Weird winter leads to talk of global warming

Jeff MulhollemPennsylvania sportsmen as a group, I think it’s safe to say, have been slow to warm up to the theory of man-caused global warming.

Oh, sure, there are true believers among us. But I wager there are many more doubters than supporters in the ranks of hunters and fishermen when it comes to climate change.

The idea that excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere created by man’s activities is creating elevated temperatures and major changes in weather has largely not been embraced by Keystone State outdoors folks.

But the last year or so has given many of us second thoughts. We had almost no winter and then consistent 70-degrees-plus days through much of March. In places, 2011 was the warmest year since records began being kept.

While the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments captivated many Americans in their dens and living rooms last month, according to PennFuture, the true March madness was taking place outdoors.

Pennsylvania’s leading environmental advocacy group recently pointed out that more than 7,000 high-temperature records were exceeded or matched in the United States after March 12. The nonprofit, Harrisburg-based organization said that gives us a taste of what global warming might have in store for us.

We’re on thin ice with climate change, according to the  National Wildlife Federation. That’s the name of the federation’s just-released report that provides an in-depth look at how higher winter temperatures are wreaking havoc on   recreational opportunities for hunters and anglers (not to  mention wildlife).

The report, “On Thin Ice,” was unveiled in Erie, Pa., on March 29, by the federation’s Ed Perry, who reminded us that Pennsylvania enjoys $4.5 billion in economic activity every year from hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation activities.

Ice fishing, obviously, has been curtailed, along with cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. And some species of wildlife such as snowshoe hares seem to be increasingly struggling in our state.

Those of you who are climate-change skeptics will be interested to know that an Oregon-based professor of sociology and environmental studies has labeled doubts about anthropogenic climate change a “sickness” for which individuals need to be “treated.”

Believe it or not, Professor Kari Norgaard has compared skepticism of man-made global warming to racist beliefs. She apparently has some credibility, recently appearing at the “Planet Under Pressure” conference in London where she presented a paper.

In it, she argues that “cultural resistance” to accepting the premise that humans are responsible for climate change “must be recognized and treated” as an aberrant sociological behavior.

Norgaard equates skepticism of climate change theorists with racism, noting that overcoming such viewpoints poses a similar challenge “to racism or slavery in the United States South.”

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