The recent blast of below-zero weather in the nation has been miserable but educational.
Many ask, “How can there be global warming when it’s so cold?”
Most people seem to be learning the difference between weather and climate, thanks to such excellent, factual information in the media during this recent cold snap.
Here are some of those facts:
- Climate is a global occurrence, with all its variations. Weather is a combination of several factors in a given region (temperature, humidity, wind and so forth).
- Colder-than-normal temperatures in one part of the planet, such as the cold blast in the East, does not invalidate global warming. On the contrary, global warming can change climate patterns that make one region on Earth much colder but much hotter in other regions. As of last year, the Earth had warmed up by about 2 degrees F. since 1880 when records began to be kept. That may sound like a piddling number, but it is actually very high – high enough to cause land ice to melt and oceans to rise.
- Green-house gas emissions, almost entirely human-made, have increased by 43 percent since pre-industrial times in the 1800s. Radioactivity is used to distinguish industrial emissions from natural emissions (such as forest fires). Yes, carbon-dioxide levels have increased and declined over thousands of years, but the studies show humans have been pumping green-house gas into the atmosphere at a hugely faster rate than the “natural” rate.
- In the next three decades, global warming is expected to cause more extreme weather. The signs are already here, such as coral reefs dying. Long-term effects of catastrophic global warming (and resulting weather changes) will cause more severe storms (as has already been seen), waves of refugees fleeing areas too hot or too wet for crop productions, extinctions of plants and animals and massive, irreversible flooding of coastal cities.
- Is there hope? Yes, but the hour is getting late. What is needed are clean-energy alternatives (wind, solar, hydro-electric), stricter fuel-efficiency standards, emissions limits for power plants. There have been some great advances toward those goals, thanks to new technologies and increasing awareness.
We can all help by becoming very conscious of the ways we use energy. For example, insulating homes to prevent heat loss; turning off lights when not needed; eating less meat; driving fewer miles; walking, biking or taking public transportation; spurning plastic packaging; supporting companies that make production changes that favor green-energy methods. Doing such simple but collectively effective lifestyle changes can do wonders to reduce green-house emissions and to raise awareness of what a fragile planet we live on – and share.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.