Adapting to Climate Change

Before writing about our adapting to climate change, I think I need to clarify something we need to keep straight in our minds: We live in the daily weather, plants and animals live in the climate. Plants and animal are affected by long term temperatures. We live in the day because we have the ability to control our indoor climate. We do not integrate, in the mathematical sense, the daily weather. It matters somewhat to our comfort, when we are outside, whether the day is warmer or cooler than the daily average but its effect does not carry over to the next day.

Now, let’s look at the significance of the daily average. The daily temperatures when plotted for a long time, for more than one hundred years at most places in the United States, form a bell curve having a normal distribution. The bell curve for high temperatures on a given date where you live  looks like a bell.

The high point on the curve is the mean or average temperature for that day. The width of the curve is based on what is called its standard deviation. Assuming that the climate change taking place is a warming of 2 degrees Fahrenheit, the average daily temperature would move 2 degrees toward the warmer end of the scale. This also means the extreme temperature at the hot end would go up 2 degrees. This is not as bad as it sounds because 95 percent of the daily temperatures are within 2 standard deviations of the mean so most high temperatures you experience will be in your usual range. Only once about every 10 years will a record high temperature occur.

If climate change also results in larger temperature variation, then the bell curve will be squashed down and the ends of the curve moved outward. This means there will be more daily variation in temperatures and a more extreme outlier at the end. Still temperatures on the vast majority of days will be what we experience now. There may be little you need to do about the higher temperatures as far as maintaining your indoor environment is concerned. Most air conditioning systems have more cooling capacity than is strictly required by current temperatures.

Moving outside where climate change does make a difference, the effect of higher average temperatures will in effect move your dwelling south. The United States contains ten climate zones based on normal minimum winter temperatures. Zone 1 which exists in central Alaska has minimums below minus 50 degrees. Zone 10 occurs in the southern deserts of California/Arizona and the southern tip of Florida where minimums are balmy 30 to 40 degrees. Unless you live in an exceptional place or have plants particularly sensitive to heat, there is only a small chance the grass, flowers, shrubs or trees in your yard will notice the change. You, however, will probably notice spring growth coming earlier and winter arriving later.

Where there may be difficulties for us with climate change is in wind speeds and precipitation amounts, either those associated with storms or extending over a period of time. You should probably make yourself aware of what vulnerabilities you have and do common sense things to mitigate them. There are too many possibilities to mention but you know what has happened and what might happen in your locality. The main focus of your concern when adapting to this aspect of climate change should be your personal safety and that of others near you.

A generally unmentioned aspect of adapting to climate change is living on less money. Unfortunately all the things that have been done, are being done, and will be done to mitigate climate change will raise the cost of our existence. There is a price to be paid in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and it is we the people who will ultimately have to pay it. Let us hope this cost to us produces some useful benefits.






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