27 September, 2006

Global Warning

There’s a storm coming.

We’ve had a warning by email here at work and people have become increasingly excited as they log on to their favourite meteorology bureau site to watch the approaching weather on almost-real-time satellite images. It looks like a bad one. I took a stroll down the corridor to a room that actually has windows and took a look out towards the West. Sure enough, there are banks of dark, blue-grey clouds coming towards us from over the hills beyond the city. There is talk of giant hailstones and monsoon rains – all of it quite plausible. People want to get their cars off the street and under shelter but there isn’t anywhere to put them.

I remember a road trip Wifie and I took in the USA some years ago. We started at Denver and went in a 2,500 mile loop through California, Arizona and Colorado, taking in Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and many other amazing sights. But we had barely set off, just working our way over the Rocky Mountains on the first leg when we hit a road block on the interstate and State Troopers flagged us down. A big guy in uniform leaned in at my window and said; ‘We’re just warning everybody that there’s weather ahead.’

Now, a lot of people might have found that funny. Isn’t there weather everywhere? But Wifie wasn’t going to put up with this sort of linguistic sloppiness. ‘What kind of weather?’ she demanded. I still remember the look on the policeman’s face. It was one of puzzlement, bordering on amazement. Can even foreigners be this stupid? he was clearly asking himself but he politely leaned further in and said, ‘Why, snow, ma’am.’ Of course. What other kind of weather was there?

As it turned out, despite all the fuss, the snow wasn’t that bad – especially for a couple who were living in Switzerland at the time.

It’s a shame, though, that the American authorities aren’t doing the equivalent of throwing up road blocks and warning people about what lies ahead for them as the world warms up and extreme and unusual weather begins piling up on all our horizons. Scientists have been tracking the approaching crisis for the past forty years and all we get out of most governments everywhere – even now – is that they are still considering the evidence. In Queensland, we’re having the worst drought ever recorded. We’re beginning what promises to be the hottest and driest Summer ever known. Despite the rain and hail we’re getting today, the trend is hotter and drier for the foreseeable future. We’re running out of water and the State government says, ‘How could we have foreseen such a drought?’ Oh, I dunno, by listening maybe? By actually thinking instead of posturing?

There’s a storm coming and we’re all going to be caught out in the rain.

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