Archive for the 'Weather' Category

Welcome aboard, Mr. President

During the first four years of President Barack Obama’s presidency, he said very little about climate change, much to the dismay of most liberals.

While I’ve long known he accepts that climate change is real and based on science, taking this public step matters.

In three paragraphs about halfway through his second inaugural address Monday, he put it out there clearly and decisively.

Here’s the part of his speech Monday that dealt with climate change, thanks to the Washington Post for posting the transcript:

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.

We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries. We must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure, our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet… .”

He has tied the need for addressing climate change to future generations much in the way others have tied their concern for the debt and deficits to future generations.

If one is good for the future, why not the other? Because truly, debts and deficits won’t matter much of we destroy the only planet we have upon which to live.

Welcome aboard, Mr. President.

— Linda J.

 

How hot is it?

The language is a little salty, so proceed forewarned, but the message is dead on.

According to grist.org and ThinkProgress.org, Australia has added two temperature zones — at the top of the range.

It used to top out at 118. It now tops out at 129.

That’s significant. They didn’t add a degree or two, they added 11 degrees.

Here’s the “good” news:
“… the country does still have one thing going for it — its officials actually recognize the existence and impact of climate change,” said Grist’s Jess Zimmerman.

Can I have a woo hoo or an amen? It’s refreshing to read about officials who get that climate change is real and more importantly aren’t afraid to talk about it!

Nothing that drastic has happened here — yet, but the signs are there. We are certainly planting earlier and harvesting our garden later. How about you?

Also, the U.S. department of Agriculture last fall updated it’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map, adjusting Kentucky’s planting recommendations for the first time in a long time.

Even more recently, the National Weather Service said Lexington in 2012 experienced its second hottest year on record. It was the warmest year ever for Louisville and Bowling Green.

Given enough time and continued inaction, we will see permanent, if different, extremes  here, too.

Now, excuse me, please, while like Mr. Zimmerman, I go weep in a corner, thinking of the new normal for Australia’s people and koala bears.

— Linda J.

 

Time to speak out

I’ve bitten my tongue for far too long. I’ve let climate-change deniers have their say to avoid stepping on various toes and I can’t do it any longer.

Climate change is real. Period.

There, I said it.

It took a vacation to “my” Colorado mountains for a family reunion to open my eyes to how bad things really are.

If you don’t believe me or the consensus of real scientists who deal in facts, I have a challenge for you: Take a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and go up to about 9,000 feet. Take in the wonder that is around you for a while and then start looking at things in detail. You will start to notice dead and dying lodge-pole pines; in some places whole mountainsides wiped out.

You will see burn piles where last winter, after snow fell, rangers burned 5,000 piles of beetle-infested and dead trees, according to rangers I spoke with. The burn marks were evident at that altitude and they’ve already started building piles to burn this winter (when snow’s on the ground so as to not spread fire).

Who did I get this from?

  • Two different park rangers at two different locations, one as worried as I, the other slightly more optimistic.
  • A wildlife biologist who lives there (extended family member to fully disclose).
  • I also observed the destruction myself.

One of the rangers told me he started a talk at one of the campgrounds two years ago detailing how climate change is affecting the park.

Today, groups are studying a little mammal, a cousin to the rabbit, called the pika. It’s the park’s canary-in-the-coal-mine, if you will, a term I used with the ranger. Groups are studying its changing migration patterns and watching the little guys for signs of extinction. It will go first, the ranger said.

There wasn’t enough cold last year to kill the beetles that are eating the trees from the inside out. Some always survive and kill a few trees. But the trees need at least a week of below 20 degree weather in winter to kill off the bulk of the beetles. That didn’t happen.

Can I say that again? There weren’t 7 consecutive days of high temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit in that part of the Colorado mountains last winter. That’s stunning. I remember that kind of cold in Denver, much less the mountains.

Then there are the fires raging all across the parched west, including the one west of Fort Collins, about 50 miles or so as the crow flies from the northern edge of the park. All those dead trees are tinder for a spark; fuel for fires started by nature or humans and quickly spread by winds that won’t quit.

Or check out Africa, where parched is taking on a whole new meaning. Or the arctic, where polar bears can’t find enough ice to survive.

How much observable data do you need?

Study what’s really happening, then come back and tell me climate change isn’t real with a straight face.

And just for fun, watch this clip of physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Real Time with Bill Maher cleaning the clock of climate denier and former GM chairman Bob Lutz using changing migration patterns as his example.

