John Seven: Seasons reflect ominous signs of climate change
NORTH ADAMS >> The fall weather that I moved to New England to live in is finally here, but there's so little of it about lately.
Unless you count the majority of last winter when, barring a couple weeks, it felt like fall without the foliage. And this summer didn't feel like a New England summer at all, more like one from my younger days in Georgia. This is a bad thing.
Summers like this following such mild winters, the likes of which won't be constant but will be prevalent thanks to climate change, has unleashed an onslaught of bugs that are usually kept under control during longer, harsher winters. The swarms of milkweed beetles around the outside of my house tell me that things are out of whack around here.
This is one of those cases where what you feel in your everyday experience really does coincide with the larger earth science at work. Both NASA and NOAA reported that 2016 broke all records with climate trends, being the hottest year on record, with every month in the last 16 months breaking any previous record for the heat. NASA calculates that the summer mass of polar ice is 40 percent less than what it was in the early '80s, and that it declines by 13.4 percent every decade.
One way to handle this is to pretend it isn't real. Some people still choose that, but it's becoming like viewing a storm on the horizon and swearing that rain will never happen. And like that storm on the horizon, just because you personally don't believe it's for real doesn't mean that it's not going to come flood your town and that the rest of us shouldn't be allowed to prepare for that. Natural disasters have a way of happening whether you acknowledge their existence or not.
Sometimes they're a lot closer than you think. Last week, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography announced that we have surpassed the feared carbon tipping point we've all be warned about, and many of us have brushed aside. To quote Scripps: "We won't be seeing a monthly value below 400 parts per million this year — or ever again for the indefinite future."
Carbon levels usually reach a low point in September, and this is the first year that hasn't happened. For many people who understand these things, this is like the first signpost for the end of the world.
Mind you, this is happening in conjunction with other scary things, like extinction rates, which have skyrocketed to 1,000 times what they were before humans existed, or the die-offs of sea algae that are going to set off a chain reaction on food supplies, or the doubling of sea level rising from 20 years before, or the rapid rise of ocean acidity that is killing off major ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef.
We've typically known the villains in this process, but it seems like there's always a new one. It's recently been confirmed that one of the biggest contributors to climate change is manmade reservoirs, altogether accruing greenhouse emissions equally that of Brazil. Reservoirs create the perfect condition for methane and carbon dioxide at a faster rate than in nature.
I do wonder how much nearby ones like Cheshire and Otis and the Quabbin contribute. I wonder which is worse — a tame winter with minimal heating, or a harsh one with oil and coal working overtime? And what about all those cows around the Berkshires spewing methane into the atmosphere?
The biggest cause of climate change is whatever humans do, and this is just one more example of everyday experience reflecting wider data. It's not much fun to see little signs of the end of the world lingering in our backyards.
Contact John Seven at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @damnjohnseven. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.
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