Tag Archives: climate change

What’s causing the drought in East Africa?

July 26, 2011

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A woman holds her baby outside a tent serving as a medical clinic established by the African Union peacekeeping operation in Mogadishu, Somalia, July 16. (CNS photo/Stuart Price U.N. handout photo via Reuters)

The drought in East Africa is reportedly the region’s worst in six decades, and it threatens the lives of millions of people with food shortages. Thousands are fleeing Somalia to seek food in Kenya and Ethiopia, according to Catholic Relief Services, which is responding to the disaster.

But what is causing this severe drought and the looming threat of famine?

Rains that normally fall from October to December in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia failed to arrive last year. This year, spring rains were less than adequate, according to CRS, and many areas have now missed two growing seasons. Consequently, food prices are rising beyond affordability.

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of California in Santa Barbara believe that the trend of decreasing precipitation will continue and that it’s linked to global warming.

According to a press release earlier this year from the USGS:

“As the globe has warmed over the last century, the Indian Ocean has warmed especially fast. The resulting warmer air and increased humidity over the Indian Ocean produce more frequent rainfall in that region. The air then rises, loses its moisture during rainfall, and then flows westward and descends over Africa, causing drought conditions in Ethiopia and Kenya.”

These scientists concluded, after examining the region’s weather and climate data, that most of that warming is the result of greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions from human activities.

The situation in East Africa is one example of how climate change is negatively impacting world populations. And it is the world’s poor who are paying the heaviest price.

The long-term solution is to work to reduce greenhouse emissions. But, right now, what’s most needed is a generous response to the needs of those immediately affected by the drought and food shortages. You can help by making a contribution to CRS to help its efforts in East Africa.

And prayers are always needed for the hungry, for those working to assist them and for the future, which remains uncertain.

According to CRS:

“What will happen next is weather dependent. If the fall rains appear on schedule, they will be a great help, although we still must ensure that farmers have seeds to plant, because the crop failure has left many without seeds. If the rains do not appear or are deficient, then the food crisis will worsen considerably as hunger becomes more acute and displacement more widespread. If the rains are too strong, falling on the parched ground, they could wash away crops and lead to flooding.”

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Global warming preach-in

February 10, 2011

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Robert Walz is passionate about addressing the problem of global warming. The coordinator of justice and outreach at Guardian Angels in Oakdale is among faith leaders — Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim — around the country promoting this weekend’s National Preach-In on Global Warming.

Sponsored by Interfaith Power & Light, the preach-in Feb. 11-13 encourages faith groups to consider the challenges of climate change from a spiritual perspective and take local action to address the issue in their communities.

In other words, this Valentine’s Day weekend is a good opportunity to think about giving the earth a little extra love. And, alas, this year’s cold winter doesn’t negate the bigger warming trend we continue to see over time.

“This weekend we have several PowerPoint slides that will be shown before Mass on global warming,” Walz said. “All three presiders have received homiletic notes on the global warming preach-in and hopefully will include this topic in their respective homilies.”

Guardian Angels also plans to recruit new members in March for its Stewards of the Earth Ministry, an ongoing ministry that promotes care of God’s creation, he said. The ministry has sponsored workshops and forums on global warming and other issues. It also promotes conservation and good environmental stewardship, including the use of organic gardening methods for the parish’s food shelf garden.

Climate change is a moral issue that has negative implications for human life and the natural world. Walz says:

“Global warming is not a theory; it is a fact. The cause of global warming is the subject of debates — is it cyclical or the result of human activity? The scientific consensus is that it is because of human activity. The majority of scientists hold that it could have catastrophic consequences on climate, food, water and a differential impact on developing countries without the wealth to pay for its consequences.

“While most of this is speculative, the church teaches us that we should act prudently — that is, rather than argue the issue, we should take steps to reduce carbon emissions, otherwise there is the likelihood (not certitude) that it will have bad consequences.”

Catholics interested in learning more about the issue and the church’s views can visit the website of The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change or view this video produced a few years ago:

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Meet the man behind the weather report

December 16, 2008

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“Nature’s Messenger: Memoirs of a Prophetic Meteorologist,”

by Craig Edwards

Craig Edwards was the man behind the scenes for our weather in Minnesota and the rest of the Upper Midwest.

As the Twin Cities area chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service, the St. Hubert, Chanhassen parishioner recently finished a 34-year career warning people about storms, tornadoes, blizzards — you name it.

It’s from that experience of watching the weather patterns and witnessing scientifically the dramatically visible changes we see and feel that Edwards moves from telling his life story to almost a self-appointed role as prophet about climate change and global warming.

Edwards, who upon retirement from the weather bureau in 2007 took a job in the weather department for Minnesota Public Radio, religiously — pun intended — writes about his Catholic upbringing in Illinois and his fascination with the weather from an early age.

Readers of a certain age are going to see parallels with their own youthful years, I’m sure, and I didn’t find much of that part of “Nature’s Messenger” compelling reading.

But when you get to page 56 of this paperback, that’s where the good stuff starts.

Come behind the curtain

Edwards takes readers on a lengthy behind-the-scenes tour of operations at several Weather Service locations around the Midwest, into the personnel issues, how and why the government got behind commercial television stations in working with new technologies like Doppler radar.

If you’re old enough you’ll be able to relive some of the major weather events of the past 34 years, including record snowstorms, tornadoes and of course the Red River Valley floods. Edwards calls the central part of North America “the world’s greatest playground for the forces of nature,” and thus a prime spot for weather people to work in.

All along the way in this life story of a man with an interesting job he works in what’s going on with his family life and especially his faith life, including his finding blessing in Eucharistic Adoration and teaching in his parish confirmation program.

Interesting, too, is this comment about the parallels between life and weather: “There are a large number of days when things are just simply partly cloudy.”

A man on a bigger mission

There’s a good bit of preachiness here about the importance of striving for excellence in one’s career without having to be pushed by outside forces, but Edwards doesn’t over-do it. His writing style like his leadership style is more of collaborating, mentoring and preaching with his actions.

But when he starts laying out his thoughts about climate change, Edwards preaches a tough-love homily. “The planet is more vulnerable than ever before,” he claims, and we humans have brought it on ourselves.

He sees the evidence of global warming as disrespecting God’s creation, and he drives home with paragraph after paragraph of evidence the fact that we ignore all the warnings at our peril.

The answer lies in “a substantial sacrificial response and personal accountability,” Edwards said. “All God’s people have an inherent purpose to preserve the goodness of the earth.”

Edwards does speaking engagements on the topics he writes about in “Nature’s Messenger,” an iUniverse title. Reach him at http://www.naturesmessenger.com. — bz

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