Hot enough for ya? At the Batavick ranch on Feb. 3 it was 68 degrees outside. The next day it dropped way down to 66 degrees, and then to 57 on Feb. 5 and 7. The historic average for this time of year? According to AccuWeather, it’s 43 degrees. What’s going on?
A tornado twisted its way around Westminster on Feb. 7, peeling off a metal roof like a sardine can lid and snapping treetops like toothpicks. It was one of five confirmed tornadoes that hit the Baltimore-Washington area. The National Weather Service counted more than 170 reports of damaging winds in the Mid-Atlantic region from the Virginia Tidewater to New Jersey — a record for December, January and February. As professional analysis continues, the storms are shaping up as the region’s largest tornado event ever, and it may represent “business as usual” in years to come. That’s because tornadoes have become twice as frequent since 2010.
Anything else? Well, it’s certainly not news that we’ve had scant snow this winter; with the white stuff melting away in a few days, if not sooner. The National Weather Service reports that Baltimore City historically averages at least an inch of snow on the ground for about 13 days, and for one or two days, the snow is usually five or more inches deep. Of course, that’s not been the case this year, and Carroll County has easily beaten Charm City’s average snowfall over the years. However, snow has been a no-show in our region this year.
The reason for all this is simple. Our climate is changing, and this is triggering extreme weather. We are witnessing this within a relatively short span of our lifetimes. Sure, we may still get a big snowstorm in early March and temperatures may dip to 10 degrees next January, but these will be exceptions to the rule. They won’t erase the weather pattern of the last year or the last decade. The World Meteorological Organization reports the last four years alone have been the hottest on record. The oceans that impact world weather patterns were also the hottest on record, according to an international panel of scientists. And their consensus is that we humans are causing this, especially with our increased generation of carbon dioxide emissions.
We’ve known about climate change for a long time. A 1968 study for, ironically, the American Petroleum Institute by the Stanford Research Institute warned, “If the earth's temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur, including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans, and an increase in photosynthesis.” Scientist Roger Revelle noted that “man is now engaged in a vast geophysical experiment with his environment, the earth.” Translated, that means we’re all lab rats with no way out of the maze we created unless we’re honest about what’s going on.
However, nothing has stopped the American Petroleum Institute and other fossil fuel industry organizations from waging a vast disinformation campaign. The world's five largest publicly owned oil and gas companies have funded climate change denial to the tune of $200 million each year, according a September 2019 issue of Science Alert. The money is used to pay lobbyists who seek to control or block climate change policy and to generate “official” sounding reports full of bad science, fake news, and lies. This propaganda and probably some cash are then picked up by right wing broadcast entertainers who declare climate change a hoax.
We are all the losers, whether here in Carroll County or in Australia where epic wildfires raged. Denying that this is caused by climate change is the essence of evil, pure and simple. It is done to protect the bottom lines of corporate behemoths who care not a whit about what kind of Earth your children and grandchildren inherit. Don’t think so? Just remember what Big Tobacco dishonestly told us about the connection between smoking and lung cancer.
You cannot flip your calendars to March and attribute the lack of a real winter to good fortune or a natural weather cycle or sunspots. You need to heed the prophet Jeremiah for insight: “Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear.” (Jeremiah 5:21)
Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears every other Friday. Email him at email@example.com.