Saturday September 12th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: The Future Is Now…Western Fires Make Nightly News Climate Crisis Headlines
Dear Diary: My jaw dropped last night when I saw Lester Holt of NBC Nightly News lead off the thirty minute newscast with climate change, mentioning the phrase in his first sentence. This is the first time I have witnessed this to my recollection. During the first segment of NBC Nightly News Al Roker, the networks primary on camera meteorologist, linked current awful western conflagrations to the climate crisis. I applause NBC and other networks making the connection, starting off their newscasts with this story, but we know as climate scientists that the connection should have been made, leading off newscasts as early as the 1980s.
Just before most media decided to cover the California fires in earnest in Friday September 11th, we continued to see this, though:
My question is that since the media is only now waking up to the problem because of the current western crisis in which whole towns are being wiped, is it too late? It doesn’t surprise me that climate change is getting traction in the media when there is a current very obvious connection between the western fires and carbon pollution. We as humans are very reactionary and are not that proactive. On top of the western fires we probably will have a quickly forming Hurricane Sally in the Gulf of Mexico early next week. I’ll have more notes on that in my news feed links below this main topic of the day.
Yesterday I read many a news article linking the fires with the climate crisis. I’ve picked the following Guardian article as a good example of how print media, which has been far more out front than television on climate:
The future has arrived. These explosive fires are our climate change wakeup call
Scientists have been warning of the growing threat of climate change, and now those projections are a reality
Like millions of people in the western United States this week, I woke up to deep red, sunless skies, layers of ash coating the streets, gardens, and cars, and the smell of burning forests, lives, homes, and dreams. Not to be too hyperbolic, but on top of the political chaos, the economic collapse, and the worst pandemic in modern times, it seemed more than a little apocalyptic.
Too much of the western United States is on fire, and many areas not suffering directly from fire are enveloped in choking, acrid smoke.
While fires in the west are not unusual or unexpected, these fires are different: they’re earlier, bigger, and hotter than usual. They are expanding explosively, overwhelming towns and firefighting resources. And there’s no getting away from them. As of Thursday evening, five of the ten largest wildfires in California’s history are burning. Seven of the 10 largest fires have occurred in the last four years. This isn’t normal.
We’re reaping the consequences of more than a century of using the thin, delicate layer of atmosphere that surrounds the planet as a dumping ground for the major waste product of burning fossil fuels – carbon dioxide. For more than half a century, scientists have been warning of the growing threat of climate change. My own work on climate and water 35 years ago found that rising temperatures would alter California’s snowpack, water availability, and soil moisture in ways we’re now seeing in our mountains and rivers. In the early 1990s, scientists such as Margaret Torn, Jeremy Fried, Kevin Ryan, Colin Price, and others were evaluating the risks of increases in western wildfire areas and intensity under scenarios of climate change. The National Climate Assessments required by federal law have regularly warned that worsening fires were a likely future consequence of accelerating climate change.
Projections have turned to reality. The future has arrived. What we’re seeing now, with massive wildfires, worsening storms, unprecedented heat, and record droughts and floods is just the beginning of the climate changes to come. On top of rising oceans, the accelerating destruction of the Arctic ice cap, expanding water crises, and new health disasters, these climate impacts are something no human society has ever experienced and for which we remain woefully unprepared.
I’m not arguing any individual disaster has been caused by climate change, though the science is strengthening on that as well. I’m saying we are now seeing the unambiguous influence of climate change on these disasters. What used to be considered acts of God are now also acts of humans. Hurricanes such as Harvey in 2017 are stronger and they’re delivering more devastating floods. Heat waves are happening earlier and they’re longer and hotter than they used to be. California just experienced its hottest August on record including what may have been the hottest temperature ever recorded, in Death Valley. The wildfires, as we’ve seen, are turning into fierce, fearsome, monsters.
What we’re seeing now is just the beginning of the climate changes to come
The influence of climate change on wildfires is easy to see. Global warming is diminishing our mountain snowpack, leading to hotter and drier summers. Eighty percent of California, 95% of Oregon, and all of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico are currently in drought. Severe droughts over the past decade have killed hundreds of millions of trees in our forests, adding to the fuels available to burn. Higher temperatures further dry out forest and rangeland soils. Unusual lightning storms are igniting multiple fires at a time, overwhelming our ability to squelch them early.
We’re not alone. The wildfire signal of climate change is being seen around the world, in southern Europe, Canada, Australia, South America, and Africa, and other climate-change impacts are accelerating too, in the form of storms, melting glaciers, rising seas, and more.
More and more scientists are speaking out about the connections between these disasters and climate change. The media is slowly getting better at reporting these links, though too many stories still fail to do so.
It is also time for our politicians to lead or get out of the way. For decades both major political parties in the US ignored the climate problem, putting off decisions for the next generation and permitting the rich and powerful fossil fuel interests to hide, misrepresent, and deny the science and the threat. And the claim that the cost of tackling climate change is too high is complete crap. The reality is the cost of failing to address the problem is so much higher.
We have no more time to twiddle our collective thumbs. The bad news is that the long delay in tackling climate change means that some severe impacts, like the fires we’re seeing now, are no longer avoidable and we must begin the process of adapting to them. We must, at the same time, accelerate the complete elimination of fossil-fuel combustion to slow the rate of future climate changes and prevent even worse, potentially catastrophic impacts from occurring.
The good news is that we know how to do both things. Adaptation options include changing zoning laws, forest management, construction practices and building materials, insurance policies, and public health strategies. And the amazingly fast growth in renewable energy options and the dramatic plunge in their costs means that it makes economic as well as well as environmental sense to get rid of fossil fuels.
The links between human-caused climate change and extreme events are real, dangerous, and worsening. But now that we’re beginning to accept and acknowledge those links, now that the public is increasingly aware of the problem, now that at least one political party has embraced the need to act, we have a chance to break these links. There is no time to waste.
- Peter Gleick is a hydroclimatologist, member of the US National Academy of Sciences, MacArthur Fellow, and choking, gasping Californian
The day after the election …
… the US withdraws from the Paris climate accord, on 4 November. Five years ago nearly 200 countries committed to a collective global response to tackle the climate crisis. But when Donald Trump took office he announced that the US would leave the Paris agreement. On the one issue that demands a worldwide response to help safeguard the Earth for future generations, the US has chosen to walk away. The president is playing politics with the climate crisis – the most defining issue of our time.
The stakes could scarcely be higher and with your help we can put this issue at the center of our 2020 election coverage. The election will be a referendum on the future of democracy, racial justice, the supreme court and so much more. But hovering over all of these is whether the US will play its role in helping take collective responsibility for the future of the planet.
The period since the Paris agreement was signed has seen the five hottest years on record. If carbon emissions continue substantial climate change is unavoidable. The most impacted communities will also be the most vulnerable. Instead of helping lead this discussion the White House prefers to roll back environmental protections to placate the fossil fuel industry.
High-quality journalism that is grounded in science will be critical for raising awareness of these dangers and driving change. You’ve read more than 22 articles in the last year. Because we believe every one of us deserves equal access to fact-based news and analysis, we’ve decided to keep Guardian journalism free for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. This is made possible thanks to the support we receive from readers across America in all 50 states. If you can, support the Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.Support The GuardianRemind me in October
Here is more information on the current western wildfires. The most current and pressing news from Saturday is at the top of this list:
Here is more climate and weather news from Saturday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.)
Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”