|The Week That Was
November 30-December 6, 1998
Okay, okay. A little more about global warming, but only because we've been getting numerous e-mails over the past two weeks--apparently from that dwindling segment of the population that still watches network news--saying "My rhododendrons have started blooming--in November!" "Ants have overrun my house!" "My dog is still shedding his winter coat--from last year!" and "Oh my God, what's happening? ABC News says it's global warming!"
Actually, it's the La Nina, El Nino's bratty little sister. As was forecast some months ago by meteorologists with the National Weather Service and scientists with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and even written up in the decidedly middle-brow (and proud of it) magazine Reader's Digest ("Here comes more weird weather," Nov. 1998), the La Nina has pushed the jet stream northward into a pattern more typically seen in the summer. The result has been warm, dry air across much of the United States, particularly the sunbelt. Europeans, in contrast, have been freezing their tootsies off, though the U.S. news media has made little mention of it.
This brings to mind Southern California in 1975-1977, where I sat out an extended drought because something shifted in the jet stream or the Pacific current or what have you (I wasn't paying close attention to it then). January highs in Los Angeles were hitting 80 degrees F, and without winter chilling, the buds dropped off my camellias two years in a row. Sunshine showed up day after day after day, and the utter boredom of it set everyone's teeth on edge.
Then in November 1977, whatever had shifted, shifted back. It poured. State bureaucrats in just 30 days went from "managing" the drought to "managing" the floods and the hazards of soggy, saturated ground.
Such a phenomenon, like what we're experiencing now, is called "weather." Weather often changes suddenly and is all too frequently a bloody nuisance, but it is not "climate." Climate changes too, but it takes decades of careful observations to detect a trend. And despite the assertions by Dr. Sherwood Rowland, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and other activists, scientific and otherwise, that Americans deserve "a stable and predictable climate," we're going to stick our necks out and state for the record that it just ain't gonna happen. Americans will never get a chance to vote on whether they want to "stabilize" at 70, 75, or 80 degrees. In the meantime, droughts, floods, and other odd manifestations of weather will continue to show up from time to time and make large segments of the population perfectly miserable.
Are El Ninos/La Ninas driven by global warming? Scientist Stephen Schneider, who will grasp at almost anything to promote global warming, will venture only that such a connection is "possible," which is as clear an indication as any that there's no scientific evidence for it, and there isn't. University of Virginia climatologist Patrick Michaels, in the November 23rd issue of his World Climate Report, cites a just-published research paper by Professor R. Houseago of the University of Birmingham (England) and three scientist colleagues that looked at upper atmospheric flow patterns for three major La Ninas and four El Ninos since 1975. The bottom line? Outside of the tropics, the impact of every El Nino or La Nina event differs. There is no compelling evidence that they are becoming more common. There is no evidence that El Ninos are linked to global warming.
So for all of you terminally anxious, turn off Brokaw or Jennings or whoever you're listening to, cancel your Sierra Club/Greenpeace memberships, and take deep breaths. This too shall pass. Here in Washington, D.C., where we've had months of sunshine and several weeks of summer-like temperatures, we've suddenly returned to seasonal norms heralded by two days of cold, soaking rain. So perhaps it already has.
The President, Vice President and much of the broadcast media--like teenage "valley girls"--remain clueless on this issue. Scientists are still taking notes. John Daly, who operates his "Still Waiting for the Greenhouse" web site out of Tasmania, has posted an interesting analysis of the El Nino/La Nina effect on global temperatures, complete with graph. You can access it at www.vision.net.au/~daly/soi-temp.htm.
Speaking of clueless, the Sierra Club is exhorting it's members to participate in a postcard campaign to pressure the U.S. Senate into being more receptive to the Climate Treaty. (We won't say "ratify" the Treaty, since the Senate has indicated that it doesn't even want to see the thing.) The Club's November 30th announcement says "when it comes to global warming, we all have a lot to loose (sic)."
We don't know what's "loose," but we could venture a guess. The Sierra Club's preprinted postcards call for higher gas mileage standards for automobiles (SUV owners take note), greater energy efficiency (SEPP President Fred Singer already runs around turning off the lights), and increased reliance on "clean wind and solar power" (no matter how many millions of acres have to be paved over with wind turbines and solar panels). Notice they failed to mention the "N" word, that other "clean" source of energy, the one with more megawatts. Some of you may want to send your own postcard to let your senator know there's a different point of view. The address for all 100 of them is simply U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510.
Finally, Dr. Paul Reiter, tropical disease expert with the federal Centers for Disease Control, passed along a newspaper article headlined: "Global Warming Chills Spines with Mutant Insect Invasion." According to the article, research by entomologist Peter McEwen of the University of Wales claims that Britain faces an explosion of everything from cockroaches to clickbeetles, craneflies to centipedes because of global warming. Not only are they coming, but they're going to mutate into strains immune to insecticides and (quote) "steal our food, suck our blood, bury themselves in our skin, and transmit serious diseases such as malaria and sleeping sickness that destroy lives and wreck economies."
The article then lists a half-dozen bugs that have turned up in Britain from other ports of call in recent years. What it doesn't say is that what is spreading these things--not to mention bigger worries like the brown tree snake, an interloper that has already wiped out more than a dozen species of birds on the island of Guam--is not warmer temperatures but their ability to hitchhike inside cargo boxes on commercial airliners. Once arrived, these examples of "fragile" nature turn out to be downright rugged.
Well, we see no reason why the Brits should escape the summertime pleasures experienced at every well-lit gas station in Little Rock, Arkansas, or that of Floridians who, during "love bug" mating season, are forced to stop their cars every few miles to clear the windshield.
Frankly, we think we would all be better off if we'd just overcome our squeamishness and eat the darn things. Insects are nutritious. They're high fibre. They're "natural." And if we really put our minds to it, we could probably find a whole host of alternative uses. Dry them, crunch them up like corn flakes, and use them for home insulation, for example. Or turn them into plastic.
After all, as Professor McEwen informs us, it's them or us.
Until next week....
TW2 is compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall