Still don’t believe in climate change? Then you’re either deep in denial or delirious from the heat.So begins Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson in Eugene Robinson: Feeling the heat, an opinion piece in today's Washington Post.
Like me, Robinson lives in Arlington County, right across the Potomac from the District of Columbia, and I periodically see him in a local supermarket. It has power from a generator truck, but as I write this, the rest of that strip mall remains dark, now into a 4th consecutive day.
At the peak of blackout, more than half the electric customers in the DC metro area were dark - in Arlington, it was 42,000 of 59,000 residences.
As Robinson notes of the day the storms hit (after 9 PM), it was 104 degrees on Friday, the hottest June day on record (just below the all-time high of 106):
Hurricane-force winds of up to 80 miles per hour wreaked havoc with the lush tree canopy that is perhaps Washington’s most glorious amenity. One of my neighbors was lucky when a huge branch, headed for his roof, got snagged by a power line. Another neighbor lost a tree that fell into another tree that smashed an adjacent house, demolishing the second floor.We too had neighbors who were lucky - the older woman who had trees fall infront of both her front and back doors - neighbors were able to cut her out with chain saws. One reason parts of our neighborhood is still dark is that we are heavily wooded - trees and branches brought down power lines in multiple places, and those have to be restrung, in some cases after the poles are replaced.
Robinson, although he will qualify by noting we can never attribute any single event to Global Climate Change, does put it all in context in one paragraph:
According to scientists, climate change means not only that we will see higher temperatures but that there will be more extreme weather events like the one we just experienced. Welcome to the rest of our lives.Please keep reading.
Robinson notes scientists at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported this past winter as the 4th warmest on record in the US, while the three months of Meteorological Spring (March-April-May) just concluded were the warmest since record-keeping began in 1895.
If you don’t believe me or the scientists, ask a farmer whose planting seasons have gone awry.In my diary yesterday, someone from Michigan noted that the cherry farmer have already lost close to 90% of this year's crop.
Nine of then warmest years on record have occurred since 2000, with 2010 being the warmest on record.
According to NASA scientists, CO2 in the air has increased 35% since 1880, " with most of the increase coming since 1960."
Yet we continue to burn fossil fuels.
Think of the shift of American population to the Sunbelt - how livable would major cities like Miami, Phoenix, San Antonio, with average temperatures over 90 degrees, be without airconditioning? Heck, there is a reason the location of the State Department in DC is known as Foggy Bottom - it was swampy, and this city even in the 1950s and 1960s was close to unbearable during the summer without a/c (having been stationed just South of here at Quantico during 1965-66, a time when the temperatures were not quite as intense, I can remember what that was like). Yet to generate the increasing demand for electricity we burn more fossil fuels - the increase in population in the stretch from Baltimore to Richmond gets almost all of its electricity from burning coal mined in the nearby Appalachians, nowadays by mountaintop removal that devastates the immediate enviroment even before its combusion pumps ever more CO2 and heavy metals into the atmosphere.
Robinson writes that the apocalyptic sounding predictions of climate scientists have if anything been too conservative: there are many indicators that the change is happening even faster than their wrost predictions. Things like the increase of wildfires, also more intense, also seem to be the result of heating and drying, creating tinderbox conditions. Such events are, as Robinson notes, consistent with the predictions fo the scientists.
It becomes harder to ignore those predictions when a toppled tree is blocking your driveway and the power is out.Robinson's column is widely distributed. One has to wonder, however, if those who scoff at the idea of anthropogenic global climate change will listen, wehther those who get wealthy from oil and natural gas and coal will cease their attempts to prevent serious change in energy policy here and around the world. Certainly after the nuclear disaster in Japan, nuclear seems a less acceptable path to moving away from carbon-based energy: Germany is already moving to close all of their reactors. We clearly need to be moving to renewables, the way nations like Denmark have done.
Perhaps a little tongue in cheek dig might help? Consider then Robinson's final paragraph:
One other observation: As repair crews struggle to get the lights back on, it happens to be another sunny day. Critics have blasted the Obama administration’s unfruitful investment in solar energy. But if government-funded research managed to lower the price of solar panels to the point where it became economical to install them on residential roofs, all you global warming skeptics would have air conditioning right now. I’m just sayin’.But whether the liosten or not, the rest of us should be drawing a clear lesson - from the force of winter storms like Snowmaggedon (I measured 48" in my back yard), the number and force of tornados, the number and ferocity of wildfires, the disappearance of glacial ice and snow pack, and summer storms like the progressive derecho that wreaked havoc on the DC area: we are going to see increasing numbers of events like this.
Or, as Robinson puts it in his article, and as Ititled this piece:
Welcome to the rest of our lives.