Insurance and Climate Change column

Can Climate Change Make The Groundhog A Better Forecaster?

By | February 2, 2017

Donald Trump has no problem saying what he’s thinking – as he proved during a phoner with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday.

This could make one wonder how he’ll treat Prince Charles – a strong believer in climate change, Charles was a speaker at the Paris climate talks in 2015 – when the two possibly meet.

A visit hasn’t been set but members of the President’s inner circles have reportedly warned British officials that if the prince tries to lecture Trump on environmental issues when he makes his way to the U.K. he will “erupt,” according to a Newshub article on Wednesday.

It’s nearly impossible to picture The Donald erupting isn’t it? It appears he’s already trying to avert a possible meeting, and thus a potential conflict, with Charles.

“Mr Trump has reportedly asked to meet the younger princes, Harry and William, instead,” the Newshub article states.

Another U.K. publication, the Sun, has also been following the story, noting that “Senior Government officials fear the Prince of Wales – an environmental campaigner – will challenge the US President over his views on climate change.”

If the two fail to meet that’s really too bad. What a smashing conversation that would be.

This groundhog could become a better weather predicter, though more endangered, according to some scientists.
Photo by Ladycamera

The Groundhog’s Dark Destiny

Today is Groundhog Day. So, Gizmodo had a story to celebrate the day.

An article on the site, Climate Change Will Kill the Groundhog Day Groundhog, notes that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow so there will six more weeks of winter.

That’s great news for skiers and snowboarders, but maybe not for Phil, according to the article, which attempts to explore how the predicting abilities, and fate, of the groundhog would transform with climate change thrown into the mix.

Gizmodo reporter Ryan F. Mandelbaum interviewed Elizabeth Becker, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, who told him that if it rains more, the groundhog will see its shadow less, and that would mean more predictions of an early spring.

If the climate trends warmer, then spring really will seem to come earlier and that would actually yield better Groundhog Day predicting power over time, the article states.

Becker, of course, pointed out that the groundhog’s annual forecast doesn’t have any basis in science.

Mandelbaum also interviewed Roelof Hut, an assistant professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

Hut told the writer that we should probably be worrying about the groundhog’s health with a changing climate because groundhogs hibernate and therefore must eat a great deal to fatten up.

Groundhogs expend almost all of their fat reserves during arousal periods every few weeks following periods of deep sleep, and climate change could yield more arousals and a faster depletion of the groundhog’s fat, according to Hut.

“At a certain point when they go really skinny they may die in hibernation,” Hut told Gizmodo. “Alternatively, they may decide to emerge early from hibernations. But they’ll emerge skinnier anyway, or die because they’re so skinny.”

Sexy Headline

From aroused groundhogs to my favorite headline of the week:

“Climate change scientists should think more about sex.”

“Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood,” states an article in ScienceDaily.

The article cites a study in the Royal Society’s Biology Letters journal, which found that little research into how males and females respond differently to climate change has been carried out despite abundant research on ocean acidification, some of which shows that male and female shellfish respond differently to stress.

According to Robert Ellis, an ecological physiologist at Exeter University who conducted studies on the above-mentioned shellfish, the impact on different sexes should be assessed in all aquatic animals to predict how populations will respond to climate change.

“Any effect on spawning, settlement or survival could have a major impact on sustainable supplies of fish and shellfish,” the article states.

Research from the University of Exeter reveals that less than 4 percent of studies on climate change have tested the impact of ocean acidification on males and females separately, according to the story.

With CO2 projected to be 2.5 times higher in the oceans by the end of this century, understanding climate change impacts is vital to help protect marine ecosystems, Ellis told ScienceDaily.

“Our understanding of these threats has improved significantly over the past decade, but this is still a very new and rapidly evolving field,” Ellis said. “Many important questions still remain, and sex-based differences will be a key issue with the potential to influence our strategies to mitigate against climate change.”

Trump Good for Climate?

Speaking of Trump once more, not everyone thinks he will be bad for the climate – believe it or not.

Columnist Konrad Yakabuski, who writes on politics, policy and business for The Globe and Mail, believes climate may not suffer so poorly under a Trump presidency. This is made more interesting, to some of us at least, because The Globe and Mail is a Canadian publication.

“Far be it for me to search for silver linings, but a Trump presidency stands to be no worse, and maybe much better, for the climate than the administration Mr. Obama led or the one Hillary Clinton aspired to command,” Yakabuski writes in one of his recent columns. “Even Tesla’s Elon Musk, whose electric cars and batteries are Made in the USA, sees the upside in a Trump presidency – and possibly even a carbon tax.”

Despite Trump’s promises to slash regulations on U.S. oil and gas producers, and his pick of Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., as secretary of state, among several other moves that most don’t believe portend well for the climate change cause, there are reasons to be hopeful, he writes.

His reasoning?

U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions fell during the Obama Administration for reasons that had nothing to do with him: the recession reduced factory production and energy use, and hydraulic fracturing created a shale-gas revolution that helped natural gas supplant coal as the main fuel used to produce electricity, Yakabuski writes.

He notes that Democrats have been “particularly hostile toward fracking,” and while she defended both shale gas and Keystone in her private e-mails, Clinton supported neither in public and therefore her Environmental Protection Agency would likely have sought to curb fracking.

“As for Keystone, even the State Department Ms. Clinton once ran concluded the pipeline would have zero net impact on the climate or fossil-fuel consumption,” he writes. “Mr. Trump’s revival of the TransCanada project to ship oil-sands crude south may be the best decision he’s made. And it has nothing to do with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to adopt a national carbon tax on this side of the border.”

He further cites research from the Breakthrough Institute that shows macroeconomic trends like recessions and technological developments like fracking overwhelmingly determine the course emissions take.

The best hope for the planet is to embrace a cleaner-than-coal natural gas as a transition fuel, accepting that the benefits of nuclear energy outweigh its risks and a focus on technologies that can end our dependence on fossil fuels or capturing carbon emissions, according to him.

“Mr. Trump will not be an impediment to any of those things. He may even help them along,” he writes.

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