The timing, in one sense, is fortuitous. As world leaders gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for a two-week United Nations summit that could shape how and whether the world effectively slows climate change …
The timing, in one sense, is fortuitous. As world leaders gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for a two-week United Nations summit that could shape how and whether the world effectively slows climate change in the future, most residents of Upper Delaware River Valley instinctively know that our regional weather is different.
As of November 1, there has not been a frost, and five inches of rain fell with a late October nor’easter. Rain fell for 36 hours, and then as quickly as it came, the storm retreated. This kind of increasingly intense, short-lived storm is part of the new normal.
This changing climate is not new. In fact, world leaders and organizations have gathered for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change since 1995. Because that’s a mouthful, it’s called COP26 for short. What is new is that more people are aware that something is amiss. In this growing awareness, there is an opportunity to support the change needed to reduce our greenhouse gases that are the leading cause of climate change.
This changing climate is not just seen in the storm and frost cycles, it’s also seen in the vibrancy or lack thereof of the annual turning of the fall leaves. Arthur DeGaetano, director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and an expert on climate data, said, “As the Earth continues to warm, the daylength trigger remains unaffected, but with warmer fall temperatures, the signal the trees receive from cooler temperatures may be delayed.” (See this week’s River Talk for naturalist Scott Rando’s photos and comments.)
According to the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), “satellite observations indicate a delayed fall ‘changing of colors’ of up to four days per decade in North American temperate forests since 1982. Warming temperatures have also been associated with earlier onset of spring—the combination of an earlier spring and a delayed fall season has increased the active growing season.”
While welcome news in the short run, the changing climate is unpredictable and ultimately not life-affirming.
Global leaders as well as local ones are needed to change policies and to foster awareness that could spur a major shift toward renewable energy.
While Pennsylvania argues about the necessity of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (see Briefs on page 2), New York State has pledged a transition to 70 percent of its electricity generated by renewable sources by 2030. Locally, Sullivan County and the towns of Bethel and Tusten are certified climate smart communities, which means that infrastructure and proposed projects will consider reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to a changing climate. The towns of Delaware, Cochecton and Highland have signed onto the climate smart initiative but have not yet taken the steps to move forward with it.
These local governmental steps are important and imperative. For us, individually, awareness is key.
Independent climate reporter David Roberts summed it up nicely. He wrote that when it comes to rapidly adopting clean energy, “we are on the front end of a massive, precipitous wave of change to rival the Industrial Revolution—one that will unfold even if policy support is weak and erratic, purely on the strengths of economics and innovation.... Not only do we know how to get there, it is where we are headed, based on current market and technology trends.”
In our own way, our awareness of the changing climate is a first step to bringing a renewable future into focus.
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