Does one bad-ass summer prove climate change?
Photo courtesy nb77 via FlickrIt’s been a brutal summer. Hellish heat and smog in Russia. Apocalyptic floods in Pakistan. Monstrous mudslides in China. And yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that this May to July has been the hottest three month span on record in the northeastern and southeastern regions of the U.S.
Sounds kinda like what climate scientists have been warning us about for years now.
We are so tempted to stick this steamy, scary summer to the climate change deniers, especially after all their cackling last winter: “We call your two snowstorms and raise you worldwide calamity!” But, hey, we’re grownups here. Still, the relentless run of extreme weather has tongues wagging.
Too much information: Writing for the New York Time‘s Dot Earth blog, Andrew Revkin quotes University of Delaware scientist Andreas Muenchow about another recent iconic climate event — a massive iceberg breaking away from Greenland:
Global warming and climate change are very real and challenging problems, but it is foolish to assign every “visible” event to that catch-all phrase. It cheapens and discredits those findings where global warming is a real and immediate cause for observable phenomena. Details matter, in science as well as in policy.
Peter Stott, writing in The Guardian, likewise warns against jumping to conclusions. But he does allow that climate change raises the likelihood of extreme weather and warns that within a few decades the potent heat and storms of this summer may no longer be considered extreme.
Grain drain: Remember that while once-a-century floods and giant icebergs make headlines, the impact of global warming often plays out in more insidious ways. A study released yesterday concluded that as nights have become warmer in Asia, rice yields have dropped — as much as 10 to 20 percent during the past 25 years. That is not good news for a part of the world where the population keeps climbing. Richard Black, of the BBC, has the details.
Another one fights the dust: By default, the EPA is now on the hook for reducing the level of greenhouse gases and other toxic chemicals in the U.S. Yesterday, the agency cracked down on cement plants, setting tougher standards for emissions of mercury and other smog-forming gases. The cement industry, which spent more than $900,000 in the past year to fight the new rules, is raising the specter of lost jobs. Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, responded thusly:
We encourage the cement industry to spend more money on cleanup — and less on lobbying.
The dig is up? You’d think that the extreme summer of 2010 would encourage officials to proceed with caution wherever fossil fuels are concerned. But you’d be mistaken. For example, judging by comments from the co-chairs of the committee investigating the BP spill, don’t be surprised to see the moratorium on deep-sea drilling in the Gulf lifted sooner rather than later. The Washington Post‘s Mary Pat Flaherty interviewed co-chairs William Reilly, former head of the EPA, and Bob Graham, former senator and governor of Florida. Here’s what Reilly had to say:
I don’t understand why it would take six months to vet 33 [deep-water] rigs [under the moratorium] for safety, environmental compliance, regulatory integrity. It’s never been made clear to me, and the testimony we received in New Orleans was not convincing on that.
Feels like a crude awakening.