June 25th, 2024

Governments must believe the science about climate change

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on August 17, 2018.

Even — or especially — among those who agree human-caused global warming is happening, the footnote has been the understanding that no individual weather event or catastrophe is caused by the overall temperature rise.

Until this summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s not just hot here in California, where it’s always hot in July, August and September. It’s not just Death Valley, where German tourists always flock to feel the heat they (formerly) couldn’t at home.

It was hovering around 90 degrees Fahrenheit at the Arctic Circle in Norway and Sweden last week. In July, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Scotland was hit — 92 degrees in a village near Glasgow. It was 106 in Japan, also that nation’s highest ever.

And while it’s often in the triple digits in the air here, the Pacific Ocean had never in 102 years of daily water-temperature readings seen the Pacific Ocean hit 78 degrees at the pier in La Jolla where the Scripps Institute is — until this summer. Rising ocean temperatures are another feature of global warming, and will radically alter our formerly famous Mediterranean climate insofar as night-time air temperatures go. Unlike most of the rest of the country, when California has a 95-degree summer day, it’s never been unusual for the outdoors temp to cool to the mid-50s by late evening. Felt anything like the upper 50s lately? Up and down California, last month saw the highest minimum temperature statewide of any month since 1895, rising to 64.9, from the redwood forest to the Coachella Valley, Ron Lin and Javier Panzar report in the Los Angeles Times.

And so, yes, to answer many Californians’ understandable question, climate change is contributing to the unprecedented wildfire seasons we are seeing this year and last. Global warming is without a doubt a culprit in the suddenly year-round fire danger we face throughout our state. The higher temperatures mean dried-out trees, forest undergrowth and grasslands. Those plants burn more easily when a spark of any kind ignites them — mostly, of course, also man-made sparks, but now with drier kindling to deal with. And the snowmelt and river levels are lower, too, because of climate change.

The San Francisco Chronicle cites a report in which researchers at Columbia University and the University of Idaho showed that human-caused warming had dried out our forests so much that fire seasons throughout the West have expanded by an average of nine days every year since 2000.

So — now that the demonstrably real effects of climate change are affecting our California lives every day, what to do about it? It’s only human to lament the lost opportunities, the fact that responsible scientists warned us two decades ago that this would come to pass if we didn’t halt the rise in greenhouse-gas production. But humans have faced existential threats before, in the last century — from world wars, from nuclear weapons. Now is the time to not give into despair but to lobby our leaders, and governments around the world, telling them to stop sticking their heads in the (hot) sand, believe the science and begin a technical approach to reversing the real problem humans have brought to our planet.

Online: https://www.ocregister.com

(This editorial appeared in the Orange County, Calif. Register on Aug. 14.)

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