Speaking of the weather


February 1, 2013

Will_Nepper150There I was, sitting barefoot on my second-story porch, reading and enjoying the 63-degree weather … in Ohio … in January. A few short days later I’d find myself shoveling snow.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here in Cleveland the weather has been a bit on the schizophrenic side in recent years. We won’t argue about why the climate is changing, but you have to agree — seasons are not what they used to be. By now you’ve probably noticed how each new year brings new hurricanes, blizzards and other major storms. Am I crazy in thinking that we’re regularly contending with brand new disasters that leave people homeless, jobless or in some other bad way? “Disaster relief” is a term you hear bandied about far more frequently and in shorter succession than at any other time in my 38 years.

I hope it’s not too late to turn things around. As our polar icecaps melt and seawater temperatures rise, winters become increasingly mild and summers become hotter and dryer. Ask any meteorologist and he’ll tell you: things are bad and getting worse. Of course, it’s heartening to hear that global cooperation culminating in attempts to limit ozone-destroying emissions have actually begun to have a positive impact. But it’s news that should be tempered with the hard truth about how much further we must go before we can feel secure about the planet’s future.

One thing is for sure: Climate change will have an effect on the pest management industry. Many of you have noticed it already has. For example, the mild winter of 2012 caused a significant surge in rodent populations in many parts of the United States. Temperate winters affect everything from insect activity to wildlife behavior — changes that can be good and bad for pest management professionals, depending on your region and your business’s capabilities.

Maybe you live in an area of the U.S. where you’ve noticed changes in insect and rodent activity. If you don’t or if you live in a place on the map where seasons don’t change significantly the way they do in, say, the Midwest — the urgency of what’s happening might not yet have reached you. But watch the national news and you’ll see an uptick in everything from hurricanes to Earth-scorching forest fires. Over-confidence that disasters like this won’t affect your business is a dangerous road to go down.

If you’re not affected now, rest assured, you will be.

As the climate changes, so will everything touched by climate. And everything touched by climate is … well … everything. Taking the time to do a little research so you know what to expect in your region is one way to prepare for the future. Does this mean you should use the weather forecast to rework your business model? Of course not. (And lets be clear: weather and climate are not interchangeable terms. A blizzard is a “weather event” and not a sign that global warming is a hoax. In fact, the more tumultuous the weather, the more likely that the climate is morphing into something other than what we’ve historically grown to expect.) But it’s always wise to look to the future. Educating yourself about the weather in your part of the country could be a valuable exercise in planning. Talk to PMPs in parts of the nation who’ve experienced a hurricane and learn from them what you can expect if, God forbid, you find yourself facing a similar disaster. Know what pests will recede and which ones’ populations will explode.

In the long run you’ll almost certainly be glad you did.

Contact Nepper at wnepper@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3775.

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