Per Capita Davis: Rising temperatures are concerning
This fortnightly column by John Mott-Smith is cross-posted from Davis Enterprise.
About a month ago, there was an article in the paper about the high temperatures in March in the United States. Of course, the usual disclaimer is still necessary: It’s not possible to draw a straight line between climate change and any one weather event. However, scientists have been warning from quite early on that one of the first observable effects of increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would be “weird weather” characterized by more frequent extreme weather events, and, whether we “connect the dots” between them or not, we’re certainly seeing some humdingers.
Consider some of the following from a recent AP article about weather in the lower 48 states in March.
* Normally, the average temperature in the U.S. in March is 42.5 degrees; this year it was 51.1 degrees, almost 9 degrees above “normal.”
* More than 7,000 weather stations broke all-time high temperature records, and about an equal number broke overnight temperature records.
* Average January-through-March temperature records were 10 times higher than the “normal” fluctuation going back more than 100 years.
It’s fair to note that not everywhere in the world was as hot as the U.S. was in March, but I can feel my own temperature rising in the face of a report by the International Energy Agency that indicates the world is making poor progress toward the technology changes (primarily shifting away from coal) necessary to avoid the predicted 3- to 4-degrees Fahrenheit increase.
The report says we are increasing automobile fuel economy at only about half the rate necessary, there are as yet no “clean coal” plants operating anywhere in the world, new coal plants being built don’t even measure up to current efficiency standards, instead of doubling energy from nuclear power the world is producing less and we are not spending nearly enough on retrofitting existing buildings to be more energy-efficient.
Average January-through-March temperature records were 10 times higher than the “normal” fluctuation going back more than 100 years.
The only bright spot is that energy from renewable sources (wind, solar, etc.) is growing nearly 30 percent per year and is on track to meet its part of the IEA’s scenario for a solution.
But the reason I’m getting steamed is that there is a significant disconnect between the real world and the imaginary world of conspiracy theorists. On the one hand, the U.S. military, a conservative organization if ever there was one, is acknowledging and planning for the reality of climate change.
As an example, the arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet and the military task force on climate change has prepared an “Arctic Roadmap” that anticipates potential opportunities as well as security issues of an ice-free arctic.
Meanwhile, the state of Arizona is considering legislation (its state Senate has passed it and the bill is now in its House of Representatives) to confront what it perceives as a United Nations plot to “take away our rights as Americans by allowing the U.N. to mandate laws on our soil.”
According to supporters, the United Nations has “enlisted the support of numerous independent shadow organizations to surreptitiously implement this agenda around the world.” What are they talking about? A recent article summarized Agenda 21, the source of the conspiracy in questions, as a set of non-binding principles calling for “sustainable development, environmental protection, eradicating poverty, eliminating unsustainable production and consumption patterns, economic growth, and the participation of women in government decisions.”
Arizona is Arizona and seems quite far away. But a planning consultant friend of mine, who works on sustainability issues for communities throughout California, recently told me his experience: Conspiracy theory adherents are showing up at planning commission meetings, city council meetings and public forums all over California and they appear to be organized, funded, loud and disruptive.
We, as a country and a species, are not putting our best effort into protecting the future for the unborn generations that will come after us.
As my temperature rises I retreat to my own back yard where our maple tree is sending out its helicopter seeds like never before; the seeds have literally covered the ground. Botanists say that when plants are stressed (too cold, too hot or dry) they put all their resources into reproduction to ensure future survival.
Maybe that’s what is happening with our tree; maybe not. But it sparked a thought that we, as a country and a species, are not putting our best effort into protecting the future for the unborn generations that will come after us. A cautious, conservative, practical, pragmatic, common-sense approach would, I think, listen to the advice of the vast majority of scientists and even if harboring some skepticism would acknowledge the risks and the need for action.
I’d like to think we are at least as smart as a tree.
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