Meteorologists and emergency managers from the high Plains to the Appalachians are on alert as the U.S. has the year’s first widespread bout of severe weather. The key message: Have a Plan. (Christian Science Monitor, April 9, 2015)
The Climate Change Discussion
After the winter’s snows, residents of the Northeast might disagree with the “first” bout of severe weather in 2015! And, with regard to the bulletin above, climate scientists warn us to not confuse weather (a single episode) with climate change (observed facts over the long-term). Perhaps Noah or those who were in the path of Hurricane Sandy might be reluctant to accept this distinction as both weather events re-arranged the environment. The increasing frequency of severe weather occurrences, observers say, are the result of trapped warm air above us caused by human activities. The change in weather patterns is part of the climate change that is modifying our landscape.
Change should not be a surprise; the climate and environment are ever changing. Five hundred million years ago receding oceans left the serrated ridges we see on the massive rock formations along our roads. Fifty million years ago Mole Hill stopped erupting and polluting the air with gases and dust. Five thousand years ago man began devising written languages that allowed him to describe his environment and to observe and report on changes. The newest force affecting environment is man with the capability and intelligence to do well or to do harm. People who distrust scientific discourse and people who deny existing change are often described as mentally lazy, politically angry, or economically beholden to a special interest. Those on the opposite side are deemed doomsday, hand-wringers and may also be guilty of the same traits as the deniers. Most people are somewhere in the middle between the deniers and the doomsayers. Opinions on what action to take on climate change is far from unanimous.
Efforts to solve our environmental problems need to include personal, local, state, national and even international action. Given recent political debates, it may come as a surprise to Virginians that its State Constitution (Article XI, Section 1) promises “the commonwealth’s policy to protect its atmosphere, land and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction, for the benefit, enjoyment and general welfare of the people of the commonwealth.” The documentation of climate history (often reduced to a plethora of graphs) and a discussion of climate change in Virginia illustrate some of the issues. From the existing records Virginia once had a generally stable, predictable climate but the long-term historical data show recent trends to be otherwise. The trend lines provide insight into what may be happening in the future. These transitional changes in climate affect our ecosystems Flora and fauna changes are climbing mountains, like at Mt. Rogers, so where a flower that once bloomed only at the base of the mountain is now found 1,000 feet higher. A flower that a few years ago bloomed in Danville in April and in Leesburg in May is now seen in bloom in Danville in March and in Leesburg in April. These changes are being followed by the invasive stinkbugs and kudzu entering our neighborhoods. Virginia’s occurring environmental changes are not bound by jurisdictional borders. The State border is not a barrier to coal dust and acid rain carried on winds from the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. The “outside” factors as well as local factors are causing deforestation affecting the canopy of our trees that moderate temperatures and cleanse our air. Regional and national programs are needed to address the problems.vertically and horizontally.