On the last day of winter here in New Jersey, it was almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The week after — the first week of spring, when the grass was turning green and buds were appearing on the trees — the temperature dropped down to 40 degrees.
Such extremes in the weather in such short periods of time have been all too common of late. Winter was oddly mild on the East coast, after a snowstorm on October 29 that made Halloween trick or treating an afterthought, sent scores of branches and trees crashing down as the snow and ice over-weighted their still leafy limbs and knocked out the power in some areas (including a good percentage of my north-central New Jersey town) for days. Just a few months earlier in August, my town (there is a river running through the middle) had already seen thousands of houses flooded and hundreds condemned after Hurricane Irene, whose soaking rains left far more damage and flooding in Vermont, upstate New York and elsewhere
IPCC Report on Extreme Weather
A new 594-page report by 220 authors from 62 countries issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that we should expect more extreme weather. The United Nations founded the panel in 1998; its new report says that global warming over the past half-century has indeed led to “changes in climate extremes,” such heat waves, record high temperatures and in many regions, heavy precipitation. As IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri says in the Voice of America, we should expect more heat waves and longer ones as well as more “extreme precipitation events.” He also says that there needs to be a global, multinational effort to “take steps to mitigate such a disaster.”
The Voice of America also notes that in 2011:
Rainfall in Thailand was 80 percent more than the seasonal average and the capital city was flooded.
Russia experience its hottest summer in 500 years.
There were 1,600 tornadoes in the U.S.
Back in June of 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had already dubbed 2011 one of the most extreme weather years in history.
While noting that “no evidence connects global warming with specific local weather events,” Pachauri points out that warmer temperatures that are further increased by CO2 and gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels will indeed “trigger more intense droughts, heavier rainfall and stronger storms.”
What Can We Do?
Extreme weather disasters cost an average of $80 billion a year. What we need to do to lessen the impact of climate change is, says Pachauri, to “stabilize the concentration of these greenhouse gases” in order to “stabilize the climate of this planet.”
In our fossil-fuel dependent society, this is easier said than done. But here are some small measures we can take.
1. Follow these 5 ways to reduce your carbon footprint by Beth Buczynski.
2. Be aware of your water footprint.
3. Lower your meat consumption or consider not eating meat at all.
4. Keep up the pressure on the rest of the world including China to control per capita emissions.
5. Support ways to make traditional practices environmentally friendly.
6. For sure, forgo using plastic bags.
Also, take note that having a higher income and a big carbon footprint doesn’t increase life expectancy.
80 degrees on the last day of winter in the Northeast US simply isn’t right. Some may have been glad to walk around in shorts and flip-flops but the out-of-sync temperatures have been wreaking havoc on bees (who have not been semi-dormant in the mild winter, have eaten all their stores of honey and now face starvation), butterflies, fruit crops and much else. Climate change is real. Scientists are keeping up the fight back against climate change deniers — and we need to all make real efforts to lessen the effects of global warming not only for our own sake, but the sake of the earth.
In anticipation of this year’s Earth Day on April 22, what efforts, big or small, are you making to help fight global warming?