It's getting warm in here

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Montreal's storm of the century - a 1971 single-day snowfall of 43.5 centimetres - was eclipsed Thursday by a 45 centimetre snowfall.

Stop and think now: how many weather records have you heard were broken in the last year?

It's not surprising if you couldn't keep track of them all. According to Environment Canada, weather in this country broke a significant record - the record for the most record-breaking weather events in a year.

That is, of course, exactly what climate scientists said we could expect from global warming - a trend that is clearly occurring, despite what a decade's-worth of structured opposition has claimed.

But what's interesting now is how the climate conversation is changing. There was a time when it was simply scientists raising the issue of a warming Earth. Now, the dialogue has changed to those who are seeing climate change hitting their bottom lines.

The early adopter was the insurance industry - actuaries regularly deal with numbers that reach well back into the decimal places. Actuarial changes are often small but always significant, and the insurance industry saw quickly that weather-related claims were increasing along a measurable curve - an incremental change bound to appear in that box on your bill where you have to pay the premium.

Likewise, farmers have watched recent weather erode their bottom lines. Drought in the Midwest may well have driven up grain prices (and, in the process, food prices for all of us) but that drought is reaching out in many ways. The worst American drought since 1956 is on the verge of closing the Mississippi River to barge traffic - there simply isn't enough water left in the system to float billions of dollars of cargo.

But an interesting development in December came from Seafood.com, a subscription service that follows the workings of the North American seafood market and beyond. The service highlighted the fact that U.S. federal fisheries regulators don't seem to be taking obvious climate changes into account when looking at the health of fish species.

Fishermen in Maine are now arguing that significantly higher temperatures than normal are causing a host of effects on commercial species. Cod is moving north, shrimp catches are falling and lobsters, while plentiful, have soft shells at times that they have not in the past. Water temperatures in near-shore areas are 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they have been in the past.

Biological oceanographer Jefferey Runge told the Bangor Daily News that cod, lobster and shrimp could all be displaced in the gulf if temperatures continue their rise.

"At some point, (the gulf) is going to be inhospitable to cod," Runge said. "We're getting close to that now."

Temperature shifts also mean a critical food species for herring and mackerel would move.

Eventually, the climate change rubber will meet the road for a host of industries, in a host of different ways.

What will be interesting is how long it takes governments to realize what others are already seeing.

Organizations: Environment Canada, North American, Bangor Daily News

Geographic location: Montreal, Midwest, Mississippi River U.S. Maine

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  • Winston Adams
    December 30, 2012 - 23:55

    John, you know that dinosaurs farts warmed the planet and allowed them to move north near the poles. And the rate of change--- 90 percent of the ice around Elsemere Island and other northern areas has disappeared since our Capt Bob Bartlett took Perry to the North Pole, in 1909. I think Bartlett would be shocked at this change. We should all be shocked. 99 percent of the scientific community agrees that human activity is the main cause, and agrees what that human activity is. But the fart argument sounds better to the average Joe than the scientific argument. Farts and fosil fuel burning.. can't stop either one. We can't change , so the climate must. And we just have to beleive we can adapt. Just repeat " Yes we can adapt . Yes we can adapt. Yes we.......

  • Maggy Carter
    December 30, 2012 - 17:42

    The comment from John Smith - government's stooge - is at the same time pathetic and amusing. This is one of the aliases used by government boosters to disseminate disinformation, belittle critics and generally help pull the wool over the public's eyes on everything related to Muskrat Falls. This was the sleazebag whose phoney arguments in favour of the Muskrat boondoggle included the need to help protect us from global warming by shutting down Holyrood. Now that the dirty deed is done and Dunderdale has sanctioned the project, he's done a complete about-face - telling us that oil fired plants like Holyrood have nothing to do with global warming. Surprise-surprise. In case anyone missed the lead story in Saturday's Telegram, details are beginning to leak out on what some of us have warned all along - that the eight floor of the confederation building (Dunderdale's office) has been running their own version of a 'boiler room' to sell the public a bill of goods. Ministers, government members, their taxpayer-paid staffs and their business pals have all had marching orders to invade the media with rigged votes and tightly scripted comments to make government look good. No doubt the opposition will demand an investigation, and the auditor general could decide that the public deserves to know the cost of the scam to taxpayer, but of course Bill 29 was put there by Dunderdale to make sure they get nowhere with their demands for transparency and accountability. Yes folks tomorrow the calendar will show it is 2013 but in terms of the progress of democracy, the clock has been set back fifty years. Have a good one.

  • Anon
    December 30, 2012 - 10:29

    Observable greenhouse gas levels are at their highest by an incredible margin when compared to the historic climate data that we have. The argument isn't whether man made pollution is warming the earth. The argument now is, what else is warming the earth. If for example it's something beyond our control such as a radical shift in solar activity. We (The people) will never be allowed to know about it. Arguing about the cause of it at this point is akin to arguing whose fault it is that the titanic hit the iceberg and why it doesn't have enough life boats. All you can do is accept the reality that the climate is indeed changing and adapt to it now before it's too late while the resources are available to do it.

  • John Smith
    December 29, 2012 - 10:09

    I don't think many people think that climate change is not happening...there is a great deal of evidence that shows our climate is changing. What I, and others have a problem with is saying it is caused by man made pollution. The Earth's climate has been in a constant state of change...forever. Only 10,000 years ago the entire NA continent, or at least the majority of it was covered by a slab of ice that was miles thick in places...talk about climate change....there is evidence that dinosaurs and other coldblooded creatures lived near the poles...and it was very warm...so climate change...sure...man made climate change....I don't think so...

  • saelcove
    December 29, 2012 - 09:26

    It also means it happened before and before

    • RJ
      December 31, 2012 - 00:42

      Not to worry a large mothership will land and provide us with fresh veggies and fruits...hmmm I ordered cucumber on my sub today but they were out....Brian help!! ;)