The legend goes like this: Julia Tuttle, the “Mother of Miami,” convinced railroad magnate Henry Flagler to extend his tracks to the shores of Biscayne Bay by sending him some orange blossoms that were untouched by the great freezes of late 1894 and early 1895 that devastated agriculture in the rest of the state. It’s a great story, and one that every elementary school student in South Florida grows up learning, but that’s not exactly the way it happened.
The real story goes like this: Mrs. Tuttle had been begging Henry Plant, the builder of hotels and railroads in the Tampa area, to extend his railroad across the state to Miami, but Plant refused. She then turned her sights to Henry Flagler, who was ensconced in his “snow bird” residence 65 miles north in Palm Beach, and received the same negative response. After the devastating 1894/1895 freezes, however, Mrs. Tuttle sprang into action by sending Flagler a telegram saying, “Region around shores of Biscayne Bay untouched by freezes. Please come see for yourself.” Flagler didn’t go himself, but he sent two of his close associates, who returned to Palm Beach with bushels of produce and citrus that had been untouched by the freeze. Intrigued, Flagler wired Tuttle back and asked what she proposed. She told him that if he’d extend his railroad down to Miami and build one of his resort hotels she and William Brickell would give him the land to do so. Flagler went for it and the rest, as they say, is history.
Freezes such as those which occurred in 1894/1895 were so severe they’ve been christened with a special name unique to Florida, “impact freezes.” An impact freeze is a freeze so severe that it annihilates entire groves across the state, killing both mature and young citrus trees, while causing a profound economic impact on the citrus industry and usually prompting growers to replant farther south. Florida has experienced five impact freezes: 1835, 1894/1895, 1962, 1985, and 1989. While not severe enough to be an impact freeze, the freeze that hit Florida in December 1934 was so severe that it led to the creation of the Federal-State Frost Warning Service. But the freezing event closest to my heart is the freeze of January 20, 1977, when snow fell and actually stuck to the ground in Miami!
So why do I drone on about the meteorological history of my beloved home state? It’s because I want to draw attention to the fact that, contrary to what the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing global warming crowd thinks, the climate we now have in Florida is little changed since Julia Tuttle sent those orange blossoms up to Henry Flagler (forgive me, but I’m an incurable romantic).
Earlier this week farmers across the state checked their irrigation systems to make sure they were ready to protect their plants against cold weather and shelters opened around the state as Floridians prepared for freezing weather. A hard freeze warning was issued for the northern half of the state and extended as far south as the lower central portion of the state. Record-low temperatures were broken in Jacksonville, where the wind chill made the 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-3.8 C) feel like zero (-18 C). At Disney World, in Central Florida, low temperatures were near freezing overnight. And in Julia Tuttle’s Miami, temperatures dipped into the 40s (about 7 C).
The economic impact of severe freezes on the Florida economy can be devastating and far reaching – way beyond the borders of the state. For instance, did you ever wonder where all that fern comes from that you see in floral bouquets? More likely than not it comes from Pierson, the “Fern Capital of the World,” where growers this week were preparing to use their overhead irrigation systems as protection against the cold. The plan was to spray their plants to create a protective ice layer once the temperature reached freezing and then run a constant flow of 72 degrees (22 C) water over the iced plants. The fern growers can’t afford to lose their crops, as these are the ferns that will be shipped around the world in time for Valentine’s Day.
Thank goodness the bulk of Florida’s citrus crops, which are grown in the southern half of the state, weren’t put in jeopardy this year, given that damage occurs only if the temperature is 28 degrees (-2 C) or lower for four hours or more. But citrus trees in low-lying pockets could have been vulnerable since temperatures tend to be colder there than in surrounding areas. Nevertheless, the price for a gallon of fresh squeezed, non-pastuerized orange juice (the only kind a native Floridian orange juice snob drinks) will likely inch higher next year than the nearly $9 a gallon it now costs due to compounded years of cold weather troubles. To put this in perspective, a gallon of gasoline in Florida costs about $3.25, just over a third of the cost of a gallon of native palate acceptable orange juice.
