I think it’s safe to say that ‘General Winter’ has been beaten back.

In the span of a week, we hiked away from our winter camping site on a quiet lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. After several unseasonably warm days, we knew that we would have to pay the piper for the luxury of languishing in the bright sun while ice fishing for lake trout. The payment came in the form of physical exertion on our trip out as we slogged for seven hours in hiking as many miles. Deep slush prevented any skiing and soon I had to take off my snowshoes as I found myself sinking deep into the water and  heavy slush. In the last three or so miles, we found sled pulling was made easier by choosing those places on the frozen lake surface that held open pools of water. Dry feet be damned; we pushed on. The two plastic sleds pulled like boats, literally floating at times. The fourteen-foot birch toboggan pulled heavily in the slush and was made more tolerable by following the wake of the others. After loading up our gear in the truck we discovered that the air temperature was 53 degrees F.

In less than a handful of days following that trek, still in the last days of winter, I have had two mourning cloak butterflies cavort around me like springtime nymphs as I sweated doing outdoor chores. Then that evening as I sipped a glass of wine on our deck, my winter pallid skin was pierced by the sharp stylus of a mosquito and it gorged on my winter-thickened blood before I smeared it with my swat. And the Twin Cities, in Minnesota, had seven new temperature all-time highs recorded over the span of nine days.

Just two days ago, I  spied 4 freshly excavated gopher mounds. I carefully brushed a curious paper wasp from the edge of my coffee cup as I sat out on the deck. I got in a brisk 27-mile road bike ride while the sun and the nearly 80 degree heat put me into a good sweat. And during that bike ride I listened to chorus frogs singing from a small wetland along the road. That evening I heard the lazy song of robins that carried me back to previous May songs. Oops. . . that’s right it’s still winter.

What the hell is going on? To be honest I don’t like it. There are aspects that are nice but in the big picture I find it unnerving. And then I learned that according to the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the winter of 2012 has been the fourth warmest on record in the contiguous United States.  Not surprisingly, all of the seven years in over a century of climate data, have occurred since 1992 and over the past 30 years a warmer-than-average winter has been twice as likely as a cool one. All this data is consistent with how 97% of global scientists  agree that climate change is “very likely” caused mainly by human activity. That gives room for El Nina to take some credit. say global warming affects the weather. The average expertise of the 3 percent of scientists who remain unconvinced is far below that of their colleagues if you used rates of publication and citation rates as a barometer of their competence.

The beauty of the scientific process is that laws and theories can be disproved. In other words if someone can repeatedly test that there is not such a law as gravity, then we would have to rewrite science texts. I really hope that overwhelming scientific evidence will show that human activity is the likely cause of climate volatility. But for the time being we would be woefully remiss to wallow in our ignorance and not act to reduce our carbon footprint. So for the sake of showing caution and embracing an opportunity why in heaven’s name do we not move away from the burning of fossil fuels and move to renewable energy sources?

Certainly we need not to continue doling out  billions of dollars in subsidies to the oil and gas industry. According to Earth Track, in 2006 federal subsidies to oil and gas, mostly oil, totaled about $39 billion. And subsidies to oil-using systems are even bigger, estimated in 1998 at $111 billion a year for autos alone!

Do the math and one quickly understands there is an unfair market advantage for renewable fuel research and start-ups.

Yet even without opulent subsidies last year saw record levels of investment in solar, biofuels, and wind energy.  According to Clean Energy Trends 2012,  those three markets rose 31% to $246 billion!  Business is starting to get it and amazing opportunities will emerge which will result in far more sustaining jobs and a healthier planet, than a shovels-in-the-ground pipeline project.

Defense funding, the sacred cow of all USA funding, has a budget that keeps us at a level far beyond “super-power.”  No country comes remotely close in such spending. In fact the following top ten or more countries do not collectively come close to our spending. And yet, the Pentagon is extremely concerned about climate change because of the ramifications it has on food and water security around the world. And they, more than most businesses, understand the vulnerability of trying to move fuel and supplies to remote areas through hostile routes. They do believe and hope for a system that better utilizes electricity to move vehicles and better yet if that electricity can be generated via solar technology.

I am tired of the hollow chants of “Drill Baby Drill!” We already pay some of the cheapest gasoline prices in the world. In fact, last year the United States, for the first time in nearly two decades exported more oil than we imported.

Politicians promise that projects like the projected Keystone Pipeline will drop the prices. Are you kidding! That fuel will go on the global market to the highest bidder. With the emerging economic powers like India and China, the scramble will be costly.

It’s time to get serious about reducing the release of carbon into the atmosphere. I don’t like butterflies flying around me during a Minnesota winter. Nor are winter mosquito bites reasonable.  To continue fat subsidies to rich oil corporations is just not right.