Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Tentative Spring and Extreme Climate Change

As I look around the countryside of Northeast Texas I see trees that are almost completely leafed out, flowers blooming in profusion and grass that is waist deep.  The birds are singing and the skies are blue, but there is definitely a chill in the air.

Just this week as I watched the weather map I saw that places like Amarillo were in the 90's on Monday and in the 30's by mid-week.  The front-range of Colorado saw as much as a foot of snow in places.  Wyoming faced a blizzard.

Is it global warming? -- well, proponents of the theory that this is all the fault of mankind polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses claim that global warming is a misnomer -- it should be called "extreme climate change".  I think the answer is that yes, we are going through some extremes in climate variation but, I don't accept that it is caused by the activities of mankind.

Should we as humans be aware of the potential impact of our activities on the climate?  Absolutely.  We should always be cognizant of our role as stewards of this planet.  After all, we are certainly the dominant species.  We are fulfilling the role assigned to us in the Biblical book of Genesis to have dominion over the earth -- to conquer it.  But, we are not always the best stewards of the resources in our care.  Often, our activities are very short-sighted.  That short-sightedness is symptomatic of the corporate Quarterly Report focus that drives the activity of most major corporations.

In recent years there has been much written about the role of livestock in generating greenhouse gasses.  Many studies have been conducted that showed they either were the worst culprit or they had little or no impact.  Outcomes seem to be driven by the source of funding.  Perhaps the answer is to take a common-sense look at it.

An easy example is that of cattle on the high wind-swept plains of the central U.S.  Today it is cattle, whereas in ancient times it was buffalo, elk and other grazing species.  In total, I suspect there is very little difference in the numbers.  Historically, the grasslands were maintained through grazing activity and periodic wildfires.  I don't see much difference today except that much of the livestock is more confined and much of the land has been converted to cropland which should mean a greater amount of carbon is stored.

If there is a place where human activity has impacted global warming it is in the cities.  Asphalt and concrete are reflective surfaces that return heat to the atmosphere rather than soaking it in.  High concentrations of automobiles generate various gasses that could contribute to the warming -- just look at the smog over most of our major cities.  Trees and grass have been replaced by buildings and roadways.  Yet, we never hear of articles pointing the finger at cities as the problem in spite of the fact that temperatures in the cities are often higher by several degrees than the surrounding countryside.  No, the finger is always pointed at rural activities -- even to the point of wanting to regulate the amount of dust that can be released by the act of plowing or driving down a dirt road.

I think the problem is envy.  After all, it is city folk writing the articles.

But, as to this seemingly very tentative Spring this year?  I suspect it is part of the millennial cyclicity of our planet's climate.  Or, perhaps it is George Bush's fault since he didn't support the Carbon Tax.....  That's what the media and the current administration in Washington would want us to believe I'm sure.