The climate of the Boundary region is changing. Is there any connection between the winter we have just experienced and a gradual warming of Earth’s biosphere? If the weather in Boundary Country goes through more extreme changes in the future, are we prepared to make the necessary adjustments?
These are good questions, but not of the kind that people really want to ask or answer because there are no easy answers.
During the past winter residents of eastern and northern Canada experienced unusual snowfalls and cold temperatures. Fires raged in Australia. Snow and ice storms hit the eastern United States and a devastating drought continued in California. Higher than usual winds raged in England and Wales, and in London, the Tames reached unprecedented high levels.
In response to a host of so-called “extreme” weather events, Bill McKibben, co-founder of 360.org, said, “This is the kind of crazy weather that scientists said will mark the advent of climate change in its early stages, and it should be the warning that we need to actually do something, but so far our leaders haven’t taken that challenge.”
Unusual weather events are being reported almost every day some place in the world and records that have stood for centuries have been broken. An example is Typhoon Hagupit, which hit the Phillipines in 2014 and caused extreme damage.
If we haven’t been paying close attention to the weather, it’s time we did. Climate scientists have been issuing warnings for a couple decades about the impacts of what may be thought to be an insignificant increase in Earth’s temperature. Extreme weather events have been occurring with more frequency and on a much larger scale that the scientists had predicted.
The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports what has occurred and it verifies that it has happened with a rise in temperature of a little under 1 C or 1.8 F. That doesn’t sound like much but in terms of its consequences it is huge.
The IPCC predicts that the temperature could rise by as much as seven or eight degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century and it that occurs human populations everywhere will be dealing with emergencies that occur regularly.
The 2014 report from IPCC tells us that much of Canada will see more precipitation while the southern United States, Europe and Australia will live with more droughts and lower river flows.
The conditions being described are beyond what anyone might imagine and their intensity won’t be known until they occur.
The IPCC report lists eight key risks with warming: sea level increases and storm surges in coastal areas; food insecurity for poorer populations; inland flooding of cities; loss of potable water and water for irrigation; breakdowns of infrastructures because of extreme weather events; loss of fisheries because of a redistribution of catches; loss of terrestrial ecosystems such as dying forests; and extreme heat especially in cities.
There is no doubt that the human population will be dealing with uncertainty and as Fred Pearce, a journalist in the UK states in a post on Resilience.org, “The message is clear. We may not be able to make hard and fast predictions, but prudency (sic) requires that we prepare for the worst.” The challenge is knowing how to prepare when not much is known about what to prepare for.
The snow pack is well below what are considered normal levels and unless there is adequate rain during the ensuing months, overuse of water for irrigation could become an issue.
What will the weather be like this summer in Boundary Country is anyone’s best guess, even the forecasters.
Are we prepared for what we now call “unusual” events when they become the new normal?