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Monday, February 1, 2016

Climate Change - Prophets of Doom or Voices of Reason?

    August 18, 1966. That's the day the world was going to end. At least that's what some self anointed prophet had proclaimed. The nightly news had reported it, and I believed it. It sounded perfectly plausible to my 8 year old self. After all, I had read in some science book somewhere that one day the sun would explode and destroy everything in the solar system. (I always could read way beyond my level to truly comprehend.) So I assumed that's what was happening.
     As the doomsday approached, I worried about it a lot. I couldn't understand why my parents and everyone else around me were just going about their normal business as usual and didn't seem the least bit concerned. Weeks passed, and then it finally arrived. August 18 - the last day of planet earth. As I rode my bike around the block, the sun's rays beating down upon me seemed especially hot. (It was, after all, mid August.) Was it happening? Was the sun starting to percolate, and soon would over boil?  I waited tensely throughout the day, and went to bed that night with great relief. I guess you can't believe every doomsday prophet, can you?
     I thought about this story yesterday as I was taking a nice walk outside because it was 50 degrees in Ohio in February. This is highly unusual weather for us to be having this time of year. It's  been an odd fall and winter all around. While we usually spend Thanksgiving Day inside sleeping off our turkey dinner, this year we piled the bikes into the car and took off for the bike path. I took along a jacket but I really didn't need it. And Christmas shopping was awesome, not having to run from car to store in the biting cold. It was actually quite pleasant outside.  Yes, we did have a few frigid days in January, but nothing like years past. I can't say I'm not enjoying this unseasonably warm weather, but it also makes me worry a bit.
     Scientists announced just this month that 2015 was the warmest year on average since records have been kept. The world is 1/4 of a degree warmer on average than ever before. That doesn't seem like much to us, but it's a big deal to the scientists. If this trend continues the world's  climate is definitely changing. I'm sure we will have more cold snowy winters in Northeast Ohio, but winters like the one we're having now will happen more and more frequently, and eventually become the norm. If 50 degrees becomes the norm in Ohio in February, what will it be like in Florida and Arizona? 150?  And even scarier, what will it be like in July?
    Some blame the warm weather on El Nino, but what is causing El Nino, and why is it creating more warmth than ever before?
     The Book of Revelations of the Bible is full of terrifying images of the end of the world. In the Revelation version of the last days, all the grass and a third of all the trees are burnt up  (chapter 8:7.)  Men are tormented by terrible sores and are scorched with fire and great heat (chapter 16:9.) The Euphrates River dries up (verse 12.) All the islands "fled away", perhaps due to rising seal levels? Lots of other terrible things happen, and I'm sure it's not all meant to be taken literally, but could it be that some of these things are a result of the earth's overheating?
     The warning that scared me back in 1966 was bogus and there was no reason to get worked up about it.  Everybody knew that but me.  But I think this time the "prophets" (scientists) warning us about global warming are basing their predictions on real observable data and changes taking place. Nobody knows for sure how bad it will get or how long it will take, but if we want the earth to be a habitable place for our children's children's children, we'd better take heed to the warnings and start doing whatever it takes to reverse the trend.  Otherwise there may not be anyone around come 2166.