Are you still enjoying this summer weather?
If you are from New York State, you may have noticed rain recently. Communities across the state from Buffalo to New York City are closing in on a record July rainfall total amid a month of nearly uninterrupted storms. In our region, swollen streams and saturated soils have fueled floods that still have not diminished in some areas. A trio of local lawmakers urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make a federal declaration of disaster for the Butternut Valley, where floodwaters have eaten up large chunks of two roads.
It could have been worse. Floods that occurred at the same time halfway across the world in Europe last week killed some 200 people, mostly in Germany and Belgium, and many are still missing. The astonishing catastrophe left German Chancellor Angela Merkel literally speechless; she noted that “the German language has no words for destruction.”
But flooding isn’t the only type of extreme and unusual weather that has been making headlines in recent times. Wildfires swept through the western states of the United States after an extraordinary heat wave in late June and early July left forests withering dry. Readers may have noticed the heartbreaking images of cooked shellfish alive on the Pacific Northwest coastlines as temperatures along the Vancouver coast soared to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. In the Russian region of Siberia, traditionally known for its terrible cold, temperatures reached 118 degrees.
Make no mistake: man-made global warming is making this sort of thing happen more often, and anyone who tells you otherwise is willfully being dishonest. After the western heat wave, Stefan Rahmstorf, a climatologist at the University of Potsdam (Germany, not New York), told The Associated Press that the record temperatures were “so extreme that they would be practically impossible without global warming “. The same is true of flooding, spurred by precipitation regimes that become increasingly erratic and volatile each year as carbon emissions increase, trapping more heat in the atmosphere.
“We are experiencing climate change,” EU chief of staff Diederik Samsom said at a recent conference with the European Policy Center, according to the AP. “A few years ago, we had to point a point in the future or very far from the planet to talk about climate change. It’s happening now – here.
A scientific consensus on global warming has been established for years, and tangible measures to reduce carbon emissions could prevent the onset of such destructive weather conditions. But the fossil fuel industry has fought tooth and nail against such policy changes, telling as many lies as needed to mask warnings from scientists who saw it coming.
The polluters have been encouraged by cowardly members of Congress who care more about funding their re-election campaigns than doing the right thing. Some, including US Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are Democrats. But let’s be honest here: the Republican Party has been much more welcoming to those who peddle these destructive lies.
But that seems to be changing. A group of House Republicans led by U.S. Representative John Curtis, R-Utah, formed a new climate change caucus in June. Curtis told Politico earlier this month that he was once skeptical of global warming, but “lately I feel like I understand the science better.” US Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was more urgent, warning at a Senate hearing on July 21 that future generations will deliver a harsh verdict on “our failure to act to prevent global warming and change climate associated with this warming, and that the political winds that have kept us from acting will be seen as an extraordinary error in America’s judgment.
We may not yet be able to agree on specific political solutions, but on one point we should be unanimous: we can no longer deny that there is a problem.