Thursday, November 03, 2011

Extreme weather for the Rochester, NY region because of Climate Change just doesn’t cover it


Recent stories about Climate Change deniers recanting and more stories that extreme weather is coming to our area in the local news is a sign that the press is starting to get how serious Climate Change is. This article Experts: Future holds more extreme weather - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow and others are anticipating a new report by the IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The draft says there is at least a 2-in-3 probability that climate extremes have already worsened because of man-made greenhouse gases. (November 2, 2011) Experts: Future holds more extreme weather - Canandaigua, NY - MPNnow

Though it seems the media has begun to give on holding back the news of Likely Changes coming to our area due to Climate Change, there’s a lot more to go. Climate Change in our region, for example will affect people’s health. This report--From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007—from Canada, explains in detail what the Northeast American hemisphere can expect—and these were known back in 2007. Check out this just this section of the report on “Air Pollution and Related Diseases” for the Ontario Provence:

Thousands of Canadians die prematurely each year from short- and long-term exposure to air pollution (Judek et al., 2004). The Ontario Medical Association (2005) has estimated that the annual illness costs of air pollution in Ontario include 5 800 premature deaths, more than 16 000 hospital admissions, almost 60 000 emergency room visits and 29 million minor illness days. Estimates are also provided for 2015 and 2026, assuming no improvements in regional air pollution levels and taking into account an aging population. Under such conditions, the number of premature deaths is expected to rise to about 7 500 by 2015, and may exceed 10 000 by 2026. The total number of minor illness days is projected to increase to more than 38 million annually by 2026, with most of this increase associated with persons 65 years and older (Ontario Medical Association, 2005). From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007

And the southern portion of Canada, including Ontario Province which falls in our Climate Change region of influence, is already addressing issues like an increase in heat days. Toronto, only seventy-miles across Lake Ontario from Rochester, NY, has an elaborate program to protect the public on heat days:

From May 15 to September 30 of each year, Toronto Public Health staff monitors the Heat Health Alert System to determine when the Medical Officer of Health should declare a Heat or Extreme Heat Alert. Using spatial synoptic classification, the Heat Health Alert System compares forecast data to historical meteorological conditions which have in the past, lead to increased mortality in Toronto. Forecast data includes weather conditions such as temperature, dew point, humidity, cloud cover, wind speed and direction. The system also considers when in the summer season offensive conditions are present and the number of consecutive days oppressive conditions occurred. Heat Alert is when forecast weather conditions suggest that the likelihood of a high level of mortality is between 25 and 50 percent greater than what would be expected on a typical day. Extreme Heat Alert is when forecast weather conditions suggest that the likelihood of a high level of mortality is at least 50 percent greater than what would be expected on a typical day. Heat Alerts and Extreme Heat Alerts - The Heat Alert System

Heat days, an increase in diseases because of insect driven diseases, like West Nile Virus, and all of the health problems mentioned in the above report are coming to the Rochester, NY region. How long will it take mainstream media to report on this? Already, in Rochester the press reports on high heat days and there are some efforts to relieve the heat stress for those who don’t have air conditioning and other protective measures. But we have nothing like the programs in Canada where folks actually go around seeing if the most vulnerable are OK.

Heat stress should be addressed in the media for what it is: a Climate Change issue. There are going to be more heat days and they are going to be hotter. This will affect not only the public’s health, but all those air conditioners being used at the same time will cause considerable energy use—and if that energy is produced by fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil) that is going to further aggravate the Climate Change crisis.

The public needs to understand what is coming because we have not already addressed Climate Change in a rapid and comprehensive way. That isn’t going to happen if the media bends over backwards to keep from the public the volumes of information already know in official reports and other public reports adapting and mitigating Climate Change—like this report: Climate Change 101 series | Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The media has a long way to go to update the public on what is already known and being done about Climate Change and this lack of effort is being reflected in the public believing we can delay action on adapting and reversing Climate Change.

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