Monday, January 18, 2010

Global Warming? But It's Cold Outside!

Most areas of the U.S., as well as many areas in other countries, have been struggling this winter with cold, cold temperatures. As we bundle up and brace ourselves for that blast of arctic air which hits our faces as we leave the house, it's hard to believe that global warming is an issue. In fact, some people argue that this cold winter is evidence that there is no such thing as global warming.

Let's start with a definition from Wikipedia: "Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century and its projected continuation."

Here's one from the EPA: "Global warming is an average increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth's surface and in the troposphere, which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns. Global warming can occur from a variety of causes, both natural and human induced. In common usage, "global warming" often refers to the warming that can occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities."

So ... we're not talking about a cold winter or even a hot summer. We're talking about an overall trend. And that trend shows us that the average temperature, near the earth's surface, is increasing:

As you'll notice ... the trend started out relatively flat and then it started to increase ... with the sharpest incline occurring during the last 20-30 years. It has been argued that global warming is the natural progression of a planet's life. And that's true. But one wonders if natural elements would have caused the dramatic spike in temperatures. Most experts say that the accelerated warming is caused by human activity.

So ... why do we care? After all, a warming trend ... and a change in climate ... is not necessarily bad for everyone. Some areas will find that warmer temperatures allow them to grow larger and more varied crops. And after this year's seriously cold temperatures, who wouldn't want the comfort of warm weather? But consider this ... a slight warming, over a long period of time, wouldn't be a big deal because all life would adapt. For example, as heat patterns slowly changed, altering the amount of available food, animal life would learn to consume other things or perhaps move to an area where there is adequate food. But that's not what's happening ... we're warming up fast, leaving no time to adjust to a new climate. Consequently, species are being lost. As you've heard me say, countless times, I believe that species extinction will have a direct, negative impact on our life.

What can we do? I'm happy you asked. Here are a few ideas:

  • Reduce energy consumption (use energy efficient appliances, change light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs, etc.)
  • Clean the air filters on your heating/cooling unit
  • Reduce water consumption
  • Eat meatless meals and avoid processed foods
  • Buy local and organic
  • Use "elbow grease" instead of electric power (use a push mower instead of a power mower ... use a broom or rake instead of a leaf blower)
  • Keep the car in good working order (check the tires for proper inflation, fix any leaks, etc.)
  • Reduce emissions while driving by going easy on the brake pedal and gas pedal
  • Turn off the engine rather than idle (except when idling at a traffic light)
  • Remove stuff from the trunk of a car and lighten it's weight (saves gas)
  • Carpool or take public transportation
  • Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

As you bundle up to head out into freezing temperatures ... just remember ... global warming is real and we, humans, are the cause of it's acceleration. Let's slow it back down.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!