Now that the Legislature has (gratefully) adjourned for 2012, let’s talk about the weather.
Let’s talk about this little nugget of knowledge from the National Weather Service in Boise. For the first time on record, dating back to 1878, Boise had a winter without a high temperature at or below freezing.
Nice try, Jan. 16. Your high temperature was 33.
The last time Boise had a high temperature at or below freezing was Feb. 26, 2011. That’s a 403-day streak, as of Wednesday.
It’s a cliche to say it, but it sure is strange weather we’re having. It’s enough to make me want to up the ante and buy me a Stormtracker 7001.
But what does it all mean?
Different things to different people, of course. For people who subscribe to global warming, a winter unlike the 133 that preceded it provides corroborating evidence. To the skeptics, it’s a blip on the weather radar.
It’s first worth remembering that weather and climate are two different things.
Weather is short-term and anecdotal. It is what you see out your office window, what you experience during your daily errands. We inevitably view weather through our own subjective prism. That’s part of why this National Weather Service factoid is so interesting. We all know Boise had a snow-challenged year (just ask the folks at Bogus Basin, where ski season began in mid-January). That said, the winter didn’t feel much warmer, at least not to me.
But that’s weather. Climate is longitudinal. It’s a mural, a montage of weather snapshots. That’s why it is unpersuasive, if not misleading, when somebody points to an April snow squall and proclaims it evidence that global warming is bunk. Fair is fair:
It’s not good science to read too much into one unusual winter.
I do think it’s fair — and it’s prudent — to chalk up Boise’s winter that wasn’t as one more sign of climate change, one more call to forward-thinking action.
I believe two things on this issue. First, I believe the body of evidence — not just in Boise, but beyond — points to climate change. Second, I believe that the soundest course of public policy is to make energy decisions based on the supposition that climate change is real, and a real threat. The consequences of inaction exceed the cost of action.
As a country, as an electorate, we aren’t there yet. The climate change issue triggers an imperfect storm: questions about motives and hidden agendas, vitriol and name-calling. There isn’t much room in the debate to suggest, however gently, that our decisionmakers should hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Unfortunately, Boise’s non-winter of 2011-12 isn’t likely to sway many opinions or change the debate, even locally.
FOOD STAMP FOLLOWUP
Idaho’s first-of-the-month food stamp crunch isn’t going to go away this year.
That means longer lines and more hassles for the 230,000-plus Idahoans who receive food stamps — and anyone else buying groceries on the first of the month. And it’s because state Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, blocked a bill to fix this problem.
Currently, food stamp benefit cards are replenished on the first of the month, hence the monthly surge in traffic. On March 24, the House authorized the Department of Health and Welfare to stagger food stamp benefit distribution, on a bipartisan 55-12 vote.
When the bill was assigned to Lodge’s Senate Health and Welfare Committee, she tabled it.
“During times when we cannot fund education at the levels we would like, should we spend taxpayer dollars because a company cannot handle all the business it receives?” Lodge told the Idaho Press-Tribune.
I think Lodge is looking at this backwards.
She is right that the grocers are swamped, which is why they lobbied for this bill. But the grocers are swamped because of a problem of government’s making. Health and Welfare decided to cut administrative costs — despite a rapid increase in the number of Idahoans on food stamps. Grocers are feeling the effects, as some customers walk out in frustration, leaving perishables in their carts. WinCo pegs its annual losses at $250,000.
That explains why the Boise-based chain and the Northwest Grocers Association offered to kick in $100,000 to offset some of Health and Welfare’s $220,000 in staff costs. (The agency’s startup costs were estimated at $440,000.)
This was a good public-private partnership — good enough to get 55 votes in the House. But not good enough to persuade one senator.