Year 2, Month 8, Day 29: The Tip Of A Rapidly Melting Iceberg

The August 25 Hartford Courant runs a piece by Robert Thorson, addressing the reality of drought conditions in the United States as a consequence of climate change:

No part of New England (according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s climatic data center) is experiencing drought. In contrast, 61 percent of the southeastern United States is experiencing moderate drought or worse, with Georgia taking the strongest hit. Things are much drier in the Southern Plains between Louisiana, south Texas, Arizona and Colorado. There, 84 percent of the land is experiencing at least moderate drought, with 47 percent experiencing exceptional drought.

Climate records are falling by the wayside: more than 6,100 records for warmer-than-usual nights, and 2,740 for hotter-than-usual days. Centered over west-central Texas is the largest footprint ever recorded for “exceptional” drought, based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Texas is the launching pad for a presidential hopeful who denies that climate is being changed by human influence, and who seems to have forgotten that having a tea party requires water to make the tea.

I’m going to try and work the tar sands issue into as many of these letters as I can. Sent August 26 — I’m back from India and back at this grimly necessary work.

Increasingly frequent and severe droughts are only a part of the multiple vulnerabilities we and our descendants will have to cope with as climate change escalates. There’ll be heavier rains, too, since storms and extreme weather are part of the long-term forecast for humanity’s carbon-enhanced future. The conservatives’ simplistic caricature of “global warming” is a strawman; the work of climate scientists has predicted for decades that a runaway greenhouse effect won’t simply make the planet uniformly hotter, but will trigger innumerable local and regional effects, potentially disrupting and destroying ecologies, infrastructure and agriculture. While it’s too late to avoid many of the consequences of our civilization’s century-long oil and coal binge, we can still mitigate the severity of the coming storms if we rapidly reduce and eventually eliminate fossil fuels from our energy economy. Conversely, projects like the exploitation of Canadian tar sands are a decisive step in the wrong direction; if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, droughts will be the least of our worries. It’s time to get serious about the reality of climate change.

Warren Senders

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