What’s the biggest news about climate change recently?
The drought in the Midwest? The “conversion” of Nobel physicist and climate researcher Richard A. Mueller from skeptic to supporter of the science? Bill McKibben’s apocalyptic piece in the recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine? Or something else?
Does it matter?
What is noteworthy is that the drumbeat of studies, reports, and examples regarding the change continues... and dare I say, gets louder?
Sure the drought could simply be weather, not climate. A tornado in New England, where we just don’t get tornadoes, could also be an aberration in the weather. But nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000. Can you say something is merely “the weather”?
At a recent Aspen Environment Forum, they referred to our situation today as “The New Normal.” Normal today was abnormal not long ago. Get used to it, “it” being heat, melting all over—glaciers, permafrost, Arctic ice, drought. (Researchers are now predicting that in a month we may see the lowest levels of Arctic ice.)
Professor Mueller completed a study earlier this year in which he confirmed to his own satisfaction that warming has occurred and continues. Dr. Mueller is a highly regarded scientist who had doubts about previous conclusions regarding warming. His study captured attention not only because of the results, but also because his work was funded in part by the Koch Foundation, a charitable extension of the climate-denying Koch brothers.
A little more than a week ago, Dr. Mueller went one step further. In the July 28 New York Times, he wrote that he has now concluded that humans are responsible for driving the warming, which will continue.
For many, including me, this statement was big news.
Bill McKibben is well known to climate activists. McKibben is a gifted writer and for some years has been an outspoken environmental advocate. He has written an alarming piece in Rolling Stone. McKibben’s piece is not news in the sense it includes new findings, but rather is an argument regarding the urgency of the situation.
I am old enough to have survived apocalyptic visions of Soviet atomic strikes in my youth. I’m not sure how huddling under my school desk was going to protect me from the “big one,” but that was the drill. I have survived an age when rivers literally burned and the air disintegrated concrete.
So I tend not to react strongly to disaster scenarios. I don’t deny their possibility. I just don’t head for cover under the table.
As a species we can be venal and reckless. We also often do the right thing. Ultimately we decide to do the right thing when it becomes apparent there is no other choice. Today, I don’t think we have a choice when it comes to climate.