This headline from The Washington Post is unlike anything we have ever seen before from a legacy news publication: “America is an inferno with heat waves in the South, smoke in the North.”
Their alternative headline, depending on when you click on the article, is: “Heat and smoke are smothering most of the U.S., putting lives at risk.”
Either way, the article, written by Erica Werner, Dan Stillman, and Kate Selig, is unsparing as to the cause and effect.
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The Washington Post:
Much of the United States felt like a blazing inferno on Wednesday, as record heat attacked the South like a blowtorch, thick smoke from Canadian wildfires blanketed the Great Lakes region, and triple-digit temperatures threatened to wallop California for the first time this year.
Scientists said climate change helped shape the weather conditions that were causing misery and putting lives at risk from Mexico to Canada. There was no disputing the impact: If it wasn’t way too smoky, it was way too hot.
Seventeen states and 62 million people were wholly or partly under air quality alerts Wednesday, and a third of the American population was potentially affected. As such, it seems the time for equivocation, disclaimers, and “some scientists say ...” appears to have finally, mercifully, and suddenly passed—at least for those media outlets that expect to relate with any integrity what will be occurring over next few decades to their audience.
Perhaps we can also dispense with the seemingly requisite, cautious mantra of “while it is not possible to attribute one event to climate change,” that has adorned so much reporting on this issue for years. That one was particularly exasperating, wasn’t it? If one adds up every news article over the last two decades that contains a version of that qualifying phrase, volume one of the coming encyclopedia of global, human-induced climate change builds itself.
No, it’s far preferable to have it delivered to us straight-up, now that this hell has arrived for much of the previously unaffected American population: “Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Cedar Rapids,” as The New York Times notes, are all cities under “very unhealthy” air warnings.
The authors interview professor Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M, who equates the wildfire smoke with one and only one cause: ”[T]he common factor is climate change.”
There. Was that really so hard?
“We are seeing a climate that didn’t exist before,” said Alice Hill, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Wednesday at a Washington Post Live event on extreme weather. “We simply don’t have what we need for a climate-worsened environment, and we are sorely behind in the land use choices, the building codes, the type of changes that would keep us much safer in a hotter, more dangerous world.”
As the article notes, officials in Texas are “pleading” with citizens to “stay indoors, conserve energy if possible and make use of cooling centers that were opening in public libraries in Dallas, Houston and elsewhere.” Houston’s heat index will top 108 degrees this week. San Antonio is seeing record days where the heat feels like “110, 112 and 114.” As the Post authors report, Corpus Christi, Texas, saw a 125-degree index this week. The rest of the South is going to get clobbered with this heat tomorrow and over the weekend, while the Midwest and Northeast will continue to choke on bad air.
And, as the Post’s reporters conclude, this remains the reality of the situation.
Such phenomena are likely only to worsen in years to come, but a gridlocked Congress has no plans to take action on climate beyond the Inflation Reduction Act passed last year. That leaves further efforts up to states, where approaches vary wildly. Some liberal states, particularly California, have moved aggressively to pass climate legislation, while conservative states such as Texas have taken little or no action.
Actually, there are plenty of “plans” in Congress to combat climate change, but one of our two political parties is blocking all of them.
But credit the Post for mostly telling it to us straight, with no bullshit equivocation. Maybe now the rest of the media will follow suit and treat this like the cataclysmic, existential issue it is. And maybe one day they’ll even acknowledge who and what caused it, who enabled it, and how they tried to hide it during the decades when there was still a chance to do something about it.
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