Is It Climate Change or Just Weird Weather?

By Karen Sauer
As published on westroxburypatch.com
March 2012

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
—attributed to Mark Twain.

So, you’re probably asking yourself, “What’s up with winter this year? Is it CLIMATE CHANGE or just WEIRD WEATHER?”

Can we know? Probably not. Does it matter? No. After all, Earth’s climate has always changed. What we DO know and what DOES matter is that the change is now occurring at a rate way faster than “normal.” It is this rate of change that is of concern, and most weather experts and scientists agree that humans are responsible.

According to a research professor at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University: “As the world has warmed since the fossil-fuel revolution after World War II, Arctic temperatures have increased at more than twice the global rate. A dramatic indicator of this warming is the loss of Arctic sea ice in summer, which has declined by 40 percent in just the past three decades. The area of lost ice is about 1.3 million square miles, or roughly 42 percent of the area of the Lower 48 United States.”

But let’s cut to the chase: How will climate change affect us here in Boston?

“As an example of what may be in store, New England’s temperature is projected to increase by 6 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, in which case Boston’s climate would resemble that of Charlotte, North Carolina (a 6 degree increase) or Atlanta, Georgia (a 10 degree increase),” cites the New England Aquarium.

Oh.

The early bird gets the worm. Have you noticed how the leaves on your trees look all chewed up the past few years? The trees are leafing out earlier due to warmer winters, and the winter moth caterpillars that live off leaves have adapted nicely. They hatch in timely fashion and start munching away. But unfortunately their predators, the migratory songbirds, didn’t get the memo and arrive too late to keep things in balance. In some places, the bird population is even decreasing because the chicks aren’t hatching when the food is available. The late bird gets to have no descendants.

One more thing about birds: are you old enough to remember when it was exciting to see (and hear!) Canada Geese migrating through New England? Now, thanks in part to our changing climate, many Canada Geese stick around all year long. Watch your step, they poop 28 times a day! (Unfortunately, I did not make that up.) To (mis)quote Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, “How can we miss them if they won’t go away?”

And what about all that melted Arctic ice? It must go somewhere!

Again from the New England Aquarium: “In Boston, the sea level has risen by 11 inches over the last 100 years (both because of climate change and land subsidence) and could rise another 2 to 6 feet by 2100.” Could West Rox become beachfront property? Don’t forget the sunscreen! You’re really going to need it as ozone layer depletion increases the amount of UVB radiation exposure, a major cause of skin cancer.

These are just a few examples of how climate change affects us RIGHT HERE.  The point is, everything’s connected to everything else, and climate change is like a big domino run that goes in many directions at once.

So the time to just TALK about the weather is past; it’s high time to DO something about it.

“But what can I do?” you ask.

You don’t have to hold a sign;
Just start by taking your own bags when you go shopping.
Turn off the lights when you leave the room — anyone big enough to reach the light switch can do that.
Teach your children well: if they are old enough to have teeth, they can learn to turn off the water while they are brushing them.
Use fewer noisy yard machines and a bit more muscle.
Walk, don’t ride.
My daughter lives in a co-op at her college. The dozen or so members share cooking, cleaning, and shopping duties. Everyone pitches in (there’s a schedule), and without anyone having to do too much, they turn out delicious, healthy meals and the apartment is . . . well, presentable. They also compost, recycle, turn off the lights, and even take short showers. They work together and have a nice home to live in.

Start thinking of this planet as your family home. Take measures to care for the Earth the way you do for your residence. I am proud to call myself an Earthling, and I hope you dig this beautiful planet as much as I do! Let’s work together so that it stays habitable.

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