Hot? Dumb question. Unless you work in an ice factory, movie theater, or chilly data center, you know you are. Last month was the warmest July in the continental U.S. on the record books, capping the warmest 12-month period the U.S. has experienced since 1895 when record keeping began. Despite being engaged in a relatively young science, climatologists have already started teasing out the fingerprints of climate change from the data logs of last year's record drought that turned the state of Texas into a tinderbox. Separate studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, and NASA's James Hansen have all concluded that climate change exacerbated the drought with added heat. And the projections? They don't look good. Some researchers have found that if greenhouse gases continue unrestrained that much of the world will become uninhabitable: people will simply not be able to sweat enough to regulate their internal thermostats. Which brings me to the Texas Republican Party's plea for "protection" from "extreme environmentalists" as expressed in the 2012 party platform.
"We STILL hold these truths to be self-evident," the party opens matters in a riff on the U.S. Declaration of Independence, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." But where is the right to life in their fight to block the regulation of greenhouse gases expected to collectively raise the planet's temperature by seven degrees or more this century?
On the whole, the predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have trended to the conservative side of the street: droughts have come harder and temps have risen faster than expected. Now a paper published in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Hydrometeorology focused on drought in the U.S. and Mexico suggests much worse is ahead than the popular read of most existing climate models suggests: think Dust-Bowl-style droughts becoming the year-to-year norm by the later part of this century. "The situation is compounded in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean as precipitation is robustly projected to decrease because of the expansion of the tropics (technically the expansion of the Hadley Circulation)," Michael Wehner, one of the key authors of "Projections of Future Drought in the Continental United States and Mexico," wrote the Current by email. "In the U.S., a lot of the increased drought would be due to increased evaporation." But in Texas climate change also means declining precipitation: 10 to 20 percent, by some estimates.
In case you need a preview of this future climate, look outside your window. The USDA has declared more than half of the United States to be a drought-ravaged disaster area. This is what climatologists suggest will become the "new normal." I don't know about you, but I watch all of this happening and then read the Texas Republican Party platform pleading for the dismantling of the U.S. EPA and I have to shake my head in dismay. Which position could possibly be more "extreme": calling for the rapid re-organization of our energy infrastructure to stave off the worst of the wrath building up in our atmosphere and acidifying ocean, or the call to dismantle and dismiss the agency with the regulatory authority to potentially slow the spread of this global fire?
One thing is for certain: anyone still claiming global warming/climate change to be a "hoax" can only be accurately described as either dishonest or scientifically ignorant. And most of the later, I'm afraid, are willfully so. Among that number, I suspect, falls the new extremist Texas Republican Party.
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