Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Shattering the records

As I write this, large chunks of the states of California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are under NOAA Heat Advisories.  June saw over a thousand temperature records set, and conditions this week are predicted to break at least some of those records in the next few days.

For the third time in the last six weeks, out-of-control wildfires in Canada are dumping smoke across the Midwest and Northeast.  Montana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio are all under Air Quality Advisories, with many areas posting AQIs of over 200 -- "Very Unhealthy For All Individuals."

The eastern parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, and all of Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are under Flood Watches.  Last week, storms dumped an unprecedented amount of rain in the area, resulting in floods in much of Vermont, New Hampshire, and eastern New York, the likes of which have not been seen in recent history.  More torrential downpours are expected into this week.

The European Space Agency released an alarming forecast for a huge swath of Europe, including much of Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Poland, where a combination of high heat and humidity is predicted to result in life-threatening conditions.  Sixteen cities in Italy, including Rome and Florence, posted "Extreme Heat Warnings" -- the highest level of heat advisory the ESA issues -- with the temperatures in Sicily and Sardinia predicted to reach 48 C (118 F).  If this forecast pans out, it will be an all-time temperature record for the entire continent of Europe.

A heat wave in India and Pakistan in June crossed what one study called "the limits of survivability," reaching 47 C (116 F) with extreme humidity.  The heat was only broken when it started to rain -- but then it didn't stop.  The resulting flooding has caused damage estimated in the millions.  This followed a "once in two hundred years" heat wave in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Malaysia in April.

Sea surface temperatures are the hottest ever recorded.  We're talking pretty much worldwide, here.  Antarctic sea ice is at its lowest level for June -- middle of the Antarctic winter -- since measurements began.  The Atlantic Ocean is so hot it's got the scientists struggling to find words to describe how bad things are.  "The temperatures in the North Atlantic are unprecedented and of great concern," said Michael Sparrow, head of the World Meteorological Organization's World Climate Research Department.  "They are much higher than anything the models predicted."  The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting called them "off the charts."  This raises the specter of a bad Atlantic hurricane year, although how the high temperatures will interact with other factors -- such as wind shear and the fact that we're going into an El NiƱo, usually an Atlantic storm suppressor -- are unknown.

How much evidence do people need?

It's not so hard to say, you know?  Give it a try, climate-change deniers.  "Well, I guess we were wrong, then."  "Maybe we should have listened to the scientists, who have been warning us about this for forty fucking years."  

But no.  Just yesterday I saw someone post a photograph of a buckled road surface in Louisiana...

... and blamed it on the fact that the contractors hired to build roads don't give a damn and are doing slipshod work.

Yes, I know, all of the information I posted above is weather, and "weather is not climate," a phrase the climate change deniers like to trot out when it's convenient and then proceed to forget about when they gleefully point out there's been a cold snap in Minnesota in January.  I'm not exaggerating; James Inhofe, retired (thank heaven) senator from Oklahoma, set a new record himself -- for the stupidest thing ever said in the halls of the United States Senate -- when he brought a snowball inside in December and claimed it was proof that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax.  

Any individual record that's been broken this year is "weather."  Taken all together, what we have is "climate."

Not to mention a crisis that is threatening the long-term habitability of the planet.

Look, it's time we stop playing nice, here.  There's a point at which giving a forum to people who are either ignorant, or else have a vested interest in hoodwinking the gullible, isn't "giving the other side a chance to speak their views," it's a well-nigh suicidal waste of time we don't have.  I've quoted Isaac Asimov many times, but we cannot continue to allow the control of the planet to be hijacked by people who believe that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."  Contrary to what they say, the climate change deniers didn't "do their research;" they were bamboozled by Fox News, Newsmax, and other media in the pockets of the fossil fuels industry.  At best, they spent fifteen minutes cherry-picking websites that agreed with what they already believed and completely ignored the actual research done by actual scientists.

The result?  A populace who sees a buckled road surface in the middle of a catastrophic, life-threatening heat wave, and blames it on inept road workers.

Is it already too late?  I honestly don't know.  Doesn't abrogate our responsibility to do what we can.  I don't know of anyone who, if their house was on fire, would tell the firemen, "Don't bother trying to save it."  At this point, though, I'm sure of one thing; the only solution is to get to the ballot box and vote out the fossil-fuel-funded political hacks who have spent decades pulling the wool over our eyes and fooling us into believing nothing is wrong. 

If we don't, I can nearly guarantee that this blisteringly hot summer will be the coolest one we'll have for a very long time.


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