Our warm winter — December was unseasonably warm and January was the warmest on record, while February had only a very, very brief cold snap, but also had many days of record-high warmth — is a classic good news/bad news situation.
The good news is that our heating bills, with oil prices near record-high levels because of the war in Ukraine, are much lower than they would have been. Europe similarly has had a record-warm winter, which has reduced its usage of natural gas, averting what could have been an economic disaster..
The mild winter also has been a boon for the budgets of cities and towns. The dearth of snow and ice has meant that relatively small amounts have been expended for snow removal (at least so far).
But the long-term effects of our mild winters are not good. The warm winter of 2023, coming on the heels of warm winters for the past few years, means that climate change has firmly taken root in New England. According to a recent analysis by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, winters in Massachusetts have warmed by 4.5 degrees since 1896, a rate that is faster than the national average.
Part of the explanation for this may lie in another study recently released by scientists. According to their report, ocean heat content reached a new record high for the fourth year in a row, based on measurements of ocean heat accumulating down to a depth of more than a mile.
But here’s the really depressing part: According to the scientists’ findings, published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Science, the warmth keeps working its way deeper into the ocean because greenhouse gases have trapped so much heat that the oceans’ deeper waters will continue to warm for centuries even after humans stop using fossil energy.
So while it may be true that governments and industry are turning “greener,” the bottom line is that it may not make any difference, and that’s especially true because even under the best-case scenarios, the world will not be carbon-neutral for decades.
The effects of our warming planet have been visible for years with the onslaught of droughts, wildfires, devastating floods, and Category 5 storms that have left no part of Earth untouched, with implications that only now we are beginning to understand.
We don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but the reality is this: As bad as things are today for the environment, they’re only going to get worse before they get better.