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Should we not be paying more attention to ‘climate change’?

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There is to me no doubt that the weather pattern is changing. This is the month of January, when we really should be witnessing the beginning of the dry season. But you know what! We are probably getting more rain now than we had even in November, normally regarded as the rainiest month of the year.{{more}}

In fact, there was little rain in November. People who are about to construct any kind of building normally plan to start digging their foundations sometime around January, because they see that period as marking the onset of the dry season. I am speaking as a layman, but my observations are not only based on what is happening now. This process that I am going to talk about has been set in motion for some years now. Have we reached the stage where we should no longer talk about a wet and dry season? Or is it that the period of the wet season must now be seen as the Dry Season and vice-versa?

As a young man playing cricket, I could have looked outside and told if it was going to rain, either by looking at Penny Hole or at Jacques Hill in Barrouallie. It is not that easy now. At one time I would park my car at home, look to the skies and decide that it wasn’t going to rain and so would leave my windows down to allow air to pass through. I had an absolute shock some years ago when I arrived at work and after looking upwards put my car windows partly down. I was convinced that rain was not in the picture at all. Within an hour, someone called me, informing me that it was raining and my car glass was down. I must admit that today, apart from weather concerns, it is crazy to think of leaving your car glass down, even when you are at home. Someone is likely to go into your car and steal something, even the car, and if you give them a chance they would even steal you.

What has struck me over the years, and I hope that this was not a product of youthful fantasy or fear, during what we call the hurricane season, regardless of whether or not there was a hurricane in the area, we could have expected strong winds. That doesn’t seem to be so today. This period of the year is always windy, but it appears that we are getting stronger winds now than we got during the hurricane season. While on the subject of hurricanes I have made two observations. One is that while we used to think of the hurricane season as lasting from June to October (Remember November, all over!), now we can expect hurricanes much later. Additionally a lot of the hurricanes are being formed to the north of us and they are hitting areas that we don’t normally associate with hurricanes. Remember ‘Sandy’ and the devastation that it brought to the north eastern United States last year. Recognising what was happening, Governor Christie of New Jersey and Mayor Bloomfield or Governor Cuomo of New York, I believe it was, said that we can no longer consider what has happened as something that might occur once in a while, but be prepared to see it as possibly happening more frequently. We used to associate hurricanes in North America with areas like Florida, but that is no longer the case. As I write this article I am looking at a news release which said that 2012 has been the hottest year on record in continental USA. I have been watching in horror the kinds of floods that have been devastating areas all around the world. I sometimes wonder if it has to do with the fact that television is still a new thing to us and we might not have been sensitized to these before. But the extent and the widespread nature of these floods I am convinced is a new phenomenon.

The weather patterns are even confusing the plants. Two or three years ago, I believe, some of our fruits came out of season. That is, they were not around when we were expecting them. I am not making a scientific argument here, but I am speaking about my observations in the recent past. Do you notice now (and I am speaking from my location in Cane Garden, I don’t know if it applies elsewhere), that the rain starts falling from about 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, even if it does not fall for the rest of the day.

So, I am convinced that something unusual is happening. The scientists put it down to “climate change”. They speak about the change in weather patterns, in agricultural patterns and about “global warming” caused by the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, disrupting the atmospheric balance. In other words, it is man-made, but the sceptics, including a large percentage of American Republicans, spurred on by the craziness of the Tea Party, do not want to attribute it to human activity. One would have hoped that the onslaught caused by Sandy last year would have forced them to look again at the issue, but not so, it appears. After all, we have to remember that the recent shootings in Connecticut have had many of them calling for more guns rather than less. Remember that they have to protect the Constitution, but when it comes to women’s rights and civil rights, including gay rights, it is a different matter.

I hope that kind of thinking does not penetrate our society and that instead, we begin to pay attention to the whole issue. Enough has been happening to make us concerned.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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