Thursday, January 11, 2007

Weird Winter Weather and Unforeseen Effects

While we can't point to one particular season as proof positive of climate change (the downside to Pat Robertson's conversion), we're certainly seeing unusually warm weather this winter. A couple of different stories I cam across demonstrate that if we're in a long-term warming trend (and you know that I think we are), all sorts of consequences arise that present new and difficult challenges:

In Europe, where the skiing isn't much to speak of this winter, health officials in Austria are warning allergy sufferers that they may have to deal with seasonal stuffiness much earlier: "...some species of trees are already flowering and about to release pollen -- an annual phenomenon that's usually not a problem until well into spring." Sidewalk cafes are putting the tables outside in Vienna, while in Great Britain, they're experiencing their mildest winter in over 300 years.

Allergies aren't much fun (I say that from experience), but losing one's job is even less so. According to Canada's Globe and Mail, that's just what's happening in Ontario's ski industry: the Blue Mountain Ski Resort in the southern part of the province had to lay off 1,300 workers late last week because the snow just isn't there for skiing. According to columnist Anthony Reinhart,

It's not the first time mild weather has forced winter sports enthusiasts to make the best of a bad situation. Still, few can remember a situation as consistently bad, from the start, as this one.

"It's a total disaster," said Rick Sim, a 35-year industry veteran with a ski shop near the foot of the slopes, where roofers in shirtsleeves hammered shingles onto a fresh batch of luxury vacation homes. "I've never seen it like this."

All along the southern approach to Collingwood, looking down from the Niagara Escarpment, the only colour missing is white.

While some will probably try to downplay these layoffs by noting these were temporary jobs from the start, many of the businesses serving winter tourist rely on this income to stay in business. Again, we can't this particular warm spell is direct evidence of global warming; we certainly can say that if we see repetition of these kinds of weather conditions, many people will pay a hefty economic price. Increasingly hot summers, like the ones we've seen in recent years, will probably affect seasonal and tourist-dependent industries, also. There are certainly costs tied to addressing climate change, but, no doubt, doing nothing also can be expensive... Thanks to Eric Benson for passing this story along.

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