Meteorological winter -- December, January, February -- is over. It's official. This past winter tied with 1934 for the warmest winter ever in Salem, Oregon.
Portland also had its warmest winter.
It's pretty damn obvious that the weather here in the northwest is getting weirder. Not only here, of course. All over.
The cause is global warming. Almost certainly. I'd leave out the "almost," but I'm scientifically minded, and science is never 100% sure about anything. Just very highly sure.
Three years ago we had a unusual spring cold spell. This year, we had an unusual winter-long warm spell. Just as would be expected if global warming is happening, as it is.
I talked about the reasons why in this post. Extreme weather is going to be more common as the jet stream becomes "wavier" and more persistent in its wavy pattern. According to climate scientists, this likely is caused by the Arctic warming, which leads to a less powerful jet stream.
Oregon's snowpack is at record low levels for the second year in a row. Like Bob Dylan sang, 'You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."
Global warming is real. It is impacting Salem. It is impacting Oregon. This city, this state, indeed the entire world, need to do something about it.
Yet like I said in a recent Strange Up Salem column, "Salem fiddles while the planet burns."
We've got a Mayor and city council majority who are pressing for an unneeded billion dollar third bridge that will substantially increase Salem's carbon footprint.
We have a local newspaper, the Statesman Journal, that regularly publishes opinion pieces and letters to the editor by global warming deniers, and has editorialized in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline -- which climate experts say must be stopped to prevent the catastrophe that would result from using up Canada's oil sands.
If our City's leaders believe in global warming, they sure aren't acting like they do. So my theory is... they don't believe in it.
I know. This is Oregon. Western Oregon. Willamette Valley Oregon. Where Portland, Corvallis, and Eugene are. Not Texas or Oklahoma.
But Salem is a different city animal from the towns around us. We're way behind the times when it comes to things these cities do much better than us at.
Bike lanes. Mass transit. New urbanism. Social equity. And also, scientific literacy.
Yeah, it's embarrassing. Along with disturbing. Optimist that I am, though, I'm hoping that this year's record-breaking warm winter and low snowpack will wake up the climate change deniers in this town to the reality that faces us.
Do something about global warming, or it is going to do a lot to us.
Civilization won't be the same if temperatures caused by human greenhouse gas emissions keep on rising as they are.
The question is: do our Mayor, City Manager, city councilors, and Statesman Journal newspaper executives care enough about this town, and the entire Earth, to stop hiding their heads in science-denying sand?
I am a climate change/global warming believer, but I am agnostic about the cause. It has been shown that even small changes in an ecosystem can result in its eventual transformation. So, it is likely that carbon emissions are part of the problem, but other more powerful factors may be at play as well. After all, cooling and warming cycles have occurred on earth many times before the appearance of humans.
This may be part of the problem why humanity does not have its collective back up about it yet. People are seeing weird weather all over the globe, but they still see it as an anomaly that is just part of normal cyclical variations and irregularities. They do not yet see the direct connection between the car they drive and the consumer goods they purchase as being part of the problem.
They don't think the blender they buy or the air mattress they need for a camping trip is significant enough to change world climate, so they keep buying blenders and air mattresses by the millions and billions, and THAT is significant especially when old blenders and air mattresses get thrown out and new ones have to be made again and again all packed in styrofoam, plastic and cardboard.
I don't know how you get mankind to stop buying and producing consumer goods until it is way to late. By the time the average Joe understands and the point is driven home and people are scared and there is enough collective will to do something about it, coastlines will be underwater and food will be hard to get. The deed will have been done. Many scientists think it already has been done and the wheels of change are irretrievably set in motion.
It's too bad though because there is enough knowledge now of how to live sustainably if people would band together and just do it. But it's hard to change and do things differently, to go back to basics and a simpler lifestyle reminiscent of the pre-industrial age and when there was a much smaller human population. How do you get India and China on board for all this even if the US does something about it?
I think humans will survive though. Many will adapt and find a way to live even though many will perish. We are like cockroaches. Disgusting but resilient.
Some see this pending disaster as a good thing. There are too many people. This may be nature's way of cleaning up shop. Sort of a high enema to clean out some of the crap.
Posted by: tucson | March 03, 2015 at 08:23 AM
We'll probably never know if certain members of the Salem City Council are climate change deniers. But what we do know is that 2/3 of the Council are Republicans in a town with only 1/3 Republican Party registration. [Technically Steve McCoid is non-affiliated but that's because his lobbyist job requires him to be.] Only 1/3 of our Councilors are Democrats. That's something we can change in 2016 when four Council seats and the Mayor's seat will be up for grabs. It's very doable if we work hard enough.
Posted by: Jim Scheppke | March 03, 2015 at 09:33 AM
Even if climate change WEREN'T real, the driving-centric suburban economy our leaders adore is a way of life with no future. Millennials don't want and can't afford this lifestyle; boomers won't be able to sustain it as they age. To pour all our limited treasure into extending as though it were 1965 forever is truly pointless. So sad!
Posted by: Paula | March 03, 2015 at 10:59 AM