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And now, for our local weather report

August 14, 2013

Dialogue about climate change, once relegated to the arena of international conferences, chambers of government, and heated debates on TV and radio talk shows, has recently become a topic of ordinary conversation around the dinner table and the water cooler. People are talking about what they see around them: milder winters, earlier springs, the mounting frequency of extreme weather events in our own backyards or along washed-out roadways. The myth that climate change is not happening is increasingly impossible to believe. The evidence is in our faces.

In our own region, one can still see the damage seven weeks later from the extreme downpours of a storm that inundated many locations on June 27 and 28. The saddest story we heard about that storm was from a farmer along Dyberry Creek outside of Honesdale, PA: when five inches of rain fell in three to four hours, the creek jumped its banks, and the rushing water carried away most of his small flock of sheep. (Eight out of 11 were never found.) A nearby field of market vegetables was also washed away.

Here in the Upper Delaware River Valley, perhaps you’ve noticed that, in fact, spring does arrive earlier, about four days earlier according to the data; or that river and lake ice melt earlier, from one to two weeks earlier. Long-range predictions for our region include rising air and water temperatures, warmer winters with less snowpack, and more frequent, more intense precipitation events, along with weather-related power disruption and infrastructure damage.

Some of the predicted consequences of climate change sound pretty dire: rising seas along densely populated coastlines with the long-range potential to displace millions; impacts on agriculture (read, food supplies); economic disruption; wildfires; and the spread of unwelcome insects, invasive species, infectious diseases; damage to ecosystems, loss of species and more. No wonder many people find it difficult to deal with the subject. Sometimes when a subject is too frightening or too overwhelming, people simply withdraw from the conversation and from any efforts to address the problem. Feeling powerless to effect change, they give up.