June 12, 2009 – I saw a couple of articles worth commenting upon recently. One referred to a report that was recently issued which said that winds in the middle of the United States are dying down because of global warming. It went on to say that this would hurt attempts to harness the wind in order to generate electric power. “Experts” were then quoted saying that indeed, the winds have died down, while other “experts” said that no such decline in winds and their speed has been recorded. Based on my own increased awareness of the number of windy days we experienced during the latter half of 2008 and the first half of 2009, I would have to say that here in the Cincinnati area, we’ve seen an increase. My awareness was increased, of course, because the winds were strong enough that they could not be ignored! That, coupled with the fact that Doug and I see blue tarpaulins on people’s roofs everywhere we go (indicating that shingles have been blown away, thereby allowing water to leak into the house), seems to me to be incontrovertible proof that winds in this part of the country are stronger than ever. We lost one shingle on our roof last weekend, in fact. I would hasten to add, however, that weather has taken on a highly localized character in recent years, too: what happens in our neighborhood , or even on our street, does not necessarily happen a mile away. So it is hard to say what the overall status of winds might be, based only on local observation. I guess I’ll just say I’m skeptical about them dying down.
The other article had to do with environmental migration. Climate change is already forcing people to leave their homes and move elsewhere. Unfortunately, the author of the article did not give specific instances, citing when and where this had happened, although he did point out that island nations are being swamped by the oceans’ rising waters. Estimates of the number of people who will be forced to migrate during the coming decades vary between 200 million and 700 million. Problems arise, of course, if they are not welcomed by destination countries. These problems become more acute if the newly designated host countries already have difficulty providing for their own citizens. Access to potable water, living space, food, and jobs are obvious dilemmas created by a sudden influx of people into areas that are already settled. Different religious traditions and ethnic customs would undoubtedly exacerbate strained relations between native and immigrant groups of people. Whether there would be a keen enough sense of “we’re all in this together” to transcend the difficulties inherent in day-to-day encounters would depend on the countries involved. As Siberia warms, it could conceivably become an attractive place to live. Given the xenophobic nature of the Russian people, however, the door might not be open to those in need. Pressure from the world community would have to be brought to bear. While Canada will experience the same warming and probably be far more welcoming, the release of methane into the atmosphere as permafrost melts will mean that both Russia and Canada would have additional costs to pay, both as a result of attempting to mitigate the known toxic effects of methane, and as a result of helping immigrants begin their new lives, possibly in a place vastly different from their old home.
As tall orders go, this one is huge. It would make enormous sense for potential migrants to plan for upheaval ahead of time, thereby addressing potential problems before the actual necessity of doing so. This gives everyone involved the chance to mentally accustom themselves to the coming changes, which could well be here sooner rather than later.