Just when we thought we could count on global warming making life and the economy better, last winter jolted us back to the cruelties of normal weather patterns. With the late spring upon us, getting a crop into the ground became anxious and feeding livestock is dragging out as pastures are slow to emerge. How soon we forget that such conditions were more the normal pattern over the past hundred years. The reality is the global warming trend was just so easy to get used to, although statistically depending on your perspective it was a bit of an illusion.
Global warming, now called climate change, has been a monumental battle of worldwide statistics. It was always a somewhat duplicitous exercise in manipulating weather data through selective choices of time frames, averages and geographic considerations. Whether they are right or wrong doesn’t matter, being that science long ago lost its reputation for being unbiased and non-political. There is one factor that is undisputable and that is global warming, sorry I should say climate change, it started about 7,000 years ago and has continued relentlessly since then, save for a few hot/cold periods here and there. I suspect no matter what we do or don’t do to affect the climate, nature will decide the outcome over the long term as she always has done.
Interestingly, some research indicates that ice ages have been the norm for millions of years with warm periods, like the one we are now in, the exceptional interlude. The point being we might as well enjoy global warming while we can before another ice age sets in. It’s amusing to hear climate change alarmists stating that a mere 3 degrees increase in the average temperature will see all the glaciers in the world melt and affect millions. Be that as it may, the same such research indicates that a decrease of 3 degrees in the average will see the glaciers growing and advancing – once again. Considering the history and length of ice ages, I think the odds favour climate change to become colder. I suspect none of us now alive will see that change.
Having said that, we have been seeing a change in most of Alberta weather patterns over the past 40 years. Those of us long in the tooth recall that winters seemed longer and colder back then and we were right. Particularly in the past ten years, frost –free days have increased and springs have indeed come earlier. That’s seen the frontier of corn growing expanding and grazing seasons extended. That’s been good for the ag production economy particularly in northern areas. Sure improved plant genetics and agronomic practices have made a difference, but better weather is literally at the root of the expansion in crop production.
This year may well shock the industry back to reality – a late spring, a cool summer and early frost will be a rude awakening to those used to better weather. If that were to occur you can expect a signifi cant drop in cereal and oilseed production this coming year. The side benefi t would be that the present grain transportation crisis would be over a lot earlier and forgotten by this time next year.
I expect that most common sense opinion in Alberta would favour that global warming continue in this part of the world. It makes our winters shorter and more bearable and improves crop production potential. In a way, particularly in southern Alberta, agriculture has exploited warm temperatures rather well when you consider the success of the irrigation industry. It wouldn’t thrive in colder temperatures. Beans, corn, sugar beets, soybeans, vegetables and others wouldn’t do very well if global warming stopped. But from a politically-correct perspective that positive aspect of global warming is rarely mentioned – it’s just not as sexy as fearmongering about coastal cities being drowned by rising oceans. The history of the earth has been one of climatic change, one ponders as to why some presume that mere humans can stop that change – all we can do is adapt.
One might presume that all the efforts to reduce polluting emissions may be in vain if climate change is inevitable and beyond human control. Actually those efforts are to be commended and encouraged as they serve to improve our immediate living conditions in achieving cleaner air and water and better resource use. Nonetheless one can only hope that this cold winter and late spring were just little interludes in the global warming trend for this area.
AHEAD OF THE HEARD