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Notes from a Changing Climate

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If I dare suggest that the shockingly warm temperatures in the eastern half of the country, temperatures that by a gigantic margin make up the biggest March heat wave in recorded history and quite possibly the warmest March in over 100,000 years, were indicative of climate change, commenters would say I am no better than someone suggesting a single snow shows that climate change isn’t happening, so here’s a couple of other points about our changing climate:

1. Climate change is leading to the rapid proliferation of bark beetles, destroying ecosystems, possibly dooming some species to extinction, and severely threatening the North American forestry industry.

2. In the last 2 years, a mere 42 million Asians have been displaced due to unusually severe weather.

3. Say adios to many of our world’s rarest forests. I recommend flying to visit them now, preferably on a jet that maximizes climate change.

4. Climate is changing so rapidly that scientists can see major changes in vegetation in a geological blink of an eye.

5. For as much as we believe in technology more than any other religion, technology is flat out not going to get us out of this mess.

But hey, I can wear shorts in March so fuck it.

Bill McKibben really sums up my thoughts on the matter:

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Missouri, you should not ask yourself: I wonder if this is somehow related to the huge tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that—together they comprised the most active April for tornadoes in our history. But that doesn’t mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advised to try and connect them in your mind with, say, the fires now burning across Texas—fires that have burned more of America by this date than any year in our history. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been—the drought is worse than the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if it’s somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you’d have to also wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest—resulting in record flooding across the Mississippi—could somehow be related. And if you did that, then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming. To the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself, over and over, the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods—that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these records are happening at once: why we’ve had unprecedented megafloods from Australia to Pakistan in the last year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. Focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the anchorman up to the chest of his waders in the rising river.

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