The favorite retort by many of us in the midwest or eastern US in the past few weeks has been: “What global warming? I’m surrounded by icicles!” Others of us, such as in the southwest (and much of Russia), have been sweltering in temperatures dozens of degrees above normal. The key to understanding all of this is to remember that weather is not climate. The polar vortex is not all there is, even when it’s errant. For some explanation see this from the Weather Channel.
Yet all this recent weird weather does allow us to crow: “Telecommuters do it at home! They don’t need to go out in all that snow, ice and slush. When disaster strikes we can deal with it (unless the power goes out too).”
Aside from the dangers of growing teleworker hubris, increasing global warming poses a number of impending hazards. One of the foremost of these is rising sea level. For those who are still global warming deniers there’s a good summary article in the 13 January 2014 New York Times. The evidence is in. Sea levels are rising and, given the propensity of homo sapiens to want to live near the shore, hundreds of millions of people will be at risk in the very near future. Because the shores are sinking while the seas are rising.
The main lesson to learn from the weather of the past few weeks is that global warming begets such weirdness. Cold spells and hot spells alike become more intense and can last longer even if they may be less frequent. Ditto hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons. The result is greater damage to whatever was built under the pre-warming rules. The weather damage bills are rising worldwide along with the mean temperature of the globe’s troposphere.
And they will continue to rise even after we’ve collectively stopped messing with Mother Nature. That means everyone has to reduce their consumption of unsustainable fuels. Now. Today. By buying more efficient means of transportation, improving insulation of buildings, and reducing unnecessary trips, such as by increasing teleworking. This does not require government action (since, given the nature of the current national governments that’s not likely to happen in this century). It can be done by individual decisions and actions. Some local and state governments have heard the message and are acting, particularly in California, but much more needs to be done. Pass it on.
The bad news is that, even if we do all those thing just mentioned, we won’t notice the effects for decades, maybe longer. This is because climate has enormous inertia. The inertia it has built up over the past century makes moving mountains child-play. The warming will continue even if we all stop moving today. So if you’re into instant gratification this can be demotivating. But make those changes anyway.
Your great grandchildren will thank you.