Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Snowjob 08'

No, I am not referring to the annual MuchMusic concert series held at some ski hill. And no tongue-in cheek references to anything else, including sex acts in snowbanks.

I am simply wondering where all the headlines about global warming and global climate change retreated, indeed retreated like glaciers do, since this mega-huge, unheard-of late winter onslaught dropped another metre of snow on our collective doorsteps.

So, Ottawa is up to 411 cm of cumulative snowfall. Interesting time to wade into the, hmm, the proverbial snowbank in search of some lost items...like some factual items. The National Post writer, in the meantime, exploits the relatively slow newsday by another Gore-bashing article.


What I have never understood about the climate change debate, about the politicized end of that debate, is the grasping at the straws by proponents of both the extreme accounts of the theory - either you hear the 'global warmers' shout at any instance when some warming trend has been detected somewhere...or you will hear the 'deniers' pointing out some trend that does not correspond with the alleged warming prediction. But not much middle ground.

So, I ask, where is the "change" in the climate change political equation?

When the original theory of climate change came out, and when the first large-scale computer modelling of its effects started, the buzzword was change. Including erratic patterns, unpredictability, loss of reliable benchmarks for certain weather related processes. Parts of the Earth were going to gradually warm up, even dessicate, while other parts would experience cooling. Cyclical effects such as La Nina and El Nino were going to be accentuated or more pronounced. Everyone was told -look, we can't predict a reliable range of outcomes but let's prepare for the unexpected. And let's study the issue further.

By now, you see an article after article about Anctartic ice sheets breaking off, extent of northern sea ice (it's actually bigger this year than it has been for a while), disappearing snows on Kilimanjaro and the more frequent flooding in places like England that haven't seen any major floods in decades. It's all got a negative, almost apocalyptic narrative running through it.

I admit, climate change is afoot. No doubt. I will even say, based on some education in the matter, we are partially to blame for it. But don't feed me the diet of "Earth is steadily getting warmer". That's too generalistic and will simply not mean a damn thing if I am to be the decision maker in some specific place, in a specific polity. There's no such thing as some generalized citizen of the world.

Consider Ottawa, with the Ottawa valley and the nearby Laurentians as the local region, local ecosystem. Are we experiencing climate change?Maybe. Are we getting warmer...? No one will be able to say "yes" if you ask a person on the street today. But are we experiencing more and more of the so-called extreme weather? That, in my mind, ought to be the question. The scientific and political question.

So, let's look at the past five winters:

2003/04 - very snowy, lots of cold spells

2004/05 - more snow than previous year, colder, too

2005/06 -mild winter, ended early

2006/07 - another mild winter, with a very warm January

2007/08 - long winter...411 cm of snow..but not the coldest on the record

Anyone detect a bit of chaos in this 5-year pattern?

Just a thought.

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