Fearsome, if mysterious, images of climate change: On the left, Greenland's surface ice on July 8, 2012. On the right, July 12. The composite images from three NASA satellites show that the extent of summer melt accelerated from 40 percent of the surface to 97 percent in four days. Most of the thick ice below remains, but scientists say the breadth and speed of the surface melt was unprecedented, and thus far unexplained. (AP Photo/Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, SSAI/NASA GSFC, and Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory) AP
Hoo-boy, been something of a scorcher, no? As you might have guessed, Earth to Philly kind of took the summer off. Hey, it was just too hot to blog!
And even though a weather-climate correlation should always be heavily qualified (and never are by the "Omigod, a snowstorm! So much for global warming!" crowd), it's getting harder and harder to ignore the day-to-day situation that suggests a larger trend.
July 2012 was the hottest month ever recorded in the contiguous United States. During that month, the surface ice in Greenland disappeared so quickly that slackjawed scientists are still scratching their heads over how such a thing could be possible. And Richard Muller, one of the most prominent voices for what may be politely termed climate-change "skepticism" has loudly proclaimed that he was 100% wrong - the planet is indeed warming, he says, and "humans are almost entirely the cause."
Still, as we approach a cliff of no-turning-back finality, there's a distinct lack of public discourse about what needs to happen soon to avoid such a point. Earth to Philly will keep hammering away to help get this message out, but ours is a tiny (and shrill?) voice compared to who we need to hear from: At the very least, Romney and Obama should be making bold policy prescriptions that explicitly address this crisis with urgent foresight.
For Romney, tiptoeing around the issue makes perfect sense, given the large number of GOP power brokers who are as steadfast about the "hoax" of climate change as about the hoax of evolution. But Obama, who ran on explicit promises to green the presidency, is still making relatively small steps and carrying them out quietly, a pattern that can hardly be called "leadership" on the issue.
Whoever wins in November, the problem isn't going to go away. And 54.5-mile-a-gallon cars in 20 years is a tiny, if laudable, stopgap for something we must address on many levels, and in many arenas at once. For that we are going to need leaders who can inspire true change.
And what sort of change would that be, exactly? Well, there's one that's inescapable sooner or later, but we can't wait till later. We need to be generating meaningful discussions about this right now.