The sum­mer of our cli­mate dis­con­tent

The Review - - OBITUARIES - Mike Weil­bacher Colum­nist Mike Weil­bacher di­rects the Schuylkill Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion in Up­per Roxbor­ough. The cen­ter’s Univer­sity of Na­ture on Oct. 6 will fea­ture a town meet­ing on Philadel­phia’s cli­mate fu­ture. He tweets @SCEEMike and can

Two weeks ago, tor­ren­tial down­pours buf­feted the re­gion on three con­sec­u­tive days — Satur­day, Sun­day and Mon­day — white­wa­ter rivers flow­ing down the steep streets of Roxbor­ough and Manayunk, the Schuylkill Ex­press­way on each day re­sem­bling the river in­stead of the road, the river it­self roil­ing an an­gry cof­fee-brown color. So far this year, rainfall is run­ning 20 per­cent higher than ex­pected. Storms of this in­ten­sity and fre­quency — three mas­sive down­pours in three days — are now more com­mon than ever.

As I have writ­ten be­fore, wel­come to the cli­mate-chal­lenged New Ab­nor­mal.

While Philadel­phia’s cli­mate is hot­ter, wet­ter and more ex­treme than ever, when you look at what has been hap­pen­ing around the world this sum­mer, the story is far worse and far scarier than you imag­ine. While I’m sure you’ve read about or seen on TV the record wild­fires sweep­ing through Cal­i­for­nia, heat has been mak­ing big news this sum­mer. Con­sider only the fol­low­ing:

Weather records have been set in mul­ti­ple coun­tries through­out the world this sum­mer, in­clud­ing Swe­den, Fin­land, Nor­way, Ja­pan and North and South Korea. A town in Al­ge­ria hit a whop­ping 124 de­grees in July, the high­est African tem­per­a­ture ever recorded. In North­ern Siberia, along the coast of the Arc­tic Ocean — where weather ob­ser­va­tions are scarce — tem­per­a­tures soared 40 de­grees above nor­mal on July 5 to over 90 de­grees. Cana­dian tem­per­a­tures rock­eted into record ter­ri­tory in July, caus­ing more than 70 heatre­lated deaths in the prov­ince of Que­bec.

Here in Amer­ica, that July heart wave ex­tended from New Eng­land to the South­west, an ex­cep­tional swatch of the coun­try, and an ex­tra­or­di­nary stretch of heat in Dallas-Fort Worth saw four con­sec­u­tive days with record highs of 108 or 109 de­grees. Mt. Wash­ing­ton, the tallest peak in New Hampshire, where it can snow any month of the year, even in the sum­mer (I can per­son­ally vouch for that), hit a record min­i­mum tem­per­a­ture of 60 de­grees on July 5. The low­est tem­per­a­ture for any given day had never be­fore been that high in 100-plus years of weather record­ing. In fact, CNN re­ported that 41 heat records were set across the United States in July.

With that heat has come drought. Cal­i­for­nia’s wild­fires have been fu­eled by a num­ber of things, a 10-year drought being one of the largest fac­tors. Great Bri­tain has been swel­ter­ing un­der one of its hottest, dri­est sum­mers ever, and Scan­di­navia, suf­fer­ing from crazy-hot tem­per­a­tures above the Arc­tic cir­cle, is wracked by un­prece­dented wild­fires on top of the heat.

And here’s where we ratchet up the ab­nor­mal an­other notch:

The high­est moun­tain in Swe­den no longer is. That moun­tain, Keb­nekaise, is cov­ered by a glacier, and that glacier has melted enough that the high­est moun­tain has of­fi­cially lost its sta­tus — it is now the sec­ond high­est. Because of melt­ing ice. From cli­mate change.

Glob­ally, this is look­ing to be the fourth hottest year on record. The three hottest? The last three years, of course.

Sadly, this hor­rific weather is only the tip of the cli­mat­e­change ice­berg. Hot­ter weather, big­ger storms, larger wild­fires, larger num­bers of heat-re­lated deaths, more melt­ing — this is the New Ab­nor­mal.

“This sum­mer of fire and swel­ter,” wrote So­mini Sen­gupta, The New York Times’s in­ter­na­tional cli­mate re­porter, “looks a lot like the fu­ture that sci­en­tists have been warn­ing about in the era of cli­mate change, and it’s re­veal­ing in real time how un­pre­pared much of the world re­mains for life on a hot­ter planet.”

This no longer reads as ran­dom and is sim­ply not co­in­ci­den­tal. Nei­ther is there any nat­u­ral cy­cle like sunspots to be blamed for this. And while we should be pre­par­ing — and work­ing hard to both mit­i­gate cli­mate change while get­ting ready for what is com­ing — we are still oddly ar­gu­ing over cli­mate change.

If this sum­mer proves any­thing, it’s that the de­bate is over. Re­al­ity has smacked us up­side the head one more time, as it has many times since sci­en­tists first warned us about this 30 years ago.

When Mother Na­ture talks this loudly, as she has all sum­mer, we re­ally need to lis­ten. Time to get to work.

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