Closer to home, Kentucky didn’t have much of a winter last year. School actually got out on time, which didn’t happened in three prior years that I’ve paid attention because of a school-age child. And many of the “snow days” in those years weren’t because of snow, they were because of ice. We get ice because it doesn’t get and stay cold enough to snow.

We might have an extreme winter this year, Colorado might have little winter again, or the reverse might be true or some combination of severe storms, or drought, too much cold or not enough. Remember the deadly and destructive March 2 tornadoes? Awful early in the year, don’t you think?

That’s what climate change is: Long-term it means the planet is warming, but short-term, it means changing weather patterns, and more extreme and severe weather (droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc.).

There’s no more “normal.”

We better get used to it since politically no one seems willing to stand up to the deniers.

Using the right wording really does matter

I sometimes wonder if, and therefore how, the climate debates would be different today had the folks who started using the term “global warming” publicly instead used climate change, as most folks use now.

As I tried to explain it once to an acquaintance, in the short term climate change means more storms — all seasons — and more intense storms, and that the end result is a warming trend, but not on a season to season or year to year basis.

He said, and I quote, “Oh, I’ve never heard it explained like that before.”

I suggested he expand his daily news digest to include something fact-based, but I don’t know if he did.

And here’s some new reporting from the Associated Press on this topic; more severe weather and storms. It’s from a draft report to be issued in the next few weeks from the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

— Linda J.

New Web site focuses on changing Appalachia

The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth have come together for a project called The Appalachian Transition Initiative. MACED’s Justin Maxson says the goal is “to promote an active, action-oriented, public conversation about the necessary transition to a new economy in Central Appalachia.”

A new Web site to go along with the project is www.appalachiantransition.net

More from Maxson:

Our two organizations – a community development corporation and a grassroots social justice organization – exemplify the broad, diverse, and growing body of groups, individuals, and community leaders who agree it is time to transition. We are operating from a widely shared desire for and vision of a more just, healthy, and sustainable economy.

We believe the old extraction-based economy has produced poor results and offers a very limited future. We recognize global economic trends that may be threats to the old economy, but offer opportunities for transitioning to a new economy. And we see new initiatives with the potential to create new jobs and new strategies.

We know that transitioning to a new economy in Central Appalachia will not be easy or quick. In fact it will be hard as old habits, false assumptions, and powerful interests work to protect the status quo. And we don’t pretend to have all the answers. But we believe with a clear vision and a steady approach, together we can move to a new economy that sustains the people and the land of Central Appalachia.

The new website is a full and growing repository of information about our region, strategies for moving forward, organizations and individuals working on these issues, essays and more. The site features a blog that will have regular posts about relevant news and events. We expect to add information and perspective to the site regularly. We hope you’ll use the site and we’d be happy to hear suggestions as we continue to build the site.

The Web site was quietly launched last week Maxson says it will have much more content in the coming months.

Health-up your child’s school lunch program

Have you seen our basic, intermediate and extreme going green tips yet?

Here’s one that really drives me nuts. It’s number 7 under the extreme green tab.

School-provided lunches:
My daughter’s elementary school is still serving the same tasteless, preservative-laden lunches that I had when I was kid. We pack her lunch so we can control the salt, sugar and preservatives.

At the end of last year, I went to her school to have lunch with her. I asked the woman behind the rows of cheese pizza, regular hot dogs, mac and cheese and other unhealthy stuff, if she had anything healthy. Her response? “The green beans?” And, yes, she said it as a question.

I honestly don’t believe schools have to operate this way.
So, what do you say, let’s challenge our schools to do better.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has great information about healthy school lunches, including the 2008 healthy lunch report card on 20 large school districts’ lunch menus. In it is the criteria they used to rate the districts.
Take this to your school and let’s see how they stack up. Send it to me, and I’ll compile the information.
2008 School lunch report card

More information:
Ann Cooper, head of nutrition at the Berkeley, Calif., school system, serves only organic, regionally provided and sustainable foods to her students. Known as the
Renegade Lunch Lady, Cooper spoke at the annual TED Conference two years ago about what the changes at the school system.

— Linda J. Johnson

The mid-summer spring

Some of the stats and pros and cons of the unusually cool, damp weather we’ve been having:. This is the article i asked for advice on a few days ago. Didn’t exactly follow my original plan, but check it out:

http://www.kentucky.com/latest_news/story/881272.html