This letter is addressed to all those who, like the ostrich, bury their head in the sand other dark places. There, now that I have gotten that out of my system, it’s time to identify the challenges other than the obvious social and political ones.
For the sake of limiting this letter’s length I will include only the broad “weather conditions” that respond to climate variations. The most obvious of these is temperature. Because of rising global temperature, sea levels are rising and on land floods and droughts are becoming more prevalent. Much of science requires those involved to study cause and effect. That is, the scientific method requires identifying the problem. In this case, it is observable climate changes.
The most outstanding effect is a greater number of extreme weather occurrences in the temperate zones of the earth. That is especially true in the northern hemisphere where a greater portion of temperate land mass is located. Even if you’re not a climatologist, you know that the prevailing winds are from the west in the zone between the subtropical and arctic. The rotation of the earth causes this to be so.
Being a scientist is requires the gathering of evidence and developing a hypothesis. A great number scientists are, and have been, doing detailed studies designed to discover the causes of observable climatic effects. At a meeting I recently attended I heard it presented as a conundrum as follows: What we do know, what we don’t know and what we need to know from both global and local perspectives.
We know the Earth’s temperature is rising. That requires us to ask, is that somehow related to the tripling of weather related disasters since 1960? Have the heat waves, droughts and forest fires increased in number and intensity as a result? Is there the likelihood of superstorms like Sandy and Katrina occurring with greater frequency? Lacking little evidence to the contrary, we must conclude the answer is, yes.
Some of the economic and social effects are grim. Such things as storm damage, crop losses, public health emergencies and some lesser ones like allergies and respiratory distress. A study of the costs of hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy costs and the cost of delivering drinkable water concluded that, left unchecked through the end of this century, would require an outlay of 1.9 trillion dollars annually in the United States. The plain truth is that inaction, in the long run is going to cost more than taking remedial action now. Pollution does not have to be fuel for our economy. Dirty profits now will incur health expenses now and in the future. Efforts to mitigate the carbon emissions are in effect and more are planned for in the future. Those who deny there is a global crisis need to take their blinders off and remove their rose-colored glasses. The need to take an unbiased look at how we produce and use power. After they have done that, the should be come part of the solution rather than being part of the problem.
On the local level, we have an entity called the Lakes Region Planning Commission. In 1990 the put together a regional public utilities and infrastructure plan. It was a survey and assessment of existing public services with an eye toward future modifications and improvements. It was developed using a regional perspective with a view toward linking infrastructure across regional boundaries and encouraging cooperation and coordination between communities. Fast forward twenty-five years and you can observe real progress. There are many things we know, fewer things we don’t know but the list of things we need to know continues to grow. Last week the Lakes Region Planning Commission held its 47th annual meeting. Dr. Lindsey Rustag, author of the previously mentioned conundrum, asked those in attendance to think about what more they needed to know in order to take effective action, environmentally, in their communities. Perhaps the most effective thing they could do is encourage others to help identify and mitigate problems. Address needs with organized cooperative actions now and in the future.
Bill Dawson, Northfield