But enough about Florida. Let’s move on to the rest of the country. This week’s “big chill” that started in the Midwest over last weekend was reportedly caused by a kink in the “polar vortex,” the strong winds that circulate around the North Pole. By Tuesday, January 7th, the Arctic air covered about half the country, and temperature records were shattered up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Reading, Pennsylvania was 1 degree (-17 C); Trenton, New Jersey was 2 degrees (-16.6 C); and New York City was 4 degrees (-15.5 C). To put that one in perspective, the old record for New York City, 6 degrees (-14 C), was set back in 1896!
After looking at all the hard data is it any wonder that, according to a Pew Research poll released in January 2013, 72% of Americans said dealing with global warming was not a top priority for the President and Congress? And is it any wonder that PR campaigns by Greenpeace, such as the unbelievably tasteless one this Christmas about Santa’s workshop melting away, are derided by virtually every mainstream American?
How can Greenpeace with a straight face say the polar ice cap is melting when frigid weather brought about by a “polar vortex” virtually crippled all forms of transportation in the entire United States? That’s right, not only were thousands of flights grounded, but powerful winds pushed snow into desert-like dunes, forcing authorizes to close major highways, including a 75-mile (121 km) stretch of Interstate 81 north of Syracuse, New York to the Canadian border. And the nation’s railways were not immune. Amtrak trains were slowed to crawls across the country due to heavy snow drifts on rail tracks. Some 90 miles (145 km) from its Chicago destination, one Amtrak train was stuck on the tracks overnight.
So what does the incredulity of my fellow countrymen mean in the global climate change paradigm? According to the same Pew Research study, the US has the lowest percentage (40%) of people who view climate change as a major threat to their country. As to the question of whether there is solid evidence of man-made global warming, there is a sharp partisan divide with those of the liberal persuasion more likely to buy into the Greenpeace man-made climate change drivel than conservatives.
Let’s take a look at each side’s view on climate change and see if we can determine why they are so polar (pun intended) opposite. Liberals (and by this I include all members of left-wing environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace) believe global warming is caused by an increased production of carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels. Now let’s ask who burns the majority of these fossil fuels. The first that comes to mind is industry (i.e. the evil, stinking, filthy rich capitalists), and all modes of fossil fuel burning transportation (cars, planes, etc). In other words, the major producers of carbon dioxide are the cogs that keep the wheels of the world economy turning. And they must be controlled and/or punished.
Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that, even though they may seem dramatic at the time, long-term (often, but not always, cyclical) variations in global temperatures and weather patterns are a natural feature of our planet and that science has not shown that humans are even capable of affecting major permanent changes to the earth’s temperature. They believe proposed laws to reduce carbon emissions will do nothing to help the environment and will cause significant price increases for all. While both sides have teams of scientists to “prove” their opinions, it is clear that the liberal, left-wing view is influenced by a strong anti-capitalist agenda.
Just as the medieval mind ascribed all manner of natural calamities to the machinations of the Devil, so too does the modern “environmentalist” mind attribute every natural event to the equally ethereal man-made global warming. And while both world views are unscientific to say the least, at least our bogey man-believing ancestors didn’t attempt to claim the mantle of rational scientific thought to justify their delusions. Periodic freezes have been striking Florida since forever and will continue to do so forever. Much the same can be said for storms in the tropics. Or any weather event really. We didn’t start them. We can’t stop them. And, in the end, the real threat to our state, our nation, and our world is not the occasional “polar vortex” but the delusional fanatics desperate to wield the levers of power who call themselves “environmentalists.”
The Greenies will not be happy until they have securely put a wrench into the cogs of progress by dominating worldwide government environmental policy and implementing job killing taxes and regulations. And where I live, if the Greenies are ever (God forbid) successful in their bid to rule us all they will not be satisfied until they can make a gallon of gasoline cost the same as a gallon of fresh squeezed, non-pasteurized Florida orange juice!
By: Scott H. Gray