Feeling a Warm Spell

Gray Stanback

Right now, it’s February, and the temperature is expected to reach a high of 70 by the end of the day. In other words, lovely weather for a walk in town or a picnic. For many people, this is a welcome change from the cold weather that traditionally characterizes this time of year. However, last year was the hottest year on record, and it seems likely that this year will be even hotter. This is not a natural phenomenon. Over decades, the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere has resulted in heat being trapped, resulting in a so-called “greenhouse effect”. This, in turn, results in a higher average temperature around the world as excess heat from sunlight cannot escape into space.

Unfortunately, this “global warming” phenomenon—now euphemistically rebranded simply as “climate change”—is not taken seriously by many people, largely because they do not understand how it directly affects them. To them, any warm weather during winter is a good thing, even if it does come at the cost of a healthy ecosystem.

For example, as temperatures increase and winter seems to end earlier, many birds will nest sooner. When their eggs hatch, though, they are often unable to feed their babies because the seeds and insects they rely on for this have not yet appeared.  In addition, those birds that might otherwise be able to move or adapt to increasing temperatures are no longer able to, because all other possible habitat for them has been replaced by human development.

Frogs, which are a common sign of spring in temperate parts of North America, have also been hard hit by climate change. The increasing temperatures have made for a suitable breeding ground for a parasitic fungus that kills frogs, and for this reason the croaking of frogs is no longer as common a sound as it once was on spring nights here in Davidson and in other places.

So what can be done to keep temperatures down? The most obvious solution is simply to not generate so many greenhouse gases. Using renewable (or nuclear) power sources and driving fuel-efficient cars are the classic ways of doing this, and citizens of Davidson should take all of these into account. The idea of warm winter days seems attractive, but it is not something we should by aiming for.