Climate change? February 2010 has been one for the record books. Washington D. C. and the Mid-Atlantic states suffered monster blizzards on consecutive weekends that dumped five feet of snow. For a while, 49 of 50 states had snow on the ground. While no one has kept records, that certainly seems most unusual. Lot’s of people say they would love to know where all that “global warming” is.
Jokes aside, and politics aside, climate and weather are not the same thing. The weather changes from day to day. Over a period of decades, any given day has its normal temperature, but the actual temperature may be twenty degrees higher or lower than normal. Climate does not vary from day to day. Climate change occurs more slowly and over a much longer time than weather.
In recent years, we have seen glaciers retreating. We have seen a lessening of ice at both poles. We have seen plant and animal life disappear from where we have been used to seeing it and appear somewhere else where it has never been before. The Northwest Passage, which Henry Hudson sought in vain in the frozen Arctic Ocean four hundred years ago, has become a reality, at least part of the year.
No one who bothers to differentiate between climate and weather can deny that the earth is becoming warmer. As we look back at climate changes over the last few thousand years, we can see that it has always fluctuated. Whatever legitimate controversy there is centers on whether today’s climate change represents a continuation of age-old patterns or whether modern industrial technology has caused or contributed to it.
Those who, for scientific or political reasons, believe that climate change is at least partly man-made advocate making some wrenching changes in our industry. Others, for scientific or political reasons, hotly deny that human activity contributes to climate change.
In fact, it doesn’t really matter who’s right about that argument.
You read right. It doesn’t matter whether human activity has caused climate change or not. We simply cannot sustain our current energy sources, energy usage, agriculture, transportation, solid waste, and much more–regardless of whether it’s changing the climate or not.
Economic and geopolitical considerations–not to mention simple self interest–will eventually either dictate making changes or cause some kind of social collapse. Generally speaking, whatever changes man-made climate change may dictate need to happen for other reasons as well. Let’s stop confusing climate with weather and figure out how to deal with the challenges that confront us