Europe is broiling and the U.S. is reeling.
More than 340 people are dead as a result of the spate of tornados which struck the American southeast. Several sources have driven home the point that this event can’t with certainty be linked to global warming, after all we’ve had many tornados before. For a long time I’ve been squarely in the “we can’t link single events to global warming” camp. It’s time to change.
No, we can’t link the outburst of tornados to global warming “fer sure.” Likewise, you can’t link any single case of lung cancer to cigarette smoking “fer sure.” Not even one.
But face facts: when it comes to lung cancer, it’s irresponsible not to mention cigarette smoking. The same applies to global warming and extreme weather. As Kevin Trenberth has said:
It is irresponsible not to mention climate change. … The environment in which all of these storms and the tornadoes are occurring has changed from human influences (global warming). … With global warming the low level air is warm and moister and there is more energy available to fuel all of these storms and increase the buoyancy of the air so that thunderstorms are strong. … On average the low level air is 1 deg F and 4 percent moister than in the 1970s.
It’s time to mention climate change regarding a large number of extreme weather events. The Russian heat wave of 2010. Pakistani floods the same year. Australian floods last year. Australian drought for a decade before that. The European heat wave of 2003. Maybe — just maybe — the extremity of Hurricane Katrina. Each of these events took its toll in human life. And that’s what’s at stake: human life.
Sure we’ve had weather-related distaters before. But a pattern is emerging, one of both extremity and frequency, which is solid enough to make the insurance industry sit up and take notice. Enough to make the Pentagon sit up and take notice. It goddamn well ought to be enough to make you sit up and take notice.
In fact it’s gotten to the point that it’s no longer unusual to have two extremes happen at the same time. The Russian heat wave and Pakistani floods are an example. And we’ve got one now — while the southern U.S. suffered disastrous storms, Europe experienced the April equivalent of a heat wave.
Remember how the deniers crowed about last December being the second-coldest December in the Central England Temperature record? I wonder how Anthony Watts will spin this April being the first-hottest April in the CET record. How about having to fight wildfires in April, not just in England but in Scotland?
It may not seem like much to raise temperature by 1 deg.F and humidity by 4%. But when that applies to the entire planet, there are consequences. One of the consequences is more, and worse, extremes. Like heat waves, tornados, hurricanes, even winter snowstorms. And it’s not just a problem for the future — we’ve already reached the point where it is irresponsible not to mention climate change.
It’s bad news, very bad, because it will take its toll in human life.
But there’s worse news. It’s going to get a lot worse, because global warming will continue due to the greenhouse gases we’ve already put in the atmosphere. There’s no way to stop that. So expect it to get worse, expect it to take a more drastic toll in human life — because it will.
Worst of all, there’s even more terrible news. It will end up being a hell of a lot worse than it has to be, because of the obstruction by a few. The deniers aren’t just creating confusion, they’re paralyzing society when things are getting critical. They already have blood on their hands, they already deny both reality and responsibility, and they will have a hell of a lot more blood on their hands. Because the cost of inaction is: human life.
I’ll continue to do what I can, come hell or high water. Expect both.