Climate change

Published 1:42 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Regardless of where you stand on the topic of climate change, there’s no denying that potential variations in climate — even by just a few degrees — can have a serious impact on the planet. Climate change could be behind everything from stronger storms to drought to wildfires.

Some of the direct effects include changes in sea level, extreme weather events and precipitation changes. Indirect impacts include alterations to ecosystems that cause migrations of species or extinction of certain plants and animals. Climate change also has the ability to affect agriculture, which can result in economic difficulties for those who rely on agriculture to earn their livings.

The following are just some of the ways climate change may affect our area and elsewhere.

• Tree-killing insect growth: According to researchers at Dartmouth University, warmer temperatures in forests promote insect outbreaks and plant diseases, which put forests at risk. For example pine bark beetles have decimated pine and ash trees in our area. Warmer temperatures have allowed these invasive species to establish themselves.

• Increase in wildfires: In 2016, the Earth’s surface temperatures were the warmest on record since modern record-keeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Globally, average temperatures were 1.78 F warmer than they were in the mid-20th century. Hotter temperatures can contribute to drought and wildfires. Drier conditions make the land parched and more forest-fire fuel is created as a result.

• More severe storms: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, severe weather changes could be a byproduct of climate change. Many notable weather events might be attributed to global climate change — Hurricane Florence and Tropical Storm Michael come to mind.

• Availability of water: Although not an issue in our area this past year, in other areas of the country diminishing snowfields are adversely affecting the availability of fresh drinking water for people and animals. Even though drought rates have decreased generally, about 5 percent of the contiguous United States fell into the moderate to extreme drought categories for May 2017, based on the Palmer Drought Index. This added to the pressure of availability of groundwater sources.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the time is now to develop plans to actively protect our environment — as failure to plan is a plan to fail.

Betty Ramsey is the publisher of The Kenbridge-Victoria Dispatch and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is