FACING THE FACTS
When the electricity goes off, we find ourselves checking to see if it is really off—flipping a couple of switches, looking at the second hand of the electric clock, trying to turn on the TV, etc. We are accustomed to fact-checking the many experiences of our lives. And so it goes with the recent heat and drought we have been experiencing in our country’s Midwest. We are warned that changes in weather do not necessarily mean climate change, that climate is the pattern of weather over a long period of time. So how do we “fact-check”?
If we try to retrieve our experience of weather patterns over a long period of time, our memory of data specifics is likely to fail us. Scientific record-keeping of weather data has only been available in recent history.
We are not alone to collect the data needed to detect climate change and global warming. Enough facts (data) have been collected from scientists all over the world to show that world climate is warming. “Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.
“The evidence is clear. Rising global temperatures have been accompanied by changes in weather and climate. Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. The planet's oceans and glaciers have also experienced some big changes - oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. As these and other changes become more pronounced in the coming decades, they will likely present challenges to our society and our environment.” http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basics/
Scientists have facts about how the gases in the atmosphere manage the temperature on earth – not too hot and not too cold – for survival of life. They also have facts about how human activities – burning fossil fuels to produce energy and, to a lesser extent, deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices – have added to these gases thereby changing the atmosphere and related weather patterns.
More data can be obtained at www.epa.gov/climatechange. We have adapted to living in a rather stable climate since the last ice age. Changes in our climate will make a big difference in our lives. Although it's difficult to predict the exact impacts of climate change, what's clear is that the climate we are accustomed to is no longer a reliable guide for what to expect in the future.
Facing the facts and making decisions based on them will help us sustain life for generations to come.
Della Moen, Earth Team Volunteer, NRCS/Stephenson Soil and Water Conservation District, an equal opportunity provider and employer, 08/08/12 (for publication on 08/11/12 in the Journal- Standard, Freeport, Illinois) Della can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org