I’m sure glad anthropogenic global warming is a myth because after a couple of days in the wake of storm-induced power-outages and going on the third day of +100 heat indexes including record breaking temperatures yesterday (set in 1968) I hate to think what the temperature would be like if we had global warming to deal with.
We’re not getting a break either (excepting a short break today) which is kind of rough when you’re without power – heat indexes of up to 105 by Wednesday, says the National Weather Service. And more threatening weather. Which isn’t so good when you haven’t recovered from the last threatening weather. Making a left turn in this town is next to impossible with all the traffic signals that are down. It’s like running a maze to get from point A to B.
And then, of course, there is the heat. Heat exhaustion is a real danger and following that, heat stroke and death. Remaining hydrated is essential but if you’re without power you have no running water. My building is on auxiliary power but that is dying – today there is no light in the stairwells and the elevators are no longer running. Right now, it has become a race against time – will power be restored before auxiliary power fades altogether?
Now certainly you can’t take an instance of heat in a specific area of the country and use that as evidence of global warming and I’m not doing that. It’s Republicans who like to say snow in winter proves there is no global warming. It’s the overall picture that argues for global warming and extremes of erratic weather and increasing heat are part of that overall picture.
You can say (and Republicans probably will) that 1901 was a hot year, that records still stand for Reagan (102°) and BWI International airports (103°) but just as this year doesn’t prove global warming neither does 1901 prove or disprove it. The fact is that temperatures are steadily rising and that each year seems hotter than the last.
According to NASA, “The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.”
“We know the planet is absorbing more energy than it is emitting,” said GISS Director James E. Hansen. “So we are continuing to see a trend toward higher temperatures. Even with the cooling effects of a strong La Niña influence and low solar activity for the past several years, 2011 was one of the 10 warmest years on record.”
The difference between 2011 and the warmest year in the GISS record (2010) is 0.22 degrees F (0.12 C). This underscores the emphasis scientists put on the long-term trend of global temperature rise. Because of the large natural variability of climate, scientists do not expect temperatures to rise consistently year after year. However, they do expect a continuing temperature rise over decades.
The first 11 years of the 21st century experienced notably higher temperatures compared to the middle and late 20th century, Hansen said. The only year from the 20th century in the top 10 warmest years on record is 1998.
Higher temperatures today are largely sustained by increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. These gases absorb infrared radiation emitted by Earth and release that energy into the atmosphere rather than allowing it to escape to space. As their atmospheric concentration has increased, the amount of energy “trapped” by these gases has led to higher temperatures.
Thus our predicament today, and mine personally. This year – 2012 – is not just a hot year; it’s one of a series of increasingly hot years over the past decade. And even if we do something now, this instant, we are going to have to deal with the consequences of what we’ve done for a long while before things return to normal – quite a while after we’re all dead and gone. Then it will be our childrens’ turn to deal with the consequences of our stupidity, and then their childrens’.
I am writing this as power fades in my own building – stairwells dark, elevators not working – wondering if power will be restored before what power there is gives out, and fighting heat exhaustion every step of the way like tens of thousands of other people in the D.C. area. This could become a very familiar scene in years to come if Republican denialism has its way. So please, vote Democrat in 2012. Vote sanity, and let’s save some lives.