By Suzanne Bush
The American Horse Council
(AHC) hosted a webinar in
February focusing on the impact
of climate change on equines.
Horses have been roaming the
earth for thousands of years, and
they’ve adapted well to different
climates. But as the earth’s pop-
ulation of humans has increased,
bringing industry and technology
and all that accompanies these
advances, humans and animals
have had to learn to live with
environmental changes that are
not especially welcome.
AHC Hosts Exchange on Climate Change Effects on Equines
One of the most controver-
sial consequences of industrial-
ization has been climate change.
Wide-ranging disruption of
weather patterns affects everyone
who relies on predictable patterns
of snow, rain and temperature.
That would include farmers,
ranchers, and horse farms—both
large and small.
Despite endless debates about
whether the scientific claims about
the warming planet are accurate,
the data gathered by climate scien-
tists are hard to reject.
“The earth is warming, pro-
ducing harmful and costly extreme
events,” explains David Herring,
Communication and Education
Program Manager in the National
Oceanic &Atmospheric Agency
(NOAA) Climate Program Office.
Herring led off the webinar with a
fact-filled, graphics-rich pre-
sentation. “The vast majority of
scientists agree, and peer-reviewed
published literature agrees.”
Abundant evidence points to
global climate change, he says.
Historical data clearly indicate
that “we’ve been stepping up
rapidly into a different climate
neighborhood.” And in that
neighborhood, weather patterns
are unpredictable, and there are
more frequent extreme weather
events. In February, for instance,
a multi-year drought in California
was nearly ended with cata-
strophic downpours that flooded
fields, buckled roads and caused
Herring says that there are
reasons we should be concerned
about the mounting evidence that
something major is happening
with earth’s climate. “We’re see-
ing a shift to extremes in terms
of temperature and precipita-
tion—away from light rain events
to more very heavy downpours.
Less very cold days, more very
warm days.” Consider Pennsyl-
vania in February. Record high
temperatures the last week in
February belied the calendar. The
weather was more like April.
Last year was the third con-
secutive year in a row that earth’s
temperature hit another high.
Beyond that, Herring says, there
are practical concerns. He points
to a decline in snow in springtime
in the northern Hemisphere, and a
rapid and massive loss of glacier
ice. The air is growing more
humid. There are lots of clear
signs, he says, “that the earth is
warming above and beyond the
He says that one of the big
drivers of warming is the increase
in greenhouse gas in the earth’s
atmosphere. One of the biggest
problems is carbon dioxide. Sci-
entists have been able to compare
today’s atmospheric concentra-
tion of CO₂ with historic con-
centrations. “We have observing
stations throughout the planet,”
he says. And those stations have
noted a 40 per cent increase in
the concentration of CO₂ on the
earth. The concentration is now
over 400 parts per million, which
is greater than in the history of
the earth, he says, going back
hundreds of thousands of years.
Cores of ice provide records of
atmospheric data that go back
several hundred thousand years.
(Continued on page 9)
Multi-year drought conditions in the western US, along with the largest-ever insect blight in North
America—the western pine beetle—led to the devastating loss of more than 100 million trees in the
last few years.
Photo credit: Suzanne Bush