Extreme Weather & Climate Change, Groundhog Day – In the News

As the Eastern half of the US digs out yet again from massive storms, politics in Washington seems far removed from actual events. Should we be surprised? Close to 2 FEET of snow is expected in Chicago, 25 foot waves crash on roads around Lake Michigan, freezing rain and a foot of snow has fallen on Boston, heavy winds and ice storms stretch 2000 miles across the country, all creating wide spread havoc in thousands of communities.

As we scramble to arrange child care so we can go to work, our kids gleefully wake up to “another snow day.” Clearing the walkway and driveway yet again, or navigating the snow banks as we try to catch our bus (wondering if it is even coming), are at the forefront of our thinking and our actions. Scientists however, are looking closely at the relationship between extreme weather events around the world and the relationship between these events and a dramatic loss of sea ice in the Arctic over summer months, warm winter temperatures in the Arctic and warmer seas at the top of the world.

We can’t let the snow bury us or muffle our actions and reactions. We need to open our eyes and raise our voices to what some of our “new and old” representatives are doing in Washington, as bills are being prepared that would not only take away the power of the EPA to regulate the Clean Air Act, but hand tie all government efforts to control and mitigate climate change. These bills seem to be generated in a vacuum, ignoring the growing mass of peer reviewed scientific studies around the world pointing to the critical need to address human caused global warming. The Environmental Defense Action Fund has prepared some important background information on current bills including two particularly egregious bills, one from Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming and the other from Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Talk to the kids in your life. As scientists and our own observations tell us, we need to be doing a better job of taking care of our environment. Why then do some of our government representatives think that private businesses should be given carte blanche regarding how and where they pollute. Has self regulation proven to be a successful policy anywhere in the world? Would we recycle, or manage our own garbage if there were no requirements to do so, or would we even know how to or where to put it? Global warming is a result of a build up of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. These gases come primarily from carbon dioxide, the by-product of burning fossil fuels. Scientists the world over tell us we need to regulate our greenhouse gas emissions now, if we hope to mitigate the most harmful effects of global warming. Should we leave it up to each business and each individual to decide what is best for our environment; or would they or we decide and do what is best for each of us, first?

Dramatic weather events the world over are becoming more common; we hear about them, talk about them and then quickly forget about them, particularly when they aren’t in our “backyard.” A quick list of recent severe weather events: massive flooding in Australia stretching over an area the size of Germany and France – this same area is watching as a category 5 cyclone bears down on them – massive flooding in Brazil, Pakistan and China. Heat waves in Russia, monster snowstorms in the USA. All of these weather events have occurred since the summer of 2010.

According the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): “Extreme weather events are one of the ways in which climatic changes become dramatically visible.” According to the UK Met Office, “…while it is impossible to attribute any one weather event to global warming alone, there is “clear evidence” of an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events because of climate change.” Scientists are telling us that these extreme weather events will likely become the norm by the middle of this century. The NORM? Talk to the kids in your life. Is this the future they want or that we want for them?

BTW, Happy Groundhog Day..Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see is shadow, meaning…an early spring!

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