NRDC produced its first “this is what global warming looks like” video back in 2010, featuring the Russian heat wave and the Pakistani flood.
This year the extreme weather chickens have come home to roost in the United States.
Welcome to the 2012 edition – a new video and web portal featuring more than 25,000 daily temperature records so far this year in the United States and the drought, floods, storms, and fires fueled by that extreme heat.
Here’s a sample of what 2012 has brought so far:
- The hottest January to June ever recorded in the continental United States. Tragically, excessive heat has killed at least 74, including fourteen children left in cars unattended.
- The largest drought declaration in over 50 years, covering about 1,300 counties in 29 states, driving up food prices.
- One of the most destructive freak derecho storms in history, leaving millions without power and at least 23 dead.
- Fires in Colorado which have destroyed more than 700 homes and killed at least six.
Quite a few commentators have observed that this is what global warming looks like, including Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona.
Make no mistake, carbon pollution is the main reason our planet is getting hotter. Solutions exist to cut this pollution and protect our health, but unless we put more of them in place right away the extreme weather we are seeing this year will become the new normal.
Scientists are extremely reluctant to directly link carbon pollution to any particular extreme weather event, but the data have accumulated to the point where many feel compelled to do so.
As one recent paper put it:
In 1988, Jim Hansen famously stated in a congressional hearing that “it is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.” We conclude that now, more than 20 years later, the evidence is strong that anthropogenic, unprecedented heat and rainfall extremes are here — and are causing intense human suffering.
Or as I said in a previous post: smoking causes cancer; carbon pollution causes extreme weather.
It’s time to listen to what the earth is telling us loud and clear.
There are solutions, and despite Congress’ failure to listen, the Obama administration has taken some important steps forward by proposing clean car standards that will cut vehicle carbon pollution in half and carbon limits for new power plants. And overall emissions and projections of carbon pollution from the United States have actually declined recently, putting the 17 percent reduction by 2020 target president Obama has embraced within reach.
But much more needs to be done. As individuals we can all take steps to use energy more efficiently, cutting carbon pollution and our energy bills in the process. As community members we can organize to put local solutions in place, such as bike lanes on our streets and solar panels on our schools. And as citizens we can demand that our elected representatives act responsibly, and hold them accountable when they don’t.
This post was first published on NRDC's Switchboard blog.