Is the Future Here Now?

Weather and climate are not the same.  Sometimes people--skeptics and warmists alike--use the weather to "prove" the existence or non-existence of global warming.  That's hard to do, because extreme weather events--although they are affected by climate change--can happen anyway.  So if 1000-year floods start happening every 10 years, we know there are more of them due to climate change.  We don't know, however, which ones they are in particular.  Likewise with stronger hurricanes.  Climate is changing the intensity of tropical storm, making them stronger in general.  However, we can't say that any particular storm was different--just that the average intensity is stronger.

Scientists have been predicting significant changes in weather and other indicators as our globe gets warmer.  Things like more frequent droughts and heat waves, stronger storms, more precipitation in more severe events, larger and more wildfires, longer wildfire seasons, diseases and pests that expand their ranges and on and on.  There are plenty of books and articles with these scenarios.  (BTW - I recommend Joe Romm's Hell and High Water.)

Ten years ago these scenarios were presented as what the world would be like towards the end of the 21st century.  Unfortunately, it appears that the future is now.  To whit:

  • Seventy-five countries have set all-time high temperature records just in the last ten years.  That's five times the number that set all-time cold records.

    • Russia's devastating 2010 heat wave is the "hell" that Joe Romm writes about.  It's exactly the kind of scenario painted by climate change scientists: unbearable sustained heat, thousands of deaths, lung-choking pollution, unstoppable wildfires.
    • Pakistan's flooding of 2010 is the "high water" Joe Romm warns about.  Unprecedented rainfalls never experienced in recorded history killing thousands and causing billions of dollars in damage.  More ominously, the floods are having a negative political influence, helping the Taliban raise its influence in this unstable country (and nuclear armed, to boot).  This is the sort of "threat multiplier" climate change causes that our military has been warning about.
    • Large parts of Australia, particularly southeast Australia and Tasmania, have been in drought for thirteen years.  At some point one should stop using the word drought and just call it desert.
    • Locally in the DC area, this summer has been much hotter than usual, with a record-setting number of days above 90 degrees.  Global warming?  We can't know for certain if that's what is causing this heat, but the "loaded dice" of climate tell us that before long, DC will be like Atlanta.  And we're starting to get a taste of what it's like.
    • Pine beetles in the US and Canadian west have completely devastated millions of acres of pine forests--probably permanently.  In the past, these beetles were controlled by cold in the winter.  Now that the winters are not as cold, they are rampaging out of control, with no way to stop them.
    The examples of severe weather and changing climate are everywhere.  This handful of examples is a tiny sample.  Many advocates for action feel that it will take a crisis to get people to act.  This summer feels like a crisis already, but certainly our political leaders don't feel much inclination to act.  Sad.

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