Weather? Climate? Do you know the difference?

“If this is global warming, I’m in favour of it!” So spoke a southern Ontario citizen as we entered yet another week of “winter-less” weather with streets devoid of ice and snow and temperatures almost reaching double digits plus!

We all walked the street without rubbers or boots and sweaters rather than parkas and mittens.

Few central Canadian gave much thought to the East Europeans depicted on CBC literally buried in snow with infinitely less capacity to cope with the deluge!

It may well be that in 2013 Toronto may have to summon the army to help dig the city out of the paralyzing drifts that choke even the major traffic arteries. Indeed, just a few days later in 2012 a few centimetres of snow dramatically changed traffic patterns substantially.

The juxtaposition of these states of mind reminds us that we must not confuse weather and climate. The fact is that year by year the planet is warming and unusual weather patterns created by other factors may surprise us – just as the ocean levels are rising and a single year of minuscule lowering does not change the trend that threatens the capacity of our planet to sustain human life.

We can expect the arctic ice cap to continue its melting, we can expect intense storms, hurricanes as well as continued drought in regions of Africa – regions that could once provide food for farmers and those who depended on them for food.

The whole scenario of winter 2012 is a signal that the threat is in fact very real as a recent poll of environmental scientists concluded with 97% agreeing on the need for human intervention to lower the carbon emissions that represent the most obvious danger to the health of the planet.

Continuing expansion in human transport that inject millions of tons of carbon [by air and millions of gas burning cars] will ultimately destroy the balance and equilibrium of the very quality of the global home we depend on. Long before areas of the world face drought and starving populations becomes daily fare on newscasts we will be plagued with destructive patterns of wind and water that will bring enormous harm and destruction.

We have been dulled by the bizarre weather that is our obvious source of personal experience…we think regionally, even locally. This fact is the strongest ally of those whose well being is based on a hope that the status quo is an on-going expectation and would thus deny the phenomenon of global climate change. The business and corporate interests would much prefer the continuing myth “no major change”…..change to different light bulbs….and all will be well!

The Council of Canadians have issued the challenge – not changing light bulbs but the whole basis of our economic system is the only rational course .Not an easy message but one we need to hear.

Walter Pitman

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