We'll be having a little bit of weather today. Yesterday was unseasonably warm and today will be warmer - nearly thirty degrees warmer than normal. The expected high is to be 65°, which would break the record of 59°, set in 1989. Just one week ago, we were under a winter storm warning, and we're expected to be back to normal temperatures by the end of this week.
Ah, such a roller coaster we're on! On one hand, we love this springtime in the midst of winter, but on the other, we know that it's not a good thing for our gardens. Last winter had such extremes, too, and many people experienced losses because of it. Ideally, we would have snow cover all winter and steady or gradual temperature changes. But then we'd live in the Yukon, right?
Luckily, most plants are pretty versatile and they'll take this moment of springtime in January in stride. When we have days like this, the talk of global warming invariably comes up and discussion ensues. I've already expressed my opinion on this subject, and I don't believe that it's because of global warming that we're having above normal temps right now, but it is a very real concern. We typically only hear about the bad aspects of it, but it has its good points, too.
I came across an interesting article in the 2007 issue of The Old Farmer's Almanac entitled "The Good News About Climate Change." Written by Evelyn Browning-Garriss, this piece lists several advantages we'll experience due to this general warming of our planet. I love this - a glass half-full look at our environment. This is not to ignore the concerns about the negative impact global warming will have, but hey, we know there's always two sides to every story. I urge you to read the whole story, but here are the highlights, excerpted:
Warmer weather is healthier. A study by American doctors estimated that a warming of 4.5° would reduce the annual death rate in the U.S. by 40,000 and annual medical costs by $20 billion per year. Different studies have concluded that the decrease in cold-related deaths would be much greater than the rise of heat-related deaths.
Warmer temperatures save energy. Most of the warming we've had has been in the form of warmer nighttime and winter temperatures. In addition, locations closer to the poles have experienced greater warming than those nearer the equator. Northern cities have warmed more than southern ones. If energy prices remain constant and we enjoy the weather predicted for the 21st century, energy costs for heating and cooling will be cut by at least $12.2 billion annually.
Water is more abundant. Warmer air holds more moisture. Global warming will mean more condensation and evaporation, producing more and/or heavier rains. Warmer temperatures also means the moisture will be carried further inland before it cools enough to precipitate out as rain or snow, bringing life-saving moisture to previously parched areas in Asia and Africa.
Plants thrive in heat and CO2. The warmer air is lengthening growing seasons. Warmer air usually holds more moisture. Increased man-made and natural CO2 increases photosynthesis. The gas indirectly acts as a fertilizer and increases plant growth, especially in plants like wheat, rice and soybeans.
Arctic shipping routes will save time and energy. As the ice melts, new waterways are being freed up, saving time, energy and money. Airlines already use routes over the North Pole. The melting ice has also allowed access to new oil and gas fields located in the Arctic.
So, while there are certainly issues to global waming that will be detrimental and should not be ignored, it's not all gloom and doom either. The earth has always been in a state of change and we'd better learn to change with it. Living things have an amazing ability to adapt and while we may lose some species, think about this - we don't have dinosaurs anymore either.
Evelyn Browning-Garriss, editor of the Browning Newsletter, has been writing, speaking, and consulting about the social and economic impact of climate change for more than 30 years. She tracks weather trends and cycles from her office in New Mexico.