Winter chills are finally settling in here in the Midwest, but it’s already December 2nd and we’re nowhere near what we’re used to this time of year. Throughout November we had several handfuls of autumn afternoons that felt miraculously like mid-April days – mild, breezy and sunshiny. No REAL snow to speak of, though we did finally have at least one or two days of a very light dusting of the white stuff last week. What’s the deal?
Well, the experts have it pretty well pegged by now. Many of the warmest winters in the history of keeping such data have occurred in the past 20 years. Finally, it looks like everyone is on board: we know climate change is real. And in addition to warmer winters we’ve also (in the past few years) received record snowfall across the country. The extreme uptick in extreme weather like hurricanes, blizzards and storms of all sorts can now be traced back to climate change. What does this mean for the future? –of our children? –grandchildren? –your business?
It’s not an easy question to answer right now, but it’s likely many of you have seen a shift in your expected annual business that are reflections of seasonal changes that are distinctly unseasonable. Fluctuations in what we expect from the four seasons will affect the emergence of many pests and knock other pests off their traditional schedule, and while this may not hinder business it might actually throw you a curve ball when it comes to preparing for the seasons ahead.
This week in Paris the world’s top scientists met with world leaders, including President Obama, for the 21st Conference of the Parties (or COP21), a conference dedicated to establishing a global plan for tackling climate change. It’s too early to tell what fruits this conference will bear but one thing is clear to anyone who’s been keeping track: it’s do or die time.
As a planet we’re rocketing toward a point of no return and already there are places in the world that have been irreparably damaged by warmer rising sea levels, melting ice and extreme weather. That said, does it make sense for PMPs to begin thinking about, or planning for, a future in which seasons, as we once knew them, become unrecognizable – or at least markedly different? I don’t have an answer and, not being a scientist, I dare not make any predictions about, say, the next ten years. But it is something to think about. It may sound alarmist but the proof is in the pudding. Thrice I was able to spend an evening sitting on my porch sipping an after-work glass of scotch … in short sleeves … in November … in CLEVELAND(!). Anecdotal as it may sound, this kind of “anomaly” is no longer really an anomaly at all.
(Look – I know the snow is coming. And when it hits, it will hit hard like it always does here in northern Ohio. And we will whine and curse the season just like every other year. But snowballs and icy roads aren’t an argument for the nonexistence of global climate change. It’s important we all recognize a difference between climate change and weather events. Because, yes, heavy snowfall … and hurricanes … and extreme storms are just some of the negative side effects of warmer oceans.)
In the short term, companies in some areas of the country might benefit from extreme weather, longer summers, shorter winters and disappearing transitional seasons. And there’s no doubt, no matter what happens with regard to climate, the world will always need its pest pros as stewards of safe and healthy human living. In fact, I would hazard a guess that PMPs may become more important than ever in decades to come. But shifting climate patterns mean changes in what emerges when and to what degree. Are we prepared to make analogous shifts in the way we make our plans for the years ahead? Living in the present with an eye to the future seems like the best any of us can do for now.