we get a warm snap.  We've had that sort of thing in the past and it's caused plenty of flooding in low-lying areas.

Now Reuters reports that farmers in Illinois are, for the first time ever, planting their fields.   They're reacting to the warmest March in their state's recorded history.

[Farmer Ethan Cox'] crop may miss the peak summer heat of July and reap an extra 60 cents a bushel in September if his gamble pays off. Robust ethanol demand and years of low domestic inventories have placed a near-record premium on corn that can be delivered at the end of summer, when grain bins are empty and before the main harvest.

But the risks are high too: planting so early means forsaking some types of crop insurance; and despite the exceptionally mild winter, odds favor another chill at least once this year. Only once in the last century has the Midwest avoided frost between mid-March and mid-April.

At some point we're all going to have to realize that "normal" no longer applies to many aspects of our lives or to our future and the future of our kids and grandkids.  It's gone and we'll not see its return.

While this may sound pessimistic, it's actually mere realism and it is only in realism that we are going to be able to formulate viable policies for adaptation and remediation.   The only thing we can achieve by avoiding reality is to ensure that we allow these impacts to become unnecessarily worse.

Some took the recent European cold snap as proof that global warming isn't real.   The British meteorological office studied the cold drought conditions the UK has experienced this winter.   What they found is that this has been caused by a newly-arrived climate phenomenon, the Arctic Oscillation.    The loss of Arctic sea ice is changing upper latitude wind currents.   Now cold Arctic air is descending differently, unpredictably.  That's why you in the East experienced such a mild winter.   That's why you in the East are experiencing such an unnatural warm spell right now.  It's also probably why we on the west coast aren't enjoying our typical early spring.  It's probably why we have such a massive snowpack right now.

Things are changing and we're only just getting started.   Isn't it time our government opened up and had an intelligent, informed conversation about this with the Canadian people?  Isn't it time that the leaders of the Opposition parties demanded as much of Steve Harper?


Carmichael said...

We and the opposition can demand until the cows come home.

Harper and his caucus and party don't give a shit and don't need to either.

There's nothing we can do about anything until the next election and the way the partisan wheels are turning there's not a very good likelihood that we'll be able to do anything about Harper then either.

double nickel said...

Southern Manitoba just smashed a 134 year old record for high temp today. It's been like summer here for 2 weeks.

The Mound of Sound said...

That doesn't excuse the Opposition from not railing on about this. It's their job to demand action and that obligation isn't dependent on their likelihood of Harper complying. If all they can do is raise holy hell, then that's what they should do.

Double Nickel, how are people there reacting to this? I'm sure there are plenty of folks who think it's great but are there many who realize the longer-range problems this may create?