Bearing Witness to Climate Change Aug 2020

Government scientists with the National Weather Service are predicting that this year’s hurricane season will be one of the most active on record.  The NOAA forecasts between 19-25 named storms with 7-11 hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Even before the season began on June 1 we had already experienced 9 named storms.

Much of the Midwest is reporting record rainfall for the second consecutive year along with more frequent flash flooding. In some areas of Missouri the deluges are now often 5-7 inches at a time flooding streets, sewers, creeks, and basements that were never sized for that much runoff that quickly.

A rare derecho storm with Category 2 hurricane-force winds blows across the upper Midwest destroying structures, leveling crop fields, and toppling power lines in its wide path that left more than 600,000 without power.

Meanwhile, the western slopes of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain range are experiencing an extended drought that has left mountains without snowpack and farmers with dry bare ground instead of crops. This area of Utah/Colorado is one of the zones that is experiencing much faster warming than other portions of the globe; more than 2 degrees C or double the global average.

Alarms are being sounded that Greenland’s ice sheet is melting so fast that it may be past the point of no return, even if global warming is stopped. Satellites recorded that Greenland lost a record amount of ice in 2019, an estimated 586 billion metric tons. The average summer melt is half of that. Much of the rise in sea level expected this century will be due to melting snow and ice from Greenland.

In another study published in Nature Climate Change warns that floating sea ice in the Arctic could be completely gone as soon as 2035. The only good news, if there is any, is that this sea ice melting will not raise sea levels as does land-based ice and glacier melt such as that occurring in Greenland.

Canada’s last remaining intact ice shelf, the Milne, has broken apart this summer. The 70 square mile ice shelf is over 4,000 years old. Scientists say that warmer than normal air and water temperatures due to climate change are to blame Temperatures in the Canadian Arctic have been almost 10 degrees F warmer this summer than the average of recent decades.

President Trump’s EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler formally signed a rollback of Obama-era rules which limited greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas producing industry.  Dear Mr. Wheeler, we will see you in the truth and reconciliation justice proceedings that will surely come when the next generation looks back to identify the guilty and ask them to confess their crimes against humanity so that the healing of the planet can begin.

Baghdad, Iraq hit a record high of 125 degrees last month, topping a record of nearly 124 degrees from just a few years ago. Such extreme temperatures are now becoming more common and are making some areas of the planet uninhabitable for human populations. It is feared that temperatures in the Persian Gulf region could exceed 130 degrees if trends continue unabated. Such extreme weather will only make already fragile nations and economies more likely to fall into chaos, triggering mass migrations.

A temperature of 130 degrees F was recorded in the US at Death Valley. This would make it the hottest temperature on the planet ever recorded during the month of August.

Predictably, hundreds of wildfires are burning once again across the state of California. Hot temperatures combined with an unheard of number of lightening strikes are thought to have started most of the fires. This same heat wave has caused rolling blackouts across the state.

Hydrologists have issued dire warnings that the water resources in much of the west will become more scarce in he coming years. Lakes, communities, and farm fields served by the Colorado River are the most tenuous.

Despite a warming world due to the burning of fossil fuels, with one climate-related emergency after another, the Trump administration approved oil and gas leasing on Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The new plan will make the entire Beaufort coastal area available for potential development.

New research warns that within 50 years almost 20% of the Earth’s landmass will become uninhabitable for human settlements. Large portions of Central America may become unlivable unleashing a wave of millions of migrants seeking relief in North America. Much of South America, Central Asia, and Africa will suffer in hot zones created by weather patterns of climate change. Crop failures, food scarcity, water shortages, inequality, famines, political instability, and civic unrest will likely follow and spill over national borders. No, that’s already happening.

During a ten day period this month the planet experienced a number of extreme weather-related events. They included: record temperatures in Death Valley, a massive dry thunderstorm in California with over 11,000 lightning strikes some of which triggered wildfires that are still burning, record high temperatures in Japan, record rains fell in China producing widespread flooding, a pair of tropical storms barrels out of the Caribbean at the same time making this season a record for the number of storms in the south Atlantic, one of those was Hurricane Laura which grew from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane in near record time due to the warmer than average gulf water temperatures, and more record winter heat in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter in Australia. The increase frequency of extreme events like these have been predicted for years by climate scientists.

Some badly needed good news that the number of Americans who feel passionately about climate change is rapidly growing according to a new study conducted by Stanford University.  It was reported that some 25% of the public feels that climate change is extremely and personally important to them. This percentage has doubled in the past five years. It is all that much more notable given all the other concerns American are dealing with including: the Covid-19 pandemic, a recession with 30 million unemployment, racial justice and Black Lives Matter,  a political leadership crisis, civic unrest and soaring gun deaths, health care, and what many predict will be a rapidly approaching election crisis.