Letter to the Editor (6-19-19)

Weather shift is just a canary in the coalmine

Miners used to bring canaries with them into a mine to alert them of dangerous levels of methane. If the canary was in distress or died they knew they better get out of the mine or they might be next.

Every time I see an armadillo in central Kansas I think of the canaries in the coal mine and what they are telling us about the environment. Armadillos are coming north in part because winters are not as cold as they were. Same with the Pine Bark Beetle, that is flourishing in the warmer climes in the mountains and ravaging huge swaths of pine trees. And then there are the melting glaciers in the Rockies, Greenland and Antarctica and the melting permafrost in Alaska and other parts of the Arctic and rising sea levels that are swamping ocean islands and coastlands – all the product of warmer temperatures.

These examples of climate change are not hypothetical computer models; they are happening all over the world and in our own back yards. Like canaries in a coal mine, are they not warning us of danger ahead?

There are still those who question how much earth’s warming is caused by human activity and how much can be done about it. Some say that it is part of the natural cycle and that there have been other times of warming before. Others point out that scientists don’t all agree about what is happening and what can be done about it. They say that to make enough changes to affect global warming would totally disrupt how we live.

But is it prudent to roll the dice and maintain the status quo until we know for sure what might happen?

The problem with waiting until all the data has been collected and analyzed is that it may well be too late to do anything about the problem.

When global warming begins to really disrupt food production and extreme weather events get more extreme we may wish we had listened more carefully to the warnings – to what the canaries, and the armadillos were telling us.

Keith Harder


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