Mon, Jul 28, 2014 ●
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The Universal Notebook: Unusual weather we're having, isn't it?

Opinion

The Universal Notebook: Unusual weather we're having, isn't it?

Was there ever a more miserable winter in Maine than this past winter?

Cold and snow are no problem for most natives, but the sleet, freezing rain, icy footing, treacherous driving, crusty snow, slippery sidewalks, slushy driveways, frost heaves, pot holes and generally inhospitable nature of the weather made for as lousy a winter as I can remember.

And my guess is we’re in for more of the same in the coming years.

Yes, we have always had warm spells and cold spells, years of heavy snows and open winters, but I believe the winter we just experienced may be a taste of foul weather to come. Scientists who study climate have been telling us for years that Maine’s lot in the climate change lottery will be increasing temperatures; increasing precipitation, especially in winter; hotter, drier summers; rising sea level; warmer coastal waters; more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and greater acidity in the water.

Welcome to the new wetter, wilder Maine – not a good place to be a skier, a commercial fisherman or on foot.

The consensus among climate scientists that human activity is contributing to climate change now stands at 97 percent, which means that Fox News can still find among the dissenting 3 percent a few fruitcake outliers to say climate change is just a lot of hot air (something Fox News knows a lot about), but the debate is over.

In "Climate Change 2014," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states clearly and succinctly, “Human interference with the climate system is occurring. Climate change poses risks for human and natural systems.” End of discussion, end of story, maybe even end of human history.

You don’t have to be a climate scientist to look at the increase in extreme weather and know that something’s up. After the storm surge of Superstorm Sandy inundated lower Manhattan and the New York City subway system, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “What is clear is that the storms we’ve experienced in the last year or so around the country and around the world are much more severe than before. Whether that’s global warming or what, I don’t know, but we’ll have to address those issues.”

Only a fool would refuse to address the issues raised by climate change. What North America can expect in the coming years, the IPCC report says, are hurricanes, flooding, intense rainfall, extreme heat events, coastal storms, deteriorating water resources and damage to transportation infrastructure. No problem, say the knuckle-dragging legion of climate change deniers. Not only do they deny that human activity is causing climate change, they see in the IPCC a giant United Nations One World Government Conspiracy to Seize Power and Private Property and a Scientific Cabal to Embezzle Tax Dollars.

At this point, there’s really no point trying to reason with climate change deniers. They will drown in their own denial. That said, one of the worse offenses of Gov. Paul LePage’s hugely offensive administration has been to veto a plan to study how Maine might adapt to climate change. LePage, in fact, is actually a big fan of climate change.

“Everybody looks at the negative effects of global warming,” he told a transportation conference last year, “but with the ice melting, the Northern Passage has opened up. So maybe, instead of the being at the end of the pipeline, we’re now at the beginning of a new pipeline.”

I find it hard to believe that 38 percent of Maine voters would vote for a man who would think such a thing, let alone say it out loud in public.

Now that the snow has melted, the ground has thawed and the grass has greened, it’s tempting to forget all about the miseries of this past winter, just as it is tempting to forget all about what climate change may yet have in store for us. Maybe we will get lucky and just end up being a Mid-Atlantic state, slipping temperately southward into Virginia’s climate zone.

Or, more likely, will we have to cope with increasing meteorological nastiness as the biosphere heats up and ill winds blow petrochemical pollution in from the south and west?

Oh well, it’s probably too late to do anything about it anyway. Just recycle your empties, Gov’nor, and hope for the best.