Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mother Nature Fights Back

‘Don’t mess with Mother Nature’ used to be a cute and humorous expression. Not these says. Too often now we witness how an angry Mother Nature fights back.

Here in Haliburton County extreme rainfalls and damaging winds are becoming more frequent. In the past month a small tornado flattened dozens of trees on my bush lot on Highway 35. Days later another violent storm closed Highway 117 and damaged properties between Baysville and Dorset.

Haliburton rainfall from April 1 to mid-July totalled more than 550 millimetres, just shy of two feet. That is more than double the average for the same period.

Across North America record high temperature days are increasing while the frost-free season is 10 days shorter than it was 100 years ago.

A recent article in New York magazine says there has been a 50-fold increase since 1980 of the number of locations suffering extreme or dangerous heat. The historically warmest summers in Europe have been in the last 15 years.

Daily headlines report environmental disasters created by weather extremes. A piece of Antarctica ice the size of Prince Edward Island breaks away. Wildfires threaten huge parts of the U.S. West. Williams Lake, B.C. is being evacuated because of fires. Last summer it was Fort McMurray, Alberta.

More fires, floods, droughts and tornados prove without question that we have a major climate change problem. Crazy Donnie, the U.S. president, says it’s all a hoax - fake news - but most people just ignore him now.

"We’ve got to move past getting a consensus that the world is warming,” Professor Adam Switzer of the Asian School of the Environment noted recently. “That consensus is done."

Scientists report that between 1880 and 2017 the earth has warmed two degrees Fahrenheit. More warming, many warn, will weaken the world’s ability to support life. Some believe that a mass extinction already has begun.

Earth has had five major mass extinctions in which 50 to 90 per cent of all species were killed off. A review of data from 14 biodiversity research centres predicts that 15 to 37 per cent of all land species could be on their way to extinction by 2050.

Drought, which brings severe food shortages, which in turn bring violent conflicts, now affects 70 million people in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, says The Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

Ironically, while millions suffer from drought, a major concern is rising water levels. Sea levels have been rising 3.4 millimeters a year since 1993, according to some studies, making for a total rise over 20 years of six to eight centimetres.

The rise is complicating, and might threaten, the lives of millions of people living in low-lying coastal cities. One-third of world major cities are on the coast and an estimated 600 million people live within 10 meters of sea level today.

An immediate concern in all this is how increasingly hotter weather affects how humans treat each other.

Too much heat turns people ugly. Studies have shown there is more violent crime when temperatures reach 35 Celsius than when they are 23C. Posts on social media tend to get nastier as outside temperatures rise.

Canadians probably have more reason to worry about climate change than people in some other parts of the world. Canadian temperatures have been warming at roughly double  the global mean rate, according to Environment Canada.

“A two degrees Celsius increase globally means a three to four degrees Celsius increase for Canada,” says an EC website.

Unlike Crazy Donnie, the Canadian federal government is unequivocal about global warming, saying: “Warming over the 20th century is indisputable and largely due to human activities.”

Much of our Canadian concern is over the Arctic. Our Arctic ice has been diminishing over the past three decades, adding significantly to the rise in the world’s oceans.

Permafrost is melting across the Arctic, destabilizing buildings built on stilts sunk five or six metres. Construction crews now drill as deep as 20 metres to get a stable foundation.

There is concern that Arctic melting will accelerate, eliminating more permafrost and creating more serious problems.

Good news: awareness of weather problems is increasing and more people are working to find solutions.


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