Thursday, September 01, 2011

Hurricane Irene, Climate Change, and you


There are many speculations in the media as to whether Hurricane Irene can be directly related to Climate Change. Sometimes the debates turn into a semantic argument as to whether Irene was ‘evidence’ of Climate Change or ‘proof.’ It’s a fine line for those who think we have the luxury to wait until they come up with the answer before the rest of us act on something so wildly complex as our climate.

Hurricane Irene 2011: Climate Change To Blame? “It's been one of the most hotly debated questions this week: Is climate change driving Hurricane Irene? "No one is going to point to Irene and say this is climate change," Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The Huffington Post. "But we can say that we are seeing the fingerprint of climate change this year."” (August 27, 2011) Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post

Hurricane Irene: Is Climate Change To Blame? | Radio Boston “Despite Hurricane Irene’s relatively tame landfall here in Massachusetts, meteorologists predict that the storm may have been the prelude to a dangerous late-Hurricane season for the Northeast. Considering the rarity of serious hurricanes or tropical storms in our part of the country, it’s hard not to wonder: is climate change to blame? Hurricanes and global warming are not easily separated, but scientists are divided on whether one causes the other.” (August 29, 2011) Radio Boston

One thing is for sure: Massive storms like Irene are going to be viewed through the lens of Climate Change from now on. And, depending on what media or pundit you listen to you may become more convinced that Climate Change is the cause or less convinced. What has changed, in the media at least, is that you won’t have a storm of Irene’s size without this massive inquiry. Rising temperatures because of greenhouse gases (GHG) allow more moisture into the atmosphere and make our weather more unstable and our Climate warmer. No one from now on is going to let go of that because there are too many studies that predict this.

The debate, whether any specific incidence can be proved to be a direct result of man-made Climate Change, will go on in the media for quite some time as many arm-chair climatologists put their two cents in. It would be far more instructive to the public if the raging pundits on Climate Change directed their concerns to the media rather than the public—who are desperate to ignore this issue altogether.

The question therefore is not whether any of these arguments proves or disproves man-made Climate Change because only the experts have the real facts. What is important is whether the public becomes convinced enough of the case behind Climate Change to act. And, because our Climate on this planet is so complicated by daily factors, terrain, wind shear on the oceans, El Nino and La Nina, and you-name-it, it might take a long time for the experts to nail it down.

We the people, we the creatures who need to have our Climate within certain predictable parameters, don’t have the luxury to wait until the last reluctant pundit and denier is finally satisfied that things are warming up and there will be consequences. We as a people must be able to put the preponderance of evidence in perspective on our changing climate and act to reduce greenhouse (GHG) emissions.

This story below highlights one of the serious scenarios in our region that are probably going to increase if we don’t put massive amounts of money into our water/sewage infrastructure to prevent future contamination to our drinking water. Any kind of abnormally quick surges of water to our sewage systems will overload them and put raw sewage into our water—creating potential water shortages and diseases. We cannot sit around and squabble over every storm surge and say it won’t happen again. Clearly, evidence is that flash floods, maybe even major storms like Hurricane Irene, will occur with dismal regularity. This is what we the people should be making sure our officials avoid:

Don't go near the water (as if you'd want to) - Times Union Irene's rains deposited huge amounts of raw sewage into the rivers | ALBANY -- Torrential downpours from Tropical Storm Irene flushed through regional sewer and storm drain systems in the Capital Region and dumped vast quantities of raw sewage -- and anything else swept up in the flood -- into the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. It was not clear Tuesday how much waste had made its way into the rivers, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The waste's exact composition also was not known.  (August 31, 2011) Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga News, Weather, Sports, Capitol | - Times Union

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