My snowman just fell over.
It’s January in Canada and my snowman is laying sprawled out on the lawn like he’s taking a nap but he’s not. My snowman is a casualty of global warming.
I always remember January in Canada as being particularly miserable. All that snow and blustery cold weather leading up to Christmas made the holiday season seem more real, but as soon as New Year’s Eve passed, all those freezing temperatures and weeks where your ears can freeze in five minutes or less outside became rather inconvenient. Because frozen ears are no fun.
And now it’s January, it’s raining, it’s four degrees above freezing – which, compared to the minus fives or minus 10s of my childhood is really quite balmy – and my snowman melted to the point of falling over.
When I was a kid, a snowman you made in December could be around until March, barring any unforeseen attacks by school- children deciding to terminate your sculpture early with a headlong tackle (or, realistically, me tackling my snowman because, hey, jumping on piles of snow is pretty fun). But now the life expectancy of a snowman in southern Ontario is about four days.
Let me assure you this is not normal. Or, I suppose it’s the new normal. The normal of having 13°C Christmas. The normal of not having snow all winter long like I did in my childhood. This is the new normal of climate change. Or maybe we should call it climate chaos. Because that’s what it ushers in.
Climate chaos warms places that should be colder, cools places that should be warmer, makes seasonal weather patterns like monsoons less predictable, and causes more extreme weather events. More typhoons, anyone?
And if you’re thinking chaos is overstating things, rest assured: for wildlife, this is chaos. Flora and fauna are built to evolve and adapt but typically adapt over a much longer period than the rate of climate change. The climate is changing too rapidly for most wildlife to adapt to it. Remember, geologic time is at a huge scale covering billions of years with evolution happening at a “rapid” pace of tens of thousands of years. That is what fast looks like for evolution. When we talk about world global temperatures rising almost one degree in 100 years, that is – on the geologic scale – complete chaos.
But people who deny the chaos will say that the world goes through periods of warming and cooling, and that it’s natural. Again, one needs to look at the geologic scale of time. Earth does go through periods of warming and cooling naturally but it tends to happen over longer periods of time. For humans the natural world is fixed. A canyon will always be a canyon, a mountain is a mountain for a human being; in geologic time, a canyon will one day be a desert, a mountain is waiting to be eroded into a plain. So when humans can see the changes in weather patterns as clearly as we can see them in our own single lifetimes, something is very wrong.
It’s not just anecdotal. Widespread extinction caused by this climate chaos is a real possibility. Extinction is something to be avoided. But, hey, if you want to look at it from a selfish view: the more biodiversity there is, the more chance we have of using that biodiversity to create products, especially, and more importantly, useful medicines. By allowing flora and fauna to die out, it increases humankind’s chances of dying out. (But wildlife should be protected inherently no matter how or if we can profit from it!)
Being able to snorkel or dive and view the rainbow of fish in a coral reef could be at risk with rising temperatures and sea levels because coral reefs are notoriously fickle habitats only capable of existing within a range of a few degrees. Coral reefs are ecologically important and just plain beautiful places to visit. I don’t want a world without them.
We have no idea what 2017 is bringing but if part of it is a return by world leaders to acting like there is some debate over whether climate change is happening or not (we’re talking about you, Mr Trump), we need to remember that there is no debate. Climate change is happening. And we’re seeing it with our own eyes, we’re feeling it right now, and to ignore it is dangerous for us and for all of our snowmen.
Catch Jason Godfrey on Inspiring Homes on Life Inspired (Astro Ch 728).