As they might say on television, it’s a beautiful sunny day here in Lakeland, Florida. Some azaleas are still flowering and the lilies have popped up in our garden, bright and cheerful. We lost a lot of plants to the worst series of freezes anyone hereabouts can remember, but we have finally got the dead brush cleared away – and I have the scratches and bruises to prove it.
The ravages of the freak frost are a fading memory on a day when the temperature is supposed to reach 81 degrees, but it was a cruel winter and an uncomfortably cool spring. Some commentators took advantage of the chilly temperatures – not only here but in other areas of North America – to ridicule the threat of global warming, ironically failing to realize the erratic conditions were actually a symptom of menacing climate change.
This is Earth Day, an occasion for surveying the state of our environment and, if possible, doing something about it. Anyone can see the earth is in some kind of paroxysm … frequent earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and so on … The question is whose fault is it – mankind’s or Mother Nature’s? My guess is that both are to blame. But since we can’t do anything about Mother Nature, we need to concentrate on Mankind’s behavior.
Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein makes the point that much progress has been made in combating pollution in the decades since the first Earth Day. In an article today, he writes:
On Thursday, 40 years after that first Earth Day in 1970, smog levels nationwide have dropped by about a quarter, and lead levels in the air are down more than 90 percent. Formerly fetid lakes and burning rivers are now open to swimmers.
I suspect the same is true throughout the civilized world. People everywhere are far more aware of environmental dangers than they used to be. But there are those who scoff at efforts to save the planet for our children and grandchildren. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they see climate change warnings as a concocted issue and a threat to their freedom. And it’s harder to argue with them today than it used to be. As Borenstein points out:
The challenges to the planet today are largely invisible — and therefore tougher to tackle…. Issues such as climate change are less obvious to the naked eye. Since the first Earth Day, carbon dioxide levels in the air have increased by 19 percent, pushing the average annual world temperature up about 1 degree Fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It was a lot easier to muster public support against pollution when rivers were so clogged with trash that some caught fire, oil spills fouled miles of once-pristine beaches and thick smog choked the skies.
But the evidence is there – even if you can’t see it. Borenstein reports:
Last month was the hottest March on record worldwide. It was 1.4 degrees warmer than March 1970, according to NOAA.
The average temperatures for the last 40 years are higher than the rest of the 130 years of record-keeping, said Deke Arndt, head of climate monitoring at NOAA’s National Climate Data Center.
And, this week, German scientists published an analysis in the scientific journal Nature that says the greenhouse gas agreement reached by some international leaders last December in Copenhagen would lead to a 10 to 20 percent increase in carbon dioxide levels in 2020.
So while it was a wretchedly cold winter and spring here in usually balmy Florida, the world as a whole was experiencing unprecedented warmth. But you won’t hear about that on talk radio. They’re too busy scoffing at the threat of climate change.