Sunday, October 23, 2016

The New Normal on the Way to Catastrophe

Since 11 of the past 12 months have broken temperature records, it doesn't take a climate scientist to note that this year is pretty much guaranteed to be the hottest on record.  We're getting used to hearing that (as well as similar comparisons that go a lot farther back in time), so it maybe it takes a slightly different way of looking at it to get our attention.

Here's what got mine.  At the end of a detailed blog entry analysis on "our record warmth,"  Dr. Ricky Rood at Weather Underground mentions:  "Right now, however, it looks as if the Earth has warmed to the point that what is a cool phase today is comparable to what was an extraordinarily warm event less than 20 years ago."

Take that in.  The new normal is hot.

The structure of that thought reminds me of predictions from 25 or 20 or 10 years ago of what would happen if there was no concerted effort to address global heating.  The hottest days now would be the coolest days in that future, etc.  We were warned over and over that we had x number of years to get it right.

And we didn't get it right.  Not in time.  The climate crisis is here.  It's the new normal.  And it is going to have immense effects on the future of life on Earth.

And of course, we still won't admit it.

To be fair,  scientists 15 or 20 years ago may have underestimated the speed with which we would feel consistent effects of greenhouse gases on global climate.  This particular change in our present climate may have been in the cards anyway, due to greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere at that point.  But that's not necessarily true for the world a few years from now.  If we had acted, it might not get worse.  But it is going to get worse.

It's also obvious that our political system has failed in addressing the climate crisis.  Or to be more precise, our political system in its interlocked relationship with our economic system.

That President Obama and his administration accomplished as much as they did is nearly miraculous.  President Obama jump-started the now thriving clean energy industry, he regulated carbon emissions, he led in getting the world together to pass the Paris accords and just last week, his administration-long efforts to ban the greenhouse gases known as HFCs paid off with 200 nations agreeing on a schedule to do so.

While Barack Obama made his position clear on the climate crisis in both of his campaigns, he really didn't talk about it much.  And neither did anyone else.  The topic got exactly zero minutes of discussion in the 2012 Obama-Romney debates.

This year, discussion of the climate crisis got all of five minutes and 27 seconds in the Clinton-Trump debates, about 2% of the time spent, mostly on absurdities.  That was only because Hillary Clinton brought up the subject.  There wasn't one question on it.  The most important issue of our lifetime--and not a single question...again. The only question on energy was asked by a citizen in the town hall debate.

Hillary Clinton does have an active interest in the issue, and various methods of addressing the climate crisis are reportedly under discussion.  But the time that it's possible to act on the climate crisis without much mentioning it--which even the majority of Americans who want that action taken probably prefer--is going to come to an end soon.

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