I’ve been thinking a lot about winter lately, and wondering where it went to. I often check the US, and the world, weather reports in the newspaper, just because I’m interested, but also because of some of the longer-term issues that have to do with climate change. The fact that there has been almost a complete lack of expected cold weather patterns all over the northern and eastern portions of the country cannot be normal, and is very troubling – little or no snow, and temperatures often ten to fifteen degrees, or more, above normal. Too, although not many people whom I’ve heard have been talking about it, California is in the throes of a major drought coming up. So far, as I read just recently in the Los Angeles Times, this is shaping up to be the driest winter in the past thirty years. The Sierra snow pack, which all of us depend so much on for our summer water supply, is at something like one fourth of its normal depth for this time of year.
Of course global warming does not mean that all parts of the planet experience actual warming trends. Quite the opposite can happen, too, and substantial variations in weather conditions in any particular part of the globe have always been quite possible. But what is not possible to deny is the very fact of the long-term warming of the climate of the planet. That is what is called “settled science,” in spite of claims on the part of organizations like the Heartland Institute, and other purveyors of bogus science. Not that individual scientists may not disagree with each other on when, or exactly how much, things will change. Will the seas, for example, rise by only three to four feet, or by six to seven feet, in the next hundred years or so? Those are questions that are debated, not WHETHER the seas will rise.
As often is the case, one can feel quite helpless when it comes to actually doing much about it. It is true, of course, that individuals really can make a difference, and that change does take place one person at a time. As such, it is incumbent on each of us to do our part to the best of our ability. Still, I rather fear and doubt that, a) many people will make anything like substantial changes, and b) we may already have progressed too far for smaller, incremental change to make much difference anyway. What is probably needed is BIG CHANGE, on the global stage, which can only happen if governments and organizations such as the UN take action. And, as we have seen, or rather not seen, all of the current contenders for the presidency, Barack Obama included, sad to say, have talked very little about climate change, or what their plans might be to meet it head on. Indeed, and incredibly, some of them actually deny it.
So, yes, it is true that we cannot posit a one-for-one causal connectivity between any given weather event and the bigger issue of global climate change. But it is a fact that the planet has warmed up by as much as two degrees Fahrenheit in the last hundred years. And that has had, and will have, a profound effect on our weather patterns. So it goes, then. Numerous respected scientists have been predicting for years that we may soon be reaching the tipping point, the point of no return. But what I have to wonder is whether that point may be coming sooner than anyone ever dreamed, or dared predict.