By David M. Greenwald
Does anyone seriously question whether climate change is happening at this point? Maybe I will rephrase that slightly, does anyone, who is serious, question whether climate change is happening at this point?
If you want an illustration of how bad things are likely to get—you don’t have to look far. Try the Pacific Northwest. The temperature hit 121 in British Columbia in June.
The Seattle numbers are telling. The temperature hit 104, which was an all-time record. It then hit 108 the next day, obviously an all time record. But the astonishing piece of data—in the previous 126 years, Seattle had only hit 100 degrees three times. It reached that mark in three consecutive days in June.
Then there was Quillayute, Washington. A coastal town, it reached 110 degrees. That was 45 degrees above normal for the day and broke the previous hottest temperature by a mind-boggling 11 degrees.
Then there is the article this week on the Great Salt Lake in Utah. CNN reports, “Its level today is inches away from a 58-year low, state officials say, and Western drought conditions fueled by the climate crisis have exacerbated conditions.”
Worse yet—“It’s only July, and the lake historically doesn’t reach its annual low until October.”
Scientists are not only worried about the collapse of an ecosystem, but the toxic potential of the exposed lake bed.
“This lake could become one of the larger dust emission sources in North America as well,” one scientist warned. “Right now, the lake bed is protected by a fragile crust, and if that crust is disturbed or erodes over time, then this lake could start to emit a lot more (dust).”
California is in the midst of a severe drought and scientists are warning that it could get far worse.
“As temperatures climb to the triple digits, the sun will bake out what little moisture there is in the ground, worsening the West’s unprecedented drought. Scientists say heat and drought are inextricably linked in a vicious feedback loop that climate change makes even harder to break: heat exacerbates the drought, which in turn amps up the heat,” CNN reports.
“As we’re getting these very extreme heat waves, it’s just making the drought even worse, even though drought is initially caused by the lack of precipitation,” Julie Kalansky, a climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, told CNN. “But during the dry months of much of the West, these heat waves just continue this drying throughout the summer and into the fall.”
In a previous article, they warned: “Climate change is playing a key role in these compounding crises: Drought and extreme heat are fueling wildfires; reduced snowpack and the lack of substantial precipitation are exacerbating water demands for millions of people, as well as agriculture, ecosystems and deteriorating infrastructure.”
Then there’s Siberia—the symbol of the frozen wasteland, now baking in 100-degree days and forest fires.
Reports the NY York Times: “They endure the coldest winters outside Antarctica with little complaint. But in recent years, summer temperatures in the Russian Arctic have gone as high as 100 degrees, feeding enormous blazes that thaw what was once permanently frozen ground.”
The worse news: “Scientists say that the huge fires have been made possible by the extraordinary summer heat in recent years in northern Siberia, which has been warming faster than just about any other part of the world. And the impact may be felt far from Siberia. The fires may potentially accelerate climate change by releasing enormous quantities of greenhouse gases and destroying Russia’s vast boreal forests, which absorb carbon out of the atmosphere.”
Not just fires of course. We saw what happened this week in Germany and Belgium.
The NY York Times warns, “‘No One Is Safe’: Extreme Weather Batters the Wealthy World.”
They write: “Floods swept Germany, fires ravaged the American West and another heat wave loomed, driving home the reality that the world’s richest nations remain unprepared for the intensifying consequences of climate change.”
We were unprepared for the pandemic. We have had 40 years to prepare for climate change, but have wasted much of it debating over whether it was going to happen.
The consequence of that shorted-sightedness is only now coming into focus. Remember, it’s only 2021. It’s going to get worse. Those who thought that climate alarmists were overstating the problem may take solace in the fact that those alarmists may actually prove to be wrong—they may have understated the problem.
“Some of Europe’s richest countries lay in disarray this weekend, as raging rivers burst through their banks in Germany and Belgium, submerging towns, slamming parked cars against trees and leaving Europeans shellshocked at the intensity of the destruction,” the Times writes.
“The extreme weather disasters across Europe and North America have driven home two essential facts of science and history: The world as a whole is neither prepared to slow down climate change, nor live with it,” they continue. “The week’s events have now ravaged some of the world’s wealthiest nations, whose affluence has been enabled by more than a century of burning coal, oil and gas — activities that pumped the greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that are warming the world.”
“I say this as a German: The idea that you could possibly die from weather is completely alien,” said Friederike Otto, a physicist at Oxford University who studies the links between extreme weather and climate change. “There’s not even a realization that adaptation is something we have to do right now. We have to save people’s lives.”
The NY Times editorial board argues: “Biden’s Made Progress on Climate, Even if Activists Can’t See It.”
The board notes that, while environmentalists were happy to see Biden replace Trump as President, most are disappointed by the limited progress.
The Times finds he has achieved more than people on the left give him credit for, “but still well short of his own hopes.
“Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Biden took seriously the scientific consensus that the world needs to keep greenhouse gas emissions from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels in order to avert irreversible planetary damage,” they write. “Mr. Biden pledged to cut America’s emissions in half by 2030, eliminate fossil fuel emissions from power plants by 2035 and zero out all greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury, which is pretty much what scientists recommend for the entire world.”
How we get there is going to be difficult. As the Times notes: “That, in turn, would require a vastly different energy landscape — massive investments in wind and solar power, a rebuilt electric grid, millions of electric vehicles.”
Can we get past this stagnation? If you are not convinced of climate change now, you probably also believe a number of other unsupported notions about the world. For the rest of us, we are running out of time.
—David M. Greenwald reporting