Oh, the weather outside is frightful; the air conditioner, so delightful; But as long as you love me so, let it glow, let it glow, let it glow …
This week, we broke 1200 heat records around the country. Sizeable parts of Colorado literally burned to the ground from extreme wild fires. Corn crops in the heart of the breadbasket are endangered by the persistent heat and drought. And Rex Tillerson, CEO of oil giant, Exxon – suffering a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease – gave probably the dumbest speech on energy and (in the Q and A session that followed) climate change, to the Council on Foreign Relations, ever given. You can read the speech and the Q/A session here:http://www.cfr.org/united-states/new-north-american-energy-paradigm-reshaping-future/p28630
Mr. Tillerson praised the marvels of science, technology and engineering that have led to our uninterrupted worldwide supply of oil through the vagaries of the last few years and blamed a scientifically illiterate public, “interested parties” who fear monger and a lazy press who doesn’t do their homework for the bad rap big oil has gotten lately. Then he pointed out that, although the problems surrounding fracking and other costly methods of oil production might be inconvenient for the families immediately affected, they were not life threatening and therefore were “nothing” in the grand scheme of things.
When asked, in the Q/A session, about the buildup of CO2 from burning fossil fuels and resulting problems from climate change, Mr. Tillerson reckoned that while climate change from increased CO2 is real and causing problems, he was not so sure science was able to predict with any accuracy the coming effects with current models. He implied that, those “interested persons” with their fear mongering were exaggerating the effects, that problems such as sea level rise and the movement of food production areas due to drought, flooding or other problems from climate change could be mitigated and that it was just “an engineering problem” which engineering solutions would mitigate. And those niggling little problems that science and technology might not be able to mitigate? “We’ll adapt. We’ve always adapted.”
Allll-righty, then. We’re saved. Geo-engineering and some genetic tinkering ought to do the trick. (I’m thinking, maybe gills and fins for sea level rise, a tortoise shell and re-designed circulatory system to whisk the extra heat away from the brain as temperatures rise and desertification progresses and maybe a camel’s hump for long-term fat storage while our food supply is migrating to cooler climes?)
In the meantime, here outside of Emerald City, the heat goes on. I don’t know about other places around the country, but here, the average monthly temperatures have moved forward a month almost every month this year. Our average temperature for the last week of June has been 87 in the past; we’ve had mid nineties to low 100s for the last two weeks. That’s late July weather. And we’re over seven inches behind for rainfall right now, with no relief in sight. Along the upper east coast, this week, they went from temperatures of up to 104 to storms and flooding.
Even many of us who understand the realities of climate change tend to think it will hit “those other people” first, but guess where the sea levels are rising the fastest? Not Bangladesh, the northern coast of Alaska, or some little island in the Pacific. It’s HERE, along our own eastern coast.
CBS news ran a story yesterday evening about rising sea levels along our Atlantic coast. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57464122/fast-rising-sea-levels-hit-atlantic-coast-hardest/
Since 1990, sea levels have gone up about two inches around the world. But in Norfolk, it’s more than double that: 4.8 inches.
“It’s scary, it’s petrifying. Are you kidding?” Guyton said. “You can’t think about it.”
It’s not just Norfolk but a 600-mile stretch of the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Boston that’s now seeing sea levels rise much faster than the rest of the world. Philadelphia’s up 3.7 inches, New York 2.8 inches.
Ben Strauss studies rising sea levels for the non-profit Climate Central.
“Sea level rise is like a creeping tsunami,” he said. “It goes almost imperceptibly year by year, but it’s gaining in tremendous amount of strength and it is going to have an enormous impact on our coast.”
Strauss blames global warming for melting polar ice caps that in turn slows the Gulf Stream, creating a traffic jam of water that makes sea rise worse along the East Coast.
New York City‘s Office of Emergency Management predicts sea levels two to five inches higher in the next decade; seven to 12 inches higher by the 2050’s; and up to nearly 2 feet higher by the 2080s.
(The study on sea level changes, published in Nature, can be found here: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate1597.html)
Every few months, climate scientists warn us we’re at another tipping point and that some of these are coming much earlier than even the best models predicted.
We have to quit kidding ourselves, folks. We are not going to tinker, mitigate or engineer our way out of this after the fact. The “free” market and infinite economic growth will not save us.
We can’t afford to be lulled by the likes of Rex Tillerson and the other captains of the energy sector who, with their multimillion dollar compensation packages and their multibillion dollar profits at stake, are not “disinterested” people in this fight. We face extinction level changes by the end of this century – and possibly sooner – if we cannot find the will to end our addiction to fossil fuels and constant growth, right now.
It’s hot. It’s too late to make that better. The best we can hope for at this point, is that we can stop before it becomes unsustainably worse.