Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Keeping Our Cool

It should be no surprise to anyone that some of our staff, when vacationing during the brutally hot Independence Day week, decided to use their intelligence, and go someplace just a bit cooler for the holiday.

For example, Florida. No, really - the entire week of our vacation, the temperatures outside our South Florida offices barely touched 90, while the mercury in Eastern Nebraska and Washington, DC broke into triple digits.

While some relief has now come to much of the continental U.S., after two weeks of blistering heat, 46 Americans are dead due to the scorching temps - and we’re not even into the part of summer that’s traditionally the hottest. In much of America, we’ve been feeling like the heat could reduce us to a pile of ash at any moment.

For those vocal but poorly informed people who still seem to think that global climate change is a hoax, including syndicated columnist George Will, we have to ask honestly: What is it going to take for you people to understand the difference between climate and weather?

We’ve explained it in multiple ways here, over the past few years - most recently in April. As we noted then, climate scientists stated that our weather - including the long-range forecast for this summer - was going to be warmer and wetter. They didn’t say those weather conditions would happen in the same place.

So just before our vacation, Western and Northern Florida - an area that’s been in severe drought - got flooded with nearly two feet of rain in a short period of time. Meanwhile, some of the most destructive forest fires in history were rampaging just West of Denver, near where some of our family and friends live.

Thankfully, our DC offices didn’t receive any serious damage when massive storms blew through at nearly the same time as the fires in Colorado and the flooding in Florida. Those powerful storms caused some parts of the DC metro area to be without power for five days - right as some of the hottest temps of the year moved over the nation’s capital.

Even Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano understands the difference between weather and temperature. Weather would be if the U.S. had one unusually hot summer, and things went back to historically normal temps after that. Climate change is when nine of the ten hottest temperatures for the entire planet have all occurred since 2000 - with 2012 being the hottest year ever for the U.S.

Unless we acknowledge the problem, and make rational plans for dealing with it, we’ll keep seeing the horrendous wildfires, the unusual flooding, and food growing conditions that have been described as “farming in hell.”

One of our friends, Daily Felltoon subscriber and veteran Nebraska journalist Francis Moul - who also happens to be an environmental historian - published a great piece Monday in his local paper, detailing exactly what climate change might mean to food consumption.

In short, we might lose more than a few inches and a few pounds if human beings don’t take the challenge of climate change seriously.

We must push our politicians to enact legislation that has teeth in it, that will force governments, businesses, and individuals to make the kinds of change our planet needs to continue to allow it to remain fit for human habitation.

Many of those changes - including a significant shift towards renewable energy - aren’t just good for the environment. As the U.S. Interior Department noted in its report Monday, energy development on Federal lands created 1.5 million jobs last year - many of which were new jobs, created from investments in renewable energy. That's something every American can get behind.

This isn’t rocket science, folks. It’s climate science. And it’s long-past time EVERYONE accepted the fact: Climate change is real.

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