How’s the weather been where you are?
Are you enjoying summer?
This time of year, we usually welcome the warmth, the blue skies, and, yes, the occasional thunderstorm, after months of snow and ice.
But have you noticed anything unusual?
Has it been just a little too hot, too cool, or fluctuating between the extremes a little too dramatically?
Has the wind blown a little too hard, or not enough?
June’s average global temperature was 1.35 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, 59.9.
For an understanding of why this is significant, we need to look to Earth’s refrigerator–the Arctic.
Approximately 3 trillion tons of ice have vanished from Antarctica since 1992, according to a recent study.
We don’t live in Antarctica, but that region of the globe is the epicenter of climate change study since its ice sheet provides scientists the empirical evidence of how rapidly our environment is worsening.
In the last 25 years, the melting ice sheet rose oceans levels three-tenths of an inch.
One of the study’s 88 co-authors, Isabella Velicogna, of University of California Irvine, stated:
“I think we should be worried. That doesn’t mean we should be desperate. Things are happening. They are happening faster than we expected.”
Another co-author, University of Washington’s Ian Joughin, said an area of West Antarctica, where 70 percent of melting occurred, “is in a state of collapse.”
Consider one of the most powerful cyclones on record to strike the Arctic occurred in June, two months ahead of schedule.
So, it just means we wear a little more sunscreen, right?
It means more beach time, barbeques.
Climate change is throwing normal meteorological activity into flux.
One effect of that is the changing jet stream.
According to Inside Climate News:
“This powerful river of wind transports moisture and moves masses of cold and warm air and storm systems along its path. During the hurricane season, it sometimes helps push Atlantic tropical storms away from the East Coast…The jet stream is strongest in winter, when it has the greatest effect on weather in more densely populated parts of North America and Eurasia. When it rolls along in relatively steady waves, normal weather ensues, with spells of cold, snow and intermittent warm-ups. But when it coils far to the south, bitter cold Arctic air spills southward along with it.”
Scientists are attributing rapid weather fluctuations to inconsistencies in the polar vortex, a large low-pressure area of cold air surrounding both poles, dependent upon the temperature differential between the Arctic and mid-latitudes. It’s supposed to weaken in summer and strengthen in winter. As it fluctuates, temperatures spike and plummet rapidly–never more so than this year because the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet.
So what does that mean for the planet?
With a changing climate comes a changing environment that displaces millions of people, creates food shortages, and threatens governments’ stability.
Especially impacted are farmers.
A study warns of how manmade climate change already poses a serious threat to crops and global health. With a 4°C temperature increase, climate change could reduce nearly one third of global crop production.
Not only must farmers contend with dwindling resources they and their families relied on for generations; conflict can drive them off their land, destroy crops and livestock, prevent access to seed and fertilizer, make it harder to sell produce, restrict access to water, and interrupt planting and harvest cycles.
This is what happened in 2010 and 2011 that helped produce the Arab Spring.
Here at home, large swaths of California’s San Joaquin Valley have already sunk almost 30 feet since the 1920s; some areas dropped three feet over past two years due to farmers pumping groundwater to compensate for the dearth of snowpack and rainfall.
A recent finding from researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego reports:
“The chance of ‘catastrophic’ climate change completely wiping out humanity by 2100 is now 1-in-20.”
The Biological Extinction Conference held at the Vatican in 2016 reported that unless we take immediate urgent action to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, one in five species on Earth faces extinction.
But with a president of the United States who calls climate change a “Chinese hoax,” and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt’s insidious reversals of the previous administration’s progressive climate policies, it looks as though we’re doomed, right?
This is a global problem, not merely an American one.
The rest of the world recognizes the existential threat climate change poses to survival.
We can work at the state and local levels to enact progressive climate policies armed with the understanding that the rest of the world is behind us.
We can contact our lawmakers and demand they support renewable energy jobs instead of continuing to prop up the fossil fuel industry.
This is what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed in his annual State of the State Address on January 3, and what California Gov. Jerry Brown supported when he signed legislation last year to extend California’s cap-and-trade program.
Since November mid-term elections will be here before long, we can also commit to voting for candidates that take a firm pro-environment stances. Make sure you know what their positions are on climate change legislation by visiting their campaign websites or calling their campaign offices. If a staffer is unable to articulate a candidate’s position, ask him or her to inquire of the candidate and call you back.
We can also write letters to our local newspaper editors (LTE), in which we specifically call out incumbent officeholders’ records on climate policy, and urge them to either continue positive action or change course. Politicians care about publicity because it directly impacts their images which impact subsequent votes.
Image credit: ABC