Monday, July 30, 2012

Not Whether . . . But When

I've been thinking about the weather lately.  In part because I now live in Virginia and experienced first-hand a month or so back what my old stomping grounds in the Northeast have just experienced -- the power of the derecho.

Apparently this word has been in use to describe this particular weather phenomenon since 1877, but I'd swear that I'd never heard it before knocked down the branches and trees all around my home and knocked out the power to tens of thousands of people.  I mean, truthfully, I honestly don't remember ever hearing about derechos before that time.  And then, oddly enough, there's a second one in the national news spotlight in less than a month.  Weird.

There are a lot of weird things happening in our weather these days.  And since Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth hit our mass consciousness, more and more the phrase "climate change" has become part of our lexicon.  And our experiences.  Summers are hotter; droughts are longer; storms are more powerful.  Our global climate is changing.  Weird things are happening in our weather.

There are, of course, folks who deny the whole notion of climate change.  Most often they seem to focus on the question of the causes of these changes, although they do sometimes question the reality of the changes themselves.  But most of the time even that challenge is in essence a challenge to the idea that human activity is the root problem and needs to be changed. 

Some try to challenge this call for change by noting that the planet has heated up and cooled before and since there weren't coal-fired energy plants and pervasive automobile pollution the last time this happened that what we, as a species, are doing today is obviously not to blame.  Different interpretations of the data involved can, apparently, support such a position . . . and I am not a climate scientist so I know that I can't speak authoritatively about this.  I do remember one of the important lessons in my college class on statistics -- "the numbers" can be interpreted in so many different ways that just about any point can be supported.

So I find myself unwilling to declare that the so-called "Climate Change Deniers" are wrong.  At least, not entirely.  Let's argue for a moment that the science really isn't clear yet.  Let us, for the moment, agree to take a deep breath and, for the sake of furthering the discussion, decide that the question of the cause of climate change isn't something we are able to answer with any certainty.

Let's look at the effect.  It is certainly clear that something weird is happening with our weather this day, and it also seems to be true that there have been previous shits if global weather patterns.  The earth has heated up, and cooled off, before.  And whenever this has happened before there have catastrophic changes to the earth's ecosystems.  Animal and plant species died off in tremendous numbers.  And while it is certainly true that life has continued to flourish, the life which continued was not life as they knew it before the changes occurred.  Sure, the earth survived but that's cold comfort for the dinosaurs.

Whatever the cause, it seems as though our global climate is, in fact, changing.  And, again whatever the cause, we can safely assume that, as in the past, these changes portend that life as we've known it is changing too.  Doesn't it seem to make sense to stop arguing about who or what is at fault and begin trying to work together to figure out how we're going to adapt to this changing reality?

In Gassho,


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