Wild weather everywhere: is this the new normal?


By Laurie Caswell-Burke

It’s hard for any of us to ignore the weather we’ve experienced during the past few weeks, even months. Stormy unpredictable heavy rain that doesn’t quit, sweltering heat out west toppling record highs, devastating tornados in the southwest, and more frequent hurricanes in the northeast all give us reason to pause. In Vermont, most of us just want summer to begin—others wonder if climate change has something to do with all this wild and crazy weather. One thing is for certain. Our president is focusing his attention on this critical issue.

Last week on the campus of Georgetown University, President Obama focused an entire speech on his deep concerns about the topic of climate change.  He “gets it,” and his message on June 2 was loud and clear. He is committed to the United States to fight climate change and recognizes that humans have played a role in creating climate change by burning massive amounts of fossil fuels. In his speech, the President laid out his vision of where we need to go with a national plan to reduce carbon pollution and prepare our country for living and adapting to a new landscape.

“Our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind,” our president stated in his 48-minute speech.  “We need to act…do we have the courage to act?” Clearly the time has come for action.

“Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm. We have to all shoulder the responsibility for keeping the planet habitable, or we are going to have to shoulder the consequences-together,” he states. We have the overwhelming judgment of science with 97 percent of scientists who now agree that the planet is warming and that human activity is a primary contributing factor.

If you listen to many of the facts, there is cause for concern.  Levels of carbon pollution have increased drastically.   As the earth heats up some of the anticipated effects include increasingly severe storms, droughts, melting glaciers, and rising sea levels. We’ve had twelve of the warmest years in history in the last 15 years.  In fact, 2012 was the warmest year in our history. Ocean temperatures are at record highs. All weather events are affected by a warmer planet. Alaska even had temperatures reach the 90s.

A positive note shows that actions on the state and local levels continue with a myriad of changes for a more sustainable planet. The creation of bike/walk ways, increased public transportation, greater access to local food, and organized efforts to improve weatherization of homes and businesses are just a few examples of how things are changing. One creative example includes Bill McKibbon’s 350.org that just sponsored a month-long activist art event, “Unraveling and Turning” with 50 artists with 30 different responses who came together to perform and exhibit climate change related pieces.

“Business as usual” does not seem to be a good option given all that we are experiencing these days. We all have the ability to continue to engage in more sustainable lifestyles.  Perhaps the best motivator is thinking long and hard about the world we want to leave for future generations. Given the facts, it’s time for us to start paying attention!

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