February 24, 2004 | Peter

Greenhouse and the Weather

Graham’s blog entry on the extreme weather is clearly right in terms of the facts, but I think there are valuable lessons we should take from it anyway.
We seem to get the weather here in Perth before it heads east, at least in the summer, so we enjoyed the heat and humidity for a few days as well. Here it was compounded by the electricity supply crashing, just when we needed it most. Increasingly houses and other buildings are built to rely on air-conditioning. Things like overhanging rooves, a traditional way to maximise shade, are increasingly done away with, apparently for aesthetic reasons (and to maximise house size). Anyway, there was a big stink about it, and the state government sacked a couple of blokes at Western Power, but not the relevant minister. Whatever happened to ministerial responsibility?
Hot but wetter summers and drier winters is what is predicted for WA under the prevailing Greenhouse model, and this does seem to be happening. In this sense Perth is becoming more like Brisbane. While Graham is correct that we simply cannot tell whether this extreme weather is caused by Greenhouse or just normal variations, we should recall that more extreme weather is itself a predicted indicator of climate change. Actually, what we are looking for is a pattern of more variety!
But there is another lesson in the weather. Whatever is causing it now, if the global warming models are correct, this sort of weather is the least of what we can expect in the not too distant future. And that is serious.
Even with the air-conditioning, most people I spoke to felt oppressed by the wet heat and their productivity suffered as a consequence (not to mention their mood). If nothing else, new weather patterns will generate a few changes in local culture (siesta, anyone?).
So even if this nasty weather is not caused by global warming, we should take the lesson that it is a taste of things to come if global climate change gets properly under way. We will need to get used to oppressive heat, along with the storms, the rising oceans, the new diseases, the loss of fresh water, etc, etc.
The harsh reality is that right now the world’s governments are doing next to nothing about climate change, which more and more scientists claim is already occurring. The WA government, to its credit, has at least considered the problem and just released its policy. For its part the Howard government is following the US line (ho hum) and waiting for more proof, or something…

Posted by Peter at 12:05 pm | Comments Off on Greenhouse and the Weather |
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