Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mother Nature Is Just Warming Up!

This is a must-read op-ed by Bill McKibben in the WashPost today:

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.
If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.
It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years….
Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta?
… Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.
It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.”
Hear!  Hear!  Or, rather, climate change is here, here!
In fact, the population hasn’t even acclimatized to the climate change we’ve had already — in part because the GOP and the fossil-fuel-funded disinformation campaign have obfuscated efforts to inform the public.  Hypocritically, the Chamber itself led the effort to stop this country from creating a serious adaptation fund.
We’ve only warmed about a degree Fahrenheit in the past half-century.  We are on track to warm nearly 10 times that this century (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F).  Indeed, if we listen to the Chamber and the politicians it backs, emissions and temperatures will just keep rising, and by the second half of the century, sea levels will be rising 6 to 12 inches a decade for centuries.  How precisely to you acclimatize yourself to a climate that is always changing?


  1. If things get worse exponentially, wonder if we'll at one point shrug off a tornado, earthquake, flood, etc, because that has become the norm rather than the exception.

  2. The earth was a very nice place to live before we evolved..........

  3. I do not understand those who deny science and stubbornly insist that all of this about climate change and global warming is untrue when there is an enormous amount of evidence to the contrary. I don't blame it all on the exreme thumper far right - no, there is money at work here too.


  4. Joram,
    I read this article yesterday, and also another which documented several media weathermen (many were the local news and radio type) from over the nation in the last few days addressed the the outbreak of massive waves of tornados, floods and storms of the last 2 years. For the first time many of them spoke of GW as the cause or suspect. This is a milestone. These guys seen everyday by millions, making these brief statements then calmly going on to tell the overnight temp, this is huge. The camel just got it's nose a little bit under the tent. The idea just got a tiny bit more acceptable to a confused public. Expect fierce push back, but the seed was planted.

  5. Joram:

    Some people seem to have trouble connecting the dots.

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  7. Skinny -

    If things get worse exponentially, which they will if drastic measures are taken soon, it will be harder to shrug off when it actually happens to you. Climate strange is the new norm.

  8. TAB -

    I have always thought that, if it were not for us, nature would be perfect.

  9. fringe -

    WE all need to start to get real mad and take action!! The time to sit back and hope that climate change is some still debated concept that is too far off in the future for it to effect us is over!! If WE can not count on those we elected to have the balls to take the necessary steps to steer us clear of danger, then WE must find new ones who will!!

  10. This message is from my dear friend and our fellow blogstream blogger - Lookin'

    "Paybacks are a bitch and you are right - We are reaping what we have sowed - It's a shame that so many innocent people have to pay the cost for so many foolish actions before them. Call it Mother Nature if you want, but She's pissed. The alarm clock is ringing and it's our Wake up call.

    Are you listening people? Don't take sides - fix the problem!"

  11. Sarge -

    There is absolutely no scientific evidence for the existence of a higher being. Yet, billions of people believe that one exists.

    At the same time, there is over whelming scientific evidence that our climate is warming at an unprecedented rate and it is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Yet, billions still ignore it. Go figure?????

    Based on the best peer-reviewed science, EPA found in 2009 that man made greenhouse gas emissions do threaten the health and welfare of the American people.

    EPA is not alone in reaching that conclusion. The National Academy of Sciences has stated that there is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that the climate is changing and that the changes are caused in large part by human activities. Eighteen of America’s leading scientific societies have written that multiple lines of evidence show humans are changing the climate, that contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science, and that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and the environment!

  12. Whit -

    I'm not sure that they are having a hard time. You would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see, feel and hear the reality. I think they are just afraid that if they admit it they will be obliged to make changes in the way they live there lives that will inconvenience them.