Choices Now Can Reduce Climate Disruption

(view more articles in SOS Tompkins Weekly)

Tompkins Weekly – December 13, 2010  By Sharon Anderson

Climate affects everything in our lives from food production to water supplies to health. When people are tired of winter, global warming and climate change may sound good but climate disruption is closer to the truth.

We probably won’t like how the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere (and oceans) will change climate. There is widespread agreement that the average global temperature is increasing, that we are putting too much carbon into the atmosphere and that weather patterns are changing worldwide. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates an average rise of 1.4 – 5.8 degree Centigrade by the year 2100.  Nobody lives at the global average so a more relevant question is what local climate changes are likely.  Expect to see an increase of  extreme weather– records highs and record lows, too much water coming too quickly and too little when it is needed most.

re. Recorded temperature from the years 1899-2000 have increased more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the general area of Tompkins County.  Precipitation trends for roughly the same period show a 20 percent increase in precipitation for this area, accompanied by more of the precipitation occurring during extreme events (defined as greater than 2 inches within 48 hours.)

By 2050 summer heat in New York could be similar to what Virginia currently experiences–if global warming is slowed by reducing carbon emissions.  If emissions remain high, summer heat in New York could be more like Georgia. The annual precipitation is predicted to stay in its current range but the portion that falls during the summer, the growing season, will decrease.  With warmer temperatures, evaporation will be greater, further decreasing available water when plants need it the most. Scientists predict a continued increase in the frequency of extreme events such as heavy rains and thunderstorms, causing flooding. During storms, water runs off the land rushing downhill and downstream rather than replenishing groundwater that feeds private drinking water wells and the lake and streams. In the future, even the water-rich Finger Lakes region may not have the abundance of water to which we have been accustomed.

We are at the crossroads. We can use existing and emerging technology to responsibly reduce carbon loading or we can ignore the problem knowing the future consequences will be more severe. Choices we make now will affect future generations more than us.

The best place to start is by conserving energy, which can also save money.  Transportation uses a lot of energy and releases a lot of carbon. Reduce dependence on a car even if only once a week. Rideshare, take a bus, walk, bike or just skip taking a trip.  Use less fuel by keeping the car tires inflated and driving the speed limit or less.  Homes are another place where lots of energy is used. Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County offers information and workshops on saving money energy in the home.   Visit www. and click on the Interactive Energy House and the Calendar of Events.

Personal choices alone area not enough. We also need larger-scale efforts. Urge the municipality you live in to use more renewable energy; the Town of Caroline is a great example. Support more local production of renewable energy such as wind-generated electricity and native grasses as a fuel source. Encourage the County’s exploration of offering no- to low-interest loans to help those who are financially strapped to increase home energy efficiency. Such improvements quickly pay for themselves by reducing costs, and they make home more comfortable.  Stay alert to new technologies and opportunities so that our legacy is one of clean, renewable energy, green jobs and long-term well being for all segments of our society.

Sharon Anderson, Environment Program Leaders, Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County

If you liked this article, you may want to check out our complete archives of SOS Tompkins Weekly articles