NATURAL PERSPECTIVES:

What’s with this wacky weather? Last Thursday, the forecast was for 80 degrees, which was pretty darn hot for November.

But then it hit 90 here in Huntington Beach. Two days later a cold front swept in. On Sunday, it rained cats and dogs in San Diego. It even snowed in the San Bernardino mountains.

Our garden is so confused by the weather that it doesn’t know what to do.

Our Granny Smith apple tree is blooming, something it normally does only in the spring. Our cold weather crops like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli are languishing in the heat. But our summer crops of eggplants, tomatoes and golden zucchini are blooming and even setting fruit.

Out on the Great Plains, four feet of snow fell Friday while a Category 4 hurricane ripped over the Cayman Islands and Cuba on Saturday. The Great Plains don’t normally get that much snow this early, and hurricanes aren’t supposed to occur in November.

Twenty-four hours later, Hurricane Paloma had deteriorated from Category 4 to a mere tropical storm. Wow. We just can’t keep up with this wild weather.

These day-to-day changes are weather, but weather in the long term is climate. And our climate is definitely changing. As environmentalists who live in a coastal city, Vic and I keep tabs on global climate change. We pay close attention to national and international issues that can affect us here at home.

For example, if the Greenland icecap melts completely, most of Huntington Beach will be underwater. That kind of bothers us, to say the least, even though we don’t expect it to occur in our lifetimes.

What with all of the hullabaloo about the failing economy and the presidential election, the news media has pretty much stopped covering global climate change.

But the climate is still changing, whether anyone notices or not.

Unfortunately, the neocons have tried to confuse the public by casting doubt on good science.

This is just one reason why we’re looking forward to a regime change in the White House. The Bush Administration virtually declared war on science. Under Bush and Cheney, political appointees edited scientific documents prior to publication to bring them in line with White House beliefs in disregard of the science. Every week, Vic and I would read about a new assault on science and the environment. We hope that will end, because good science must be the foundation of good policies.

Every day, we all continue to pour more carbon dioxide into the air as we use electricity, burn natural gas, drive our cars, and fly around in airplanes. Every day, more people are born than die, which increases the population of the planet.

India and China are rapidly joining the middle class, and as they do so, they burn more fossil fuels per capita than they used to. But it is still people in the U.S. who produce the most greenhouse gases per capita.

As the concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane increase in the atmosphere, humankind comes closer and closer to permanently upsetting the delicate climate balance that has allowed civilization to flourish over the past 10,000 years.

So we’re watching with interest as a power struggle progresses in Congress. Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman from Los Angeles is challenging Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich) for chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Normally we wouldn’t take note of such things, but in this case the more liberal Waxman is going for the chairmanship so he can push through some better laws regarding automobile fuel economy. Although Dingell is seen by some as an obstacle to passing stricter fuel standards for cars and trucks, he has co-sponsored a global warming bill that may have a better chance of getting passed than a more comprehensive one.

As with so many things, if the public doesn’t sit up and take notice, short-term profit will win out over long-term good judgment.

Where would the Bolsa Chica be now if a small group of concerned citizens hadn’t said “enough” nearly four decades ago? It would be a marina with more than 5,000 houses around it, that’s where. Instead, the Bolsa Chica is now a fabulous wildlife reserve that is home to myriad fish, marine invertebrates, birds and rare plants.

We wish it was as easy to convince people that the world will change for the worse, and very soon, unless more attention is paid to greenhouse gas emissions. We saved the Bolsa Chica.

Can we save the world from global warming? We hope so.

Conserving electricity, cutting back on driving and lowering the thermostat are all good steps in the right direction. It would be great if everyone could afford to convert to solar power too.

But unless government steps in to make solar energy more affordable, it just isn’t going to be practical. And government isn’t likely to take that step unless there is pressure from citizens to make it happen. It’s up to all of us.


VIC LEIPZIG and LOU MURRAY are Huntington Beach residents and environmentalists. They can be reached at vicleipzig@aol.com.

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