Bearing Witness to Climate Change February 2019

  • At the beginning of the month the U.S. experiences the coldest temperatures in decades as the polar vortex pulls Arctic temperatures southward. Actual temperatures in the upper Midwest range from to 10-30 below with wind chills of 40-60 below. Over a dozen have died as a direct result of the frigid cold.
  • Yet only a few days later the temperatures swing the other over 80 degrees in some locations from well below zero into the 60’s. It seems there is no normal normal. Weather watchers say they don’t ever recall as big a swing in such a short time. The deep freeze followed by rapid thawing creates new calamity with broken water mains, damaged roads, and flooding. Extreme weather events are reported on the rise all across the planet.
  • While North America freezes Australia and New Zealand report record-breaking heat with some temperatures reaching over 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ocean scientists are busy studying how changes to the Atlantic Ocean’s water circulation, called a conveyor belt, will influence the climate in North America and Europe.  The mixing of the water disperses the heat of the southern Atlantic into northern waters. In the process it pushes carbon dioxide into deeper depths. What will happen as the Arctic or Greenland ice melts pouring cooler water into the northern Atlantic, all the while southern Atlantic waters are warming up.
  •  The warming oceans have been cited in a new study as the cause of a massive die off in Starfish. Warmer waters are believed to make the starfish more susceptible to disease. A reduction of starfish triggers changes throughout the ocean ecosystems.
  • Back on land Glaciers continue to retreat. Impoverished rural communities around the world that depend on glacier-fed lakes and reservoirs are being threatened. A changing climate is expected to melt most Himalayan Glaciers by 2100, threatening the drinking water and food sources of future generations.
  • More industry think-tanks and economists are starting to think about the true cost of climate change and the impact on the economy. A government-funded study suggests that the cost of climate change could be a 10% hit on GDP.
  •  Dozens of hungry polar bears have invaded a Russian arctic town that has declared an emergency. It is thought that the loss of Arctic ice has moved bears off their traditional territories and hunting grounds.
  •  President Trump says not a word about the threat of climate change to the country in his State of the Union Address postponed due to the recent government shutdown. Instead, he claims immigrants coming across the border is a national emergency that we must build a wall to keep out. If only he would think of a warming climate as the threat we must prepare for.
  • Thankfully, some newly elected Democrat Congressional representatives are socializing a “Green New Deal” to rid ourselves of dependency on the burning of fossil fuels which create greenhouse gasses while creating jobs to help American prepare for then head off more climate change. Predictably, the Republican Party which use to be about protecting America from all threats declares it an unrealistic socialist’s wish list.
  • Much of Australia has been in a state of emergency for weeks this summer after devastating floods and heat that have become a new climate norm. Scientists say that warmer atmospheres are to blame since they hold more moisture as well as warmer oceans which power storms from offshore.
  •  It’s official, the last five years are reported to have been the five warmest on record with 2018 ending as the 4th hottest since 1880 records started. The global temp was 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above average temperatures in the past century before we started pumping greenhouse gasses into the air. That’s only an average, as some areas like the Arctic are over 4 degrees above averages from the past century.
  • A new study in the journal Nature predicts that the effects of global warming will substantially change the weather of much of the US. New York will feel more like Arkansas. Minnesota will be like Kansas. And the southwest more like Baja California.
  • In what at first appears as good news, President Trump is reported to be preparing an advisory panel to examine the impact of climate change on national security. Then we find out the panel will include an adviser who believes that man-made climate change is not real, global warming would be good even if it was happening, and have criticized efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
  • President Trump’s appointment of Andrew Wheeler to become head of the EPA is confirmed by the Senate in another sad day for the environment. Wheeler has been supporting changes begun by his disgraced predecessor Scott Pruitt which attempt to roll back decades of hard-fought environmental protections and remove the words “climate change” from EPA websites. Wheeler was a former coal-industry lobbyist who in his new role he has proposed making new coal-fired power plants easier to approve.
  • The Trump administration has ended negotiations with California in its attempt to roll back Obama’s regulations that reduced greenhouse emissions from vehicles.
  • In rare good news, many states – mostly those with Democrat governors and state legislatures – are taking leadership positions in confronting climate change while the federal government is negligent MIA. They are promising to support the Paris Climate Agreement and move their economies to carbon neutral through new forms of energy production, conservation, and regulation, and innovative carbon pricing and trading.