“Words! Words! Words! All I hear is words!” quoting Eliza Doolittle from the classic 1964 musical “My Fair Lady”.
Words like “climate change” and “global warming” and “sea-level rise” and even “extreme weather events” are becoming annoying.
That is until your home and your neighbors’ homes and large parts of your community are literally run over by Hurricane Sandy or flooded out by a mammoth nor’easter like the recent January “bomb cyclone” that battered the Northeast with snow, ice and coastal flooding. When that happens to you, then it’s no longer just words. Then it’s reality – climate reality. But, what are the real facts and what can we do about it?
First, we need to understand the terminology. There is a difference between words like “climate change” and “global warming”, and what we perceive as New England’s ever-changing weather. When you put your hand out the door to see if it’s raining, you’re sensing the weather. But when a piece of ice the size of Rhode Island breaks off of Antarctica, that’s climate change, and climate change is due primarily to global warming.
So, don’t think that because it was 19 degrees in your back yard one day in early January, that global warming isn’t real because it was 49 degrees in Anchorage that same January day (the daily temperature in Anchorage for the first week of January this year averaged about 13 degrees warmer than in Boston).
The stability of the jet stream and the temperatures in the higher latitudes are definitely feeling the effects of global warming; there was no snow in Moscow, Russia, in December but there was in Atlanta, Georgia.
Globally, 2017 was one of the three warmest years on record; the two preceding record-holding years were 2015 and 2016. In the global atmosphere, temperature is heat content and heat content is the same as energy. And more energy in the global atmosphere equals more energy available to be put into global weather systems … in other words, storms, nor’easters, bomb cyclones, etc.
When we talk about climate change and global warming, we are talking about the scientifically observable, radical changes in the global atmosphere that became acutely apparent in the mid to late 1900s. These radical changes can be directly attributed to the rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (carbon dioxide, CO2, in particular).
Unfortunately, much of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere today is produced by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels. We’re literally feeding the fire that is going to burn down our house.
On Wednesday, Jan. 31, the local FRS Climate Action Project and Storm Surge will be hosting a presentation on the state of the climate crisis with a focus on state and local efforts to forestall the impacts of climate change.
The featured speaker will be Rob Bonney, who runs the North Shore chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). Bonney will present an update on observations of climate change, including current data that shows how recent extreme weather events are driven by global warming. He will also share where we stand with global initiatives, including key outcomes from the recent Bonn Climate Change Conference.
Locally, there is much going on in Newburyport, where the city passed a resolution to support the Paris Climate Accord and has an established energy advisory committee which is pro-active about making good decisions on saving energy and promoting ways to achieve energy efficiency. Wednesday evening, several state and local policy initiatives will be discussed with a focus on how Newburyport area citizens can support these efforts.
We are planning to start the evening with an introduction by Rep. James Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, who will talk about the need for us to take action at the local level to address climate issues, both in terms of adopting new energy sources and adapting our communities to impacts such as rising seas and extreme weather. Then, the evening will move into Robert Bonney’s presentation.
Several local environmental stewardship organizations are also supporters of the evening’s activities: The NHS Environmental Club, Hillside Center for Sustainable Living, Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center, Merrohawke Nature School, Newburyport Energy Advisory Committee, and Transition Newburyport.
Please join us from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday at the Newburyport Senior Community Center, 331 High St., Newburyport, for a very informative evening discussing climate reality. Learn the real facts about global warming, climate change, and what you can do about them locally. See you there.
Jeff Clark and Lon Hachmeister are Storm Surge members and co-chairs for program development.