Spring in Canada – Climate Change has it's Advantages – or Maybe Not

I’m running a bit behind on writing – the pain was really bad for most of the last week, so I didn’t get around to talking about my walk with the puppies to the park on Sunday. It was a wonderful day, sunny, warm (about 10 degree Celsius), just the sort of early spring day that takes your breathe away.

The boys (both our dogs are male) were having a wonderful time, bouncing around all over the place, until we got to the park and they saw a puppy that they didn’t recognize, at which point both of them started pulling like crazy, so that they could meet the new puppy. I nodded to the puppy’s master, who was wearing a brown leather jacket, and while the puppies all sniffed noses (and butts) we turned to watch his two daughters sliding on the ice rink. The girls were in the eight to twelve year old age range, and were having a wonderful time. The rink may have been too soft to skate on, but it was great for sliding in your winter boots. I wish I’d had my camera with me, as the picture would have freaked a lot of my American friends.

The girls were wearing pink tee-shirts. No coats. Just pink tee-shirts. They looked absolutely adorable, their faces lit up by huge smiles.

What does this have to do with the title?

According to Environment Canada, the winter of 2009-2010 was the warmest since they started keeping records sixty-three years ago. It also had the least precipitation. Even with the heavy rains we’ve received today, it’s been a really dry winter. Not quite drought levels, but dry enough to possibly affect crop planting.

Meanwhile to the south of us, the North Eastern United States, and parts of the South Eastern United States have had record snow falls. This has caused people like Glen Beck to claim that Climate Change isn’t happening. OK Glen, so you had a bit more snow than you are used to. How about us? We had so little snow, that basic childhood enterprises like building snow forts and snow men were impossible.

Rather than looking at a single year, you have to look at the average. And the difference in the average is scary. Local municipalities used snow fences along country roads up until the late 1970’s, and then they stopped. We haven’t needed them since then. Which was nice, it cut costs considerably. Street snow clearing budgets have also dropped, there hasn’t been as much snow. Salting costs have decreased.

Oh, we still have some years where the snow is a bit deeper. But on average we are getting a lot less.

A couple of years ago I had to attend an Industrial Truck Association meeting in Banff, and I took my wife along. She went on a trip up to the glaciers, and the guides talked about how far the glaciers had retreated. In Europe there’s been a number of mummified bodies retrieved from retreating glaciers, the most famous of which is Otzi, who was found on the Austria/Italian border. Of course Glen Beck wouldn’t know about this, he seems unable to understand that anything exists outside of the United States.

Climate scientists are almost unanimous on the cause. Scientists being unanimous about something is unusual. Scientists like fighting. Each other. Internecine fighting between scientific institutions, and advocates of different theories is the normal way of life in the scientific community. David Brin did a wonderful series explaining this which you can find here, here, and here, in which he pointed out that the majority of people who claim Climate Change isn’t happening have connections to the Fossil Fuel companies.

And David isn’t the only one to have noticed this. The Independent (England), Rolling Stone (yeah, they are left wing – this does not mean they are stupid), and interesting article called Climate Killers which lists those who are trying to stave off any changes in Fossil Fuel use (Rolling Stone again), the Guardian (England).

There’s an old saying, ‘It’s a Dog Eat Dog World‘. No where is this more true than in science. Science is a tough, tough, game, that makes politics look like an old ladies tea party. The only time you get a consensus in science is when no one can come up with an argument which will destroy the consensus. None of the Climate Change Skeptics is a climate scientist. A good example is Gene Quinn. Gene is a nice guy (we’ve traded emails, and blog posts) but he isn’t a Climate Scientist. I have no doubt that he believes very strongly that Climate Change isn’t real the way it’s scientifically defined, but he doesn’t have the knowledge to make that call.

I’m not a Climate Scientist either, but I worked in the Emission Control field for many years, and you can find my name in documents on both the California Air Resources Board and Environmental Protection Agency websites. I have a decent understanding of the science, and while I was originally extremely skeptical, I have had the chance to talk to people at a very high level who were able to explain to me where I was wrong, and how I was wrong. I also understand linkages, and how even a small change could cause tremendous damage. The problem is that we aren’t looking at a small change. We are looking at a change large enough that it will cause massive chaos as our weather systems change to adjust to it.

We could still avoid the worst. Nissan is introducing it’s first electric car this year. Imagine driving and never filling up with gasoline, ever again. Oh, you’d have to charge it every night, and the range is limited. But there’s only three or four times per year that our family would need to travel outside it’s range, and we could rent a vehicle for those trips – or use our minivan.

Heck, we would have bought an electric if they had have been available last fall. We almost bought a hybrid, but the cost/benefit ratio wasn’t quite right, so we bought the Honda Fitt instead (for those considering the Honda Insight, it’s a great car, but you cannot fit two men over six feet tall in the back, and that’s one of our family’s requirements – and we sometimes need to travel with five adults and two dogs, which is why there’s a Dodge minivan in the driveway).

Climate Change is real folks. And for those who think it isn’t, consider how much money you can save by not buying gasoline, especially when speculators are driving the price of oil.

Oh, and to all those politicians who are following the Fossil Fuel company lead – we will remember who you were, and we are going to change the definition of ‘treason’ retroactively so we can thank you for your inaction.

Wayne Borean

Sunday March 14, 2010

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4 thoughts on “Spring in Canada – Climate Change has it's Advantages – or Maybe Not

  1. What one must remember about Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk is that they are entertainers masquerading as political talk show hosts. What they say does not need to make sense as long as it generates ratings.

    Why it generates ratings though is a different issue. I suspect that anyone who tells someone they don’t need to leave their comfort zone will be popular.

    You look at the petroleum institute advertising, and they are peddling fear. Make no mistake, there is some very real basis for that fear. We are terribly dependent on fossil fuel. However you can pay up now, or you can pay a whole lot more later.

    Not far from where I live is an area that has been identified as ideal for wind turbines. A bunch of people are complaining because the wind turbines are unsightly. And they are. Not far from there is a nuclear power plant. People are complaining because the waste is in storage in nearby storage casks. Not in my back yard is rampant.

    If you really want to cry, read a book Solar Power by Ralph Nansen, written in 1995. He was a Boeing engineer. In 1975 Boeing was selected as a one of the contractors to develop preliminary design concepts for a solar power satellite system for NASA. If I remember properly there was the capability of making the US energy independent in twenty years. When one considers the US at that time was using a quarter of the world’s energy, the impact on the rest of the world would be considerable. As I said, if you want to cry, read the book.

    1. Greg,

      Remember you are talking to a long time Science Fiction fan. Glen Beck et al remind me of a the newsies from George Orwell’s ‘1984‘.

      I haven’t read Ralph Nansen’s book (never heard of it before) but I did read O’Neil’s ‘The High Frontier‘ and several other books on the uses of space when they were published in the 1970’s. It’s sad that nothing was done about this, however it is not surprising considering how the U.S. Political System is driven by corporate donations.

      The fossil fuel industry doesn’t care how much damage is done to the planet as long as they can make profits now. I personally expect that the United States will not take any action on Climate Change until at least half of the coastal cities are badly damaged by rising sea levels. After all, no one can make the United States take action, you can’t force the foremost military power on the planet to do anything.

      Wayne

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