Are you enjoying this summer weather yet?
If you’re a New York state resident, you may have noticed some rain recently. Communities all across the state, from Buffalo to New York City, are closing in on record rainfall totals for July amid a month of nearly nonstop storms. In our region, swollen waterways and saturated ground fueled floods that still haven’t abated in some areas. A trio of local state legislators urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make a federal disaster declaration for the Butternut Valley, where floodwaters gnawed off large chunks of two roadways.
It could have been worse. Flooding that occurred at the same time halfway across the globe in Europe last week has left some 200 dead, mostly in Germany and Belgium, with many still missing. The stunning catastrophe left German Chancellor Angela Merkel literally speechless; she noted “the German language doesn’t have words for the destruction.”
But floods aren’t the only type of extreme, unusual weather to make headlines recently. Wildfires have been ravaging western U.S. states after an extraordinary heat wave in late June and early July left forests parched. Readers may have noticed the harrowing images of shellfish being cooked alive on the shores of the Pacific Northwest as temperatures along the Vancouver coast reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit. In Russia’s Siberia region, traditionally known for its dreadful cold, temperatures reached 118 degrees.
Make no mistake: anthropogenic global warming is making this sort of thing happen more often, and anyone who tells you otherwise is being willfully 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 virtually impossible without global warming.” The same goes for the floods, spurred by rainfall patterns that grow more erratic and volatile every year as carbon emissions grow, trapping more heat in the atmosphere.
“We are experiencing climate change,” European Union cabinet leader Diederik Samsom said on a recent conference with the European Policy Centre, according to the AP. “A few years ago, you had to point to a point in the future or far away on 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 steps to reduce carbon emissions could prevent the rise of such destructive weather. But the fossil fuel industry has fought tooth and nail against such policy changes, telling as many lies as necessary to obscure the warnings of scientists who saw this coming.
The polluters have been enabled by craven members of Congress who care more about financing their reelection campaigns than doing the right thing. Some, most notably U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are Democrats. But let’s be honest here: the Republican Party has been far more welcoming of those who peddle these destructive lies.
But that appears to be changing. A group of House Republicans led by U.S. Rep. 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 “of late, I feel like I better understand the science.” U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has been more urgent, warning at a Senate hearing on July 21 that future generations will render a harsh verdict on “our failure to act to prevent the warming of the planet and the climate change associated with that warming, and that the political winds that prevented us from acting will be seen as an extraordinary lapse in America’s judgment.”
We might not yet be able to agree on specific policy solutions, but on one point, we should be unanimous: that we can no longer deny there is a problem.