Jeff Scott: The Countryside View – The news that still needs to be told

Jeff Scott gives a nod to Bill Nye ‘The Science Guy,’ who recently addressed the issue of climate change on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. Submitted photo.

 

Bill Nye, ‘The Science Guy,’ did a stint on John Oliver’s late night show Last Week Tonight to talk about carbon taxes and climate change. He did an adult version of his iconic science show as a skit. He angrily stated, “By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on Earth could go up another four to eight degrees. What I’m saying is the planet is on f—ing fire!” He then took a lit blow torch and set a globe on fire to emphasize his point.

I don’t mind winters here in Kingston, but I wouldn’t mind if they were a bit shorter and warmer, and the summers were a bit longer and warmer. A few degrees increase in temperature doesn’t seem like much of a problem, and more like a blessing. But if you are in Australia, an increase of a few degrees is a definite problem. They had another heat wave in January where one area recorded twenty straight days of temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius! A country that is used to hot temperatures was pushed over the edge, with mass die-offs of sheep, kangaroos and cattle. They also had a serious drop in their wheat production, and they are now having to import wheat from us.

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Our own Great Plains of North America are also quite vulnerable to warmer temperatures. They are already precariously located on the edge of the semi-arid range lands to the west. Warmer summers and little snow cover will easily cause our 80 million acres of prime grain growing lands to become dusty and dry wastes of sagebrush and tumbleweeds.

Twenty thousand years ago, these same plains were under five kilometres of ice during the time that we know as the ice age. Then the climate warmed by just 3.5 degrees and most of this ice melted away and flowed down river to the sea. The effect of all of this ice melt on the oceans was considerable. Before, the sea level was actually 120 metres lower than it is now and it had been that way for 200,000 years. A warming of only a few degrees will melt the remaining ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica, which will then cause the sea levels to rise another 70 metres. A sea level rise of only three metres would flood Venice, New Orleans and Amsterdam. Six metres would wipe out London, Tokyo, Miami and Shanghai. Seventy metres would make Florida, the Netherlands and Denmark disappear under water.

The ocean level is not only rising but it is becoming warmer, as well. This is having a very expensive and devastating effect on tropical coastal areas, but specifically on the United States. Last fall, a small tropical storm off of Cuba moved out over the very warm Gulf of Mexico, and within two days had become the category five Hurricane Michael. This storm came ashore on the Florida panhandle, devastating Panama City and Mexico Beach with 260 km/h winds and a huge storm surge. The hurricanes are becoming much more powerful over the warmer waters, causing massive damage when they hit the heavily populated coastal cities. The financial cost in 2017 alone is staggering — Hurricane Irma: $50 billion; Hurricane Maria: $90 billion, and; Hurricane Michael: $125 billion.

Global warming is also referred to as climate change. If the world is warming and if the world has had its warmest April in recorded history, then why was our April so miserably cold? The answer lies with the jetstream, a fast moving river of air in the high atmosphere that jets around the planet. The jetstream does not stay at the same latitude as it travels around the planet, but moves north and south like a shaken rope.  These winds disrupt the usual weather, which is why we get rainy January thaws and frigid polar vortexes within days of each other. Scientists have now discovered that climate change is causing the jetstream to become more erratic, which is why our local weather is becoming so unstable. This spring is a perfect example of this. We are two weeks behind in the arrival of spring, but northern Alberta is way ahead. Our crops can’t go in the ground for the cold wet soil, but their forests are tinder dry and hot.

Now back to Bill Nyes monologue: “… the planet is on f—ing fire. There are a lot of things we could do to put it out. Are any of them free? No, of course not. Nothing’s free, you idiots. Grow the f— up. You’re not children any more. I didn’t mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12. But you’re adults now, and this is an actual crisis, got it?”

 

Jeff Scott is a former councillor for the City of Kingston (Countryside District), and has contributed editorial content local publications for a number of years. He continues to live, work and write in the Countryside district of Kingston, and runs his own blog, The Countryside View. Visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jeffscottthecountrysideview to read more of Jeff’s content.

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