Thursday, April 28, 2011

What's Going On with the Weather

Clearly somethiing is amiss, but for the record, what's happening is not "global warming", and as people who are in the climate change camp like to point out, weather is not climate, and so when there's a severe snowstorm in, say, Georgia, where snow is a rarity, and someone says, "How's that for global warming?" that person is failing to understand the difference between weather and climate.

The fact is that something is happening. From 1961 to 1990 there were an average of about eighty deaths per year across the US due to tornadoes. That's all of the states combined, even those where tornadoes are a normal, annual occurence. I lived in the south for a long time, and while tornadoes were always respected and treated like the emergency they are, we tended to be a little complacent. It was like, "oh, goodie. Another tornado drill." In fact, when I was in grade school and junior high, we had regular tornado drills, just to make sure that we all knew what we needed to do in the event there was a severe storm while we were in school. And those happened, also. There were times when we had severe storms - enough so that parents came to get their kids ... yes, in the middle of a severe storm.

But with the early warning systems in place, I don't remember hearing about very many people dying. Severe destruction of property, yes, but deaths, not so much.

Which is why when I read headlines like this one, I know something is happening that we aren't anticipating, can't predict, are unprepared for.

Whether or not Al Gore was correct about the human responsibility for the global climate changes we're seeing is really moot. The fact is that something is happening that is catching us off guard, and at very least, we need to accept that change is happening.

If it's our fault and we do nothing, then we deserve what we get.

But if there's a chance, even an itty-bitty-wittle-tiny chance that global climate change is a result of our gluttony of carbon emissions, doesn't it make sense to make some small changes? Those small changes, spread over a large population, yield huge results, and if we all did just a little, it might make a difference.

Most of the easiest ones aren't even that difficult. Change the lightbulbs, or just use the lights less; unplug things that aren't in use or put them on a power strip so that they're not drawing ghost loads; plan car trips so that errands are all accopmlished at the same time, and there's one long trip instead of several small ones. Those are very, very easy changes that anyone can make that really do make a difference in one's personal energy consumption.

Some take a little more thought and energy (and perhaps money), but aren't, really, any more difficult: line-dry clothes instead of using the dryer; plan baking sessions so that the oven isn't on for as long (like the car suggestion above, if you know you're going to bake a cake, also cook dinner, or something like that); bike or walk when you can; switch to lower energy appliances; eliminate redundant electronics, like getting rid of the television if you have a computer with an Internet connection - especially if you don't have cable; switch to a tankless water heater; monitor your use of heating/cooling, and insulate rather than adjusting the thermostat; plant trees to provide shade for cooling in warmer climates; take advantage of solar passive heating/cooling; source more food locally so that one's food miles are reduced ... or grow your own. None of those changes are difficult, and any combination of them practiced among a large group could be significant.

But, maybe, those things make no difference, but what are we out if we try?

Someone asked me the other day, what if we make all of these changes to our lifestyles and nothing happens? My answer is that by making these changes, we become more self-sufficient, we become less dependent on an increasingly less reliable energy source, and we save a lot of money.

Personally, we've made most of those changes. We've reduced our electric bill from about 1000 kwh per month to 350 kwh per month ... and we could go lower with some bigger changes. We cut cable and saved $20 per month. We changed from a tank waterheater to a tankless water heater and cut our gas usage in half. We combine trips and use the car with better gas mileage, and we save two tanks of gasoline per month (instead of filling up the lower gas mileage car every week, we're only filling each car every other week - so four fill-ups per month between two cars). By raising our own chicken each summer, we're saving, on average $1/lb. We raise 40 chickens per year at an average of 5 lbs each, for a total savings of about $200. We use that $200 to help pay for a cow share, and we pay about $4/lb for the beef - all different cuts, including some pretty pricey ones - for $4/lb. I'd say the savings there is pretty substantial, and we have all of the chicken and all of the beef we could eat, at a fraction of the cost of buying it at the grocery store ... and we know where the food came from.

I just don't understand where the bad is, and why anyone would be resistant to change that is so positive, definitely saves money, and could save our lives ... and our planet.


  1. All these cyclones, tornadoes and floods must mean something. Making changes to our lives can only be a good thing, even if there is no climate change. It's better on the purse strings and less wasteful, full stop.

    I'm off to turn the lounge room light off right now...

    I'm back. I turned off the lounge room light, the hot water system in the kitchen and fan in the room I'm in. They aren't needed - it's just wasteful gluttony.

    Thanks for reminding us and keeping us on our toes.

  2. Rah! Rah! Great post, I'm with you 100% :D

  3. "Someone asked me the other day, what if we make all of these changes to our lifestyles and nothing happens?"

    Well nothing except better food and more money to spend! LOL

  4. I really appreciate your positive outlook!

  5. Great points!

    During the winter, I bake at night. After my 2 year old is in bed, I can open up the oven for the free heat after I'm done and the oven is off. Recently, I had an ephiphany and realized I could put hand washed dishes in the oven and on the door after baking. FREE speed drying!

  6. @Sarah...hmm, I like the idea of baking at night during the winter. The kids always complain that their room is cold - and since their room is right next to the kitchen (in fact, their bedroom door is three feet from the oven), this might warm their room up a bit.

    Plus, as you pointed out, it will make the dishes dry faster!

  7. "why anyone would be resistant to change that is so positive...?" ;because it requires people to get up off their @## and also to do a little creative thinking, both of which have become a completely unfeasible idea for most Americans. They had rather sit back and have garbage shoveled down their throats, literally and figuratively while they sit hypnotized in front of the TV, rather than to take an active role in their own life. I hate to sound so pessimistic but that's about the reality of it.
    Oh, and I completely agree with you and understood the point you were trying to make on the healthcare issues you were talking about earlier. There are many good, sincere docs, nurses etc. out there but it's my basic opinion that Big Pharma and their cronies care nothing about actually helping people. They just want as many people addicted to their products as possible.

  8. Heck, yeah! I agree whole heartedly. The next "big one" for this household is line drying clothes -- I was reading on the web recently how it takes about 5300 watts / hour to run an electric dryer. Each hour-long dryer run eats about half a day's production of a $7,000 solar photovoltaic system on a *sunny* Maine day. Yikes! Time to get a clothes line!

    I'm sorry I didn't buy a few pounds of pasture-raised beef at this morning's last-for-the-season indoor farmer's market in Brunswick center. The summer market starts up next week. Good stuff, that organic, pasture-raised, local beef.

    Nice work, as always.