Severe storms intensify need for climate change action

Whenever a newsworthy weather event occurs — especially in the New York area — you can’t escape the constant media coverage.

Network, cable, and local news stations can’t seem to go beyond weather news. Anchors constantly link to information from the National Weather Service and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Those officials are often seen wearing boots, even in a TV studio. Reporters in the field — likely the only ones on camera, except for emergency vehicles and a few brave pedestrians — show the depth of the snow, the force of the wind, the depth of the water, often bundled up to within an inch of their lives.

Yes, it’s way over the top, but ordinary Americans want to know how bad the storms are, if schools will be canceled, if traffic will be snarled, if public transportation will be running. At least until their power goes out, when they’re cut off from outside media.

I guess it’s something we all better get used to, because the storms are only going to get worse.

The latest super-snowstorm veered east and spared New York the worst, while Long Island and New England still got hammered. (In typical Fox News fashion, the cable station couldn’t resist playing up criticism of Democratic New York Mayor Bill de Blasio “overreacting” to the storm forecasts and shutting down the public transportation system. The blonde anchorwoman even made fun of the sign language interpreter communicating the mayor’s message to the hearing impaired. Stay classy, Foxette.) It’s still a huge storm affecting a major area of the country.

As President Obama said in his State of the Union address, 2014 was the hottest year on record. Thirteen of the hottest 15 years in recorded weather history occurred in the 21st century, and 19 of the hottest years happened in the last two decades. Every year, scientists have been saying the same thing: Extreme weather events are increasing, and global warming has contributed to the problem. Hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, droughts, wildfires, whatever. You name it, we’ve got more of ’em, and they’re getting more devastating.

“While our understanding of how climate change affects extreme weather is still developing, evidence suggests that extreme weather may be affected even more than anticipated,” says an online report at Climate Communication, a nonprofit science and outreach project of the Aspen Global Change Institute.

“Global warming is increasing the frequency and intensity of some types of extreme weather. For example, warming is causing more rain to fall in heavy downpours,” the group says. “There are also longer dry periods between rainfalls. This, coupled with more evaporation due to high temperatures, intensifies drought. Wet places have generally become wetter, while dry places have become drier. Heat waves have become more frequent and intense, while very cold days have decreased.”

It’s not just environmental groups sounding the alarm. “A warmer atmosphere evaporates more water vapor into the air, which tumbles right back down in supersize, if less frequent snow storms when the temperature dips below freezing,” says an article in Bloomberg Businessweek. The story also cited a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, saying, “Expect to see more of that.”

A column in Forbes says the same thing. “From the stock markets and Wall Street to the boardrooms of Big Oil — and even the living rooms of Republican voters — the era of reflexive skepticism and denial of basic climate science appears to be coming to a close,” the column said. It also noted that even the American Petroleum Institute admitted the obvious; its latest report touted the advantages of solar power, saying that “the solar power sector has shaved installation costs and enjoyed over 40 percent growth over the last year.”

“There it was,” the column says, “the nation’s largest and most powerful oil lobby stating in no uncertain terms that climate change is real, that it’s a threat to American prosperity, and that clean energy technologies promise a solution.”

Even the U.S. Senate voted that the global climate is changing, although the august body couldn’t get itself to admit that human beings were the cause. Scientists the world over need no convincing — they’ve been seeing and reiterating the evidence for years.

After years of global warming denial, some in the GOP are starting to realize they can’t keep denying the obvious. According to a recent poll from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, more than 60 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans — whoever they might be — seemed willing to admit the truth about global warming. Even 38 percent of GOP conservatives agree that the planet is getting hotter. It’s no surprise that Tea Partiers were the outliers.

“The United States is basically one reasonable climate speech by a Republican presidential candidate away from joining the community of nations that take this topic seriously,” the Businessweek article concluded.

Makes you wish that more Americans would have been willing to listen all along.


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