Bearing Witness to the Pandemic September 2021

As the month begins the US passes 40 million confirmed cases with 650,000 deaths. Experts predict we will end the year with fatalities topping 750,000 from the start of the pandemic. Who could have predicted or even imagined these grim numbers when all this started in early 2020? Members of former President Trump’s COVID task force had estimated that 100,000-240,000 citizens might eventually die. The final numbers may be an order of magnitude higher.

The US is averaging about 150,000 new cases a day early in the month. The average daily death rate continues to rise from the 4th wave due to the Delta variant, or more accurately due to the unvaccinated which allowed it to get rolling. The death toll hit 1,500 per day with most of these in the unvaccinated South. The state of Florida experienced an average of 325 per day from nearly 20,000 new infections, all while its Governor DeSantis continues to rage against school boards and mayors. In some parts of the state, only 1 in 3 residents are fully vaccinated and 90% of those hospitalized from COVID are unvaccinated.

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Bearing Witness to Climate Change September 2021

At the end of last month, Hurricane Ida became the 4th strongest storm to strike the US gulf coast where it left widespread flooding, damages, and over a million without power or drinking water for days. But the surprise was the disaster the storm left behind in the northeast of the country. Dozens died in flash flooding across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.  Three inches of rain fell in NYC in less than an hour, flooding subway lines and trapping families in basement apartments where some sadly died. Over 10 inches fell in other locales in less than a day, breaking all-time records.

Climate scientists have long predicted that with a warming atmosphere storms would dump extreme rainfall amounts. The US National Climate Assessment says that the strongest storms in the Northeast now produce over 50% more rainfall than they did last century.  For every 1 degree C the atmosphere holds about 7% more water vapor. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic August 2021

Finally, the country passes President Biden’s goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated with just under 160 million adults. Yet, a pandemic of the unvaccinated is still ravaging mostly conservative, rural parts of the country where vaccination rates are often less than 30%. New COVID cases are consistently running above 100,000 per day and deaths per day have crossed the 500 mark; levels not seen since the last wave. Some areas of the South are reporting no more ICU beds, overflowing emergency rooms, and overworked demoralized staffs.

There is not one America fighting COVID but two very different populations with different levels of education, information, and trust in institutions. In most locales, over 95% of their patients hospitalized are the unvaccinated. As a result, the frustration, anger, and hostility between those who wear masks and won’t, those who are vaccinated and not, and those who believe in science versus those who think it is all a hoax, has become a dystopian zombie movie most of us thought we would never see, much less live through.  They are egged on by governors like DeSantis of Florida and Abbott of Texas who, while their hospitals and morgues fill up, double down on the prohibition of mask mandates by local authorities and school districts. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change August 2021

During the month NOAA issued its 31st State of the Climate report for the year 2020 that draws on the work of over 500 scientists from over 50 countries. It confirmed previous findings that CO2 in the atmosphere reached an all-time high of over 412 ppm, an increase of 2.5 since the previous year. Equally troubling was that methane, which is 80 times more heat-trapping than CO2, also hit a record increase to 14.8 ppb. Scientists are surprised and worried about the methane rise, especially if it is due to the warming of once-frozen permafrost, peatlands, and marshes in addition to livestock and gas drilling. During 2020 temperature records were broken from the Arctic to the Antarctic and many places in between. Sea levels rose to a record level for the 9th year in a row due to melting glaciers and ice sheets.  In some good news, scientists reported that the estimated 6-7% dip in emissions due to the pandemic economy resulted in about 2 gigatons of CO2 not emitted, but that was a small amount compared to the more than 1,500 gigatons that humans have been responsible for emitting since the industrial revolution. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic July 2021

As the month begins, the global death count from COVID passes the 4 million mark. Many think that number, already tragic, is far lower than the actual count.  The highest death rates are currently in the Southern Hemisphere. Some 3.3 billion doses of various vaccines have been administered, leaving the vast majority of the planet’s population vulnerable, nearly one and a half years after the pandemic began.

The US itself is still below a 50% fully vaccination status and vaccination drives are stalling out despite renewed attempts.  Most mass vaccination sites across the country have now closed, not because the pandemic is past, but because they have few takers. The number of daily vaccinations has dropped below 500,000. Call them hesitant, uninformed, misinformed or simply stubborn or stupid, but the result is the same. People are getting sick, going into the hospital and needlessly dying because of all this. Some of the saddest and most avoidable cases are kids at church school camps, that refuse to shutter for the summer or require vaccinations or masking, who get infected then return home and infect their families. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change July 2021

The previous month of June 2021 had now been deemed to be the hottest June on record for the United States. Numerous all-time records for any month and date were set at several locations. Temperatures were 4.2 degrees F above their 20th century average.

The extreme temperatures in the Pacific Northwest last month were so far off the charts that scientists suggested that global warming may be triggering non-linear climate response. An estimated 800 people died as a result of the heat that reached as high as 121 degrees F in Lytton, Canada. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic June 2021

Weeks of June 1-12, 2021

COVID cases continue their rapid decline across the country, although states with low vaccination rates are seeing the majority of new infections and deaths. The daily average count is now running 14,000. This is still worrisome as from each new day of infections we can count on 1-2% of those dying. The average daily death count in the US is stubbornly holding around 300-400 with an increasing percentage of younger victims.

The rate of vaccination in the US continues to fall well before we have hit herd immunity levels. We are vaccinating less than 400,000 per day, down from the low millions two months ago. It’s unlikely the country will meet Biden’s goal of having a 70% fully vaccinated rate by July 4. While there are over a dozen states with rates of 70% or more, the country overall is stuck at an average below 50%. And some states, mostly in the deep south, have rates in the 30s. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change June 2021

NOAA reported that in May the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded the highest levels of CO2 in the atmosphere at 419 parts per million.  CO2 levels have now surpassed a staggering 50% higher than in pre-industrial times. The drop in emissions last year due to the pandemic and a near worldwide shutdown of travel and industry was short lived having fallen only about 6%. It is sober testimony to how difficult it will be to slow GHG emissions with a growing population and roaring economy based on perpetual consumption and growth.  Humans put about 50 billion metric tons of CO2 into the air each year that will last in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. There is no time left, and yes, now is the time to panic and take drastic actions. Read More

Bearing Witness to the Pandemic May 2021

May 1-8, 2021

The month begins with over 32.5 million cases and 575,000 deaths from COVID in the US. However, good news keeps coming as daily new case counts continue to fall in the US below an average of 50,000 for the first time in over 6 months. Daily death rates are averaging well less than 1,000, down from nearly 3 times that in the fall.

A renewed since of hope and optimism is occurring across the country as if we have turned to corner. People have returned to the streets, shops, restaurants, theaters, stadiums. and airports. The economy is rebounding and jobs are going unfilled. President Biden’s rating for handling the pandemic is in the 60s as a very painful one-year nightmare is starting to fade. Read More

Bearing Witness to Climate Change May 2021

In the US, Hawaii has become the first state to officially declare a climate emergency. In a resolution the state legislature has declared that climate change threatens both humankind and the environment. A supporter said that “every day we wait to take action is another day lost.” Hawaii joins nearly 2,000 other jurisdictions from 34 countries, including Australia and Great Britain, that have declared climate emergencies. Most climate change activists have now moved to using the term climate crisis. Read More