It seems you can't open the paper these days (just kidding..does anyone really "open the paper" anymore?) without seeing some story about extreme weather, and the increasing concern by climatologists and others that there's a link to man-made global warming. You can start right here in Philadelphia, where monthly and summer-long heat records have been stacking up the last few years:
But we've seen enough already to declare that when it all ends next Tuesday, July 2012 almost certainly will become one of the warmest five months in Philadelphia in the period of record, dating to 1874.
Based on the National Weather Service forecast, July would finish at 81.8 degrees Fahrenheit, good for No. 3 on the all-time list.
What jumps out at us is the fact that assuming this holds up, three of the of four warmest months in the last 139 years will have occurred in the last three summers.
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama* Greenland:
The Greenland ice sheet melted at a faster rate this month than at any other time in recorded history, with virtually the entire ice sheet showing signs of thaw.
The rapid melting over just four days was captured by three satellites. It has stunned and alarmed scientists, and deepened fears about the pace and future consequences of climate change.
In a statement posted on Nasa's website on Tuesday, scientists admitted the satellite data was so striking they thought at first there had to be a mistake.
Make no mistake...it's happening. So, what to do? A perfect storm of factors, pun intended, has led to inaction on Washington. For one thing, as we've seen with gun violence, Washington is pretty much incapable of acting on any problem, even when it's in our face. And on climate change, you've got one party under strict orders from boss Rush Limbaugh to treat global warming as bogus.
But there's something else we can all agree on: Fighting man-made global warming is expensive. Proposed solutions such as a carbon tax or mandated re-tooling of our fossil-fuel-driven society would take money from the pocket of job creatorsbusiness and consumer aiike -- so its no surprise that support for tackling climate change tanked at the same time as the economy tanked in 2008
Two things here. Changes in the way we produce energy always takes jobs away, but it always creates them as well. (Just look at how many jobs have been created in the natural gas boom, at the same time thousands of jobs have been lost in the coal industry.) But the more important thing is this: Climate change is starting to cost Americans a lot of money.
Check two of the most popular stories in the New York Times today. First of all:
WASHINGTON — Scorching heat and the worst drought in nearly a half-century are threatening to send food prices up, spooking consumers and leading to worries about global food costs.
On Wednesday, the government said it expected the record-breaking weather to drive up the price for groceries next year, including milk, beef, chicken and pork. The drought is now affecting 88 percent of the corn crop, a staple of processed foods and animal feed as well as the nation’s leading farm export.
And there's this:
WASHINGTON — From highways in Texas to nuclear power plants in Illinois, the concrete, steel and sophisticated engineering that undergird the nation’s infrastructure are being taxed to worrisome degrees by heat, drought and vicious storms.
On a single day this month here, a US Airways regional jet became stuck in asphalt that had softened in 100-degree temperatures, and a subway train derailed after the heat stretched the track so far that it kinked — inserting a sharp angle into a stretch that was supposed to be straight. In East Texas, heat and drought have had a startling effect on the clay-rich soils under highways, which “just shrink like crazy,” leading to “horrendous cracking,” said Tom Scullion, senior research engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. In Northeastern and Midwestern states, he said, unusually high heat is causing highway sections to expand beyond their design limits, press against each other and “pop up,” creating jarring and even hazardous speed bumps.
Excessive warmth and dryness are threatening other parts of the grid as well. In the Chicago area, a twin-unit nuclear plant had to get special permission to keep operating this month because the pond it uses for cooling water rose to 102 degrees; its license to operate allows it to go only to 100. According to the Midwest Independent System Operator, the grid operator for the region, a different power plant had had to shut because the body of water from which it draws its cooling water had dropped so low that the intake pipe became high and dry; another had to cut back generation because cooling water was too warm.
This article notes that the electric utility that serves Washington, D.C., and its Maryland suburbs has been hit with five "storm of the century"-type events in the last two-and-a-half years and may have to spend billions of dollars to overhaul the power grid to cope. That's a lot of money. That's also a lot of new obs, though. Where's the money going to come from, you ask. I don't know -- where's the money coming from to pay higher food costs and for emergency road repairs or crippling power outages?
The cost of tackling climate change is scary.
The cost of doing nothing is unthinkable. But this summer, we're starting to get an idea.