Adverse climate change is real…and getting worse
For years now, world governments have dithered about how, and how much, to address the issues posed by a warming planet Earth. Commitments made have never been enough, and even those inadequate promises have never been kept. So individuals and municipalities and regional/state governments have had to take measures. These haven’t been enough, either, but it is what we’ve been left with given the failure of will on the part of our national politicians (of all stripes).
I’ve been following the debates and proposals, including reading the periodicals and major scientific consensus report. These scientific reports represent the most competent laboratories, think tanks, research facilities, universities, etc. that anyone can find in our neck of the universe. Their findings are based on ongoing rigorous measurements of all sorts: ocean temperatures, land temperatures, atmospheric temperatures, gasses in the atmosphere and oceans, animal and plant populations and their dynamics (migration, long-term territorial changes, fertility and mortality, population size, disease and other morbidity factors), human population and social dynamics, infrastructure vulnerabilities, resilience and adaptation issues (emergency and long-term preparedness, financial strengths, social cohesion, inter-community cooperation, etc.
There is so much research and new news being developed and uncovered out there regarding the evolving threats posed by global warming that it could be a full-time job just keeping up with it all. There are a number of excellent periodic magazines out there that do a terrific job of boiling down the results of these researchers, including Science News and National Geographic. I am sure you can find others, but I like these in particular because they have no political axes to grind; their missions are to shed light on the world around us, to explain clearly what scientists are discovering (whether it fits into anyone’s neat little worldview or not), and to explore the implications of these discoveries for those of us (human or not) that live on this third rock from the sun. Supplement these with some first-hand research reports, and it’s clear the writing is on the wall.
What scientists are finding is that global warming is having more severe impacts on our long-term weather patterns (otherwise known as “climate”) than was previously reported. These impacts make a strong response even more urgent.
Case in point (reported in Science News December 5, 2020): scientists reported in the November 12, 2020 issue of the journal Nature that Atlantic hurricanes now take longer to weaken than they used to 50 years ago. Although the number of hurricanes does not appear to have increased. (Science News August 14, 2021; Nature Communications, July 13, 2021): the ones that occur can grow stronger while over a now-warmer ocean, giving them more energy to travel farther over land, increasing the probability of more destruction.
Case in point (reported in Science News, June 19, 2021): the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in May of this year announced it is updating its official reference values for temperature and precipitation. These updated reference values note that all areas of the United States are warmer now than they were compared with the average 20th Century values. See the maps at https://climate.gov. Higher temperatures pose threats to human and animal health, to agriculture, to water supplies; enable the spread of exotic diseases, etc.
Case in point (reported in Science News February 13, 2021): researchers from Penn State reported in the January 13, 2021 online issue of the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences that “the total amount of heat stored in the upper oceans in 2020 was higher than in any other year on record dating back to the 1950s … The two previous record holders were 2019 and 2017 … Based on average land and sea temperature, 2020 tied with 2016 for Earth’s hottest year on record.” Remember: more stored ocean heat leads to stronger and stronger storms.
Case in point (reported in Science News January 30, 2021): Unless we change how we produce food, or what food we produce, humanity’s future farming needs by 2050 may lead to significant habitat destruction for over 17,000 species, with untold negative implications for the interconnected chains of life.
Case in point: the recently- announced plan by the Army Corps of Engineers to address expected rises in sea level along the Jersey coast, including construction of sea gates and massive pumps, and the lifting of thousands along the coast from Sandy Hook to Cape May. When these can-do professionals pay attention to a problem and suggest solutions as radical and ambitious as these, it’s time for all of us to pay attention.
You get the picture and I won’t go on further (today) about the worsening conditions globally. Suffice it to say we all need to be serious about combating climate change. Our town government has taken some good steps in that direction, including going solar at the Utility Department, diversifying its vehicle fleet with some new hybrids, and we will be installing an electric vehicle charging station in the coming months. We all need to do more, however. Most importantly, we need to get our national politicians off their keesters to move the country in a more sustainable direction. Local governments and individual households cannot do it alone, nor should we have to. Our state and national representatives need to get on the ball before our planetary ball called Earth becomes too hostile and chaotic a place to live.
Dan Bachalis is a former town councilman and has served on a number of town committees. He currently serves as the chairman of the Hammonton Environmental Commission and the Lake Water Quality Commission.