Maybe it’s the weak attempt at snow last week, but this winter weather has got me down. Not because it is too cold or bleak, though, but quite the opposite. This year, we have hardly seen any snow or real wintry wonder. And this isn’t just a Connecticut thing — all around the world, winters are becoming different.
Of course, this is because of climate change. It may sound tired at this point to talk about the subject, but climate change is not a problem of the future. At present, it is subtly changing the way we live and many are struggling to keep up. In particular, people who rely on the changing seasons for their business or livelihood are feeling the early effects of climate change first.
Here in Connecticut, we see the changes. The winter temperatures have been getting warmer, and any snow at all seems to appear later and later. When there is a snowstorm, though, it doesn’t let up. Severe cold snaps and storms are plaguing the entire United States and Connecticut is no exception.
This has real effects. Winter-based companies in the northeast are having to change their business models to adapt. Fewer snowstorms means fewer opportunities to plow or go skiing, after all. There are also risks ecologically. Tick-borne and mosquito-borne illnesses like Lyme disease are also on the rise as the pests carrying them are not getting their populations controlled by the cold.
Moreover, it just feels wrong. It’s weird not being able to sled down Horsebarn Hill. It’s weird not seeing the snow-covered trees on campus around break. It’s weird not knowing what to wear outside because the temperature could be in the mid-50s in February. Our lives are starting to change just a bit. This will be more and more noticeable as generations go on, and we see more clearly how different our kids or grandkids will live from us.
And we’re lucky to be facing the beginnings here. Farmers who rely on the winter for their crop-growing are getting nervous in these changing times. One report by the University of Georgia found that the state’s peach industry faced an 80% loss in 2017. The overwhelming majority of those losses were due to Georgia not getting cold enough for peaches to set in the winter. This is substantial and back-breaking for farmers who rely on the regularity of the seasons and it will only be getting worse.
With the lack of snow also comes a lack of water for many communities. In parts of California, snow in the winter acts as a reservoir of water that then can disperse in the spring. But with less snow and more snowmelt, the amount of stored water is diminished. This not only affects farmers there as well, but it also may cause flooding in the winter or water shortages in the summer.
In essence, we have built our society carefully in such a way that we need regular and predictable seasons. We expect certain things to happen when the weather gets cold in the winter and warm in the summer. We rely on snow to insulate, protect and store. And when the weather patterns and temperatures we have been used to for millennia fall out of habit, we cannot restore that balance artificially. We don’t know how to adapt every aspect of our lifestyle to the warming planet, but we’re going to need to learn fast at this point.
It is tempting when talking about climate change to focus on the catastrophes that are occurring because of it, such as the Amazon or Australian forest fires. But just as important are the ways that the incubation of our planet is slowly, unceasingly degrading our day-to-day lives. Not only will climate change kill us all if radical action is not taken, but it won’t be a pretty trip there.
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Peter Fenteany is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.