0

ROBINSON: Global warming is here to stay

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON -- Excuse me, folks, but the weather is trying to tell us something. Listen carefully, and you can almost hear a parched, raspy voice whispering, "What part of 'hottest month ever' do you people not understand?"

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July was indeed the hottest month in the contiguous United States since record-keeping began more than a century ago. That distinction was previously held by July 1936, which came at the height of the Dust Bowl calamity that devastated the American heartland.

The average temperature last month was 77.6 degrees -- a full 3.3 degrees warmer than the 20th-century norm for July. This follows the warmest 12-month period ever recorded in the United States, and it continues a long-term trend that is obvious to all except those who stubbornly close their eyes: Of the 10 hottest years on record, nine have occurred since 2000.

James E. Hansen, who heads NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, summed it up in a piece he wrote for The Washington Post last week: "The future is now. And it is hot."

Hansen wrote that when he testified before Congress in 1988 and painted a "grim picture" of the consequences of climate change, he was actually being too optimistic. His projections of how rapidly temperatures would rise were accurate, he wrote, but he "failed to fully explore how quickly that average rise would drive an increase in extreme weather."

Yes, scientists are finally asserting a direct connection between long-term climate trends and short-term weather events. This was always a convenient dodge for climate change deniers. There might be a warming trend over decades or centuries, they would say, but no specific heat wave, hurricane or hailstorm could definitively be attributed to climate change.

"To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change," Hansen wrote. "The deadly European heat wave of 2003, the fiery Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change."

Hansen went on, "The odds that natural variability created these extremes are minuscule, vanishingly small. To count on those odds would be like quitting your job and playing the lottery every morning to pay the bills."

If you won the lottery yesterday, feel free to stop reading. If you didn't, stick with me a bit longer.

The other escape hatch for deniers is the question of why the Earth's atmosphere is warming. Yes, there may be climate change, this argument goes, but we know there have been Ice Ages in the past and other big temperature variations. What we're witnessing is due to natural processes -- perhaps some long-term cycle we are too feeble to comprehend. You can't prove that human activity, specifically the burning of fossil fuels, is to blame.

A Gallup poll last year found that this view -- essentially, "You can't pin it on our SUVs" -- has been gaining traction in this country, even as it has become discredited elsewhere. Between 2007 and 2010, the percentage of U.S. adults who believed human activity contributed to warming declined from 60 percent to 48 percent.

I wrote a column last fall when University of California at Berkeley physicist Richard Muller, one of the leading skeptics on climate change, reversed field and announced that his own careful research indicated the atmosphere is, indeed, warming rapidly. Last week, Muller announced in The New York Times that "I'm now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause."

Muller, who heads the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, wrote that he and his team tried correlating the observed warming with phenomena such as solar activity and volcanic eruptions. "By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide," he wrote.

The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising because of human activity -- the burning of fossil fuels. The more we burn, Muller wrote, the faster the atmosphere will warm.

And the crazier the weather will get.

We can't do anything about the greenhouse gases we've already spewed into the atmosphere, but we can minimize the damage we do in the future. We can launch a serious initiative to develop and deploy alternative sources of energy. We can decide what kind of environment we leave to our grandchildren.

I'd like to hear President Obama and Mitt Romney talk about the future of the planet. What about you?

Eugene Robinson's email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.

Comments

NewsReader 2 years, 4 months ago

Robinson, what part of "we don't buy it" do you not understand?

0

mtkacik 2 years, 4 months ago

Robinson, explain the dust bowl of the 1930s. Can't, can you?

0

gwinnettisgreat1 2 years, 4 months ago

I hope Robinson is working on, "How Obama got cheated in the vote". It will almost be as funny as reading this global warming nonsense.

More Democratic, left wing, dog squeeze.

0

Say_that_again 2 years, 4 months ago

NewsReader and gwinnettisgreat1: Yes, I do appreciate your attempt at sarcasm. Unfortunately, because both of you have such a reputation for ignoring facts, most people will just think you are just uneducated and prefer to live in your own world instead of learning anything new.

0

NewsReader 2 years, 4 months ago

Seriously moron? Uneducated? I have more than one college degree, and I'm not even going to go beyond my undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Don't talk to me about facts. It is something Engineers and Scientists are profoundly familiar with unlike the bulk of the general population such as yourself. Fortunately for us, you don't get to decide what our reputation is. Our colleagues do. As for me, I'm perfectly satisfied with my reputation, both within the community and my peers. You? Not so much! You assuredly have to be as much an idiot in private as you are in public.

0

Say_that_again 2 years, 4 months ago

Sorry, just explaining what most people would think about some of your responses. If you are familiar with facts then why do you resort to childish insults instead of arguing the facts? How does your familiarity with the science of electricity make you an expert in climate change? My major at Ga Tech was physics and am familiar with electrical engineering, have even done consulting work in electrical engineering. Assuming you have some concept of the scientific method, please put forth some evidence that climate change is not occurring or that the pollution of man is not contributing to the problem. I hope you can come up with something more intelligent than kevin's regurgitation of extremists talking points. Why do you know more than scientists that work in the field of weather and climate change? If your peers ridicule scientific evidence, then you should strive for a higher class of peers.

1

NewsReader 2 years, 4 months ago

First of all, I don’t care what most people think. For the most part, what they think is irrelevant and stupid anyway. Second, if a million people believe in a dumb idea, it’s still a dumb idea. I don’t bother to debate or argue with the likes of you, Jan, or LarryMajor, quite frankly, because doing so is as useful as beating a dead horse, arguing with a posted sign, and it is a waste of my time. Evidence doesn’t work for those of you that can’t distinguish the difference between fact and fiction. You people don’t get it, and by all accounts, will never get it. So what! You majored in physics. When did you drop out? I’m not going to go beyond this as it pertains to climate change. The data regarding climate change suggests that these scientists you are referring to claim that over the last, oh let’s give them a whopping 1 million years, out of a generally accepted and assumed age of the earth of 4.5 Billion years is a representative sample of climate change. That represents 0.02% of the lifecycle of the planet. A 0.02% sample is so far removed as irrefutable evidence, and at best, is a WAG! And for that, I don’t have to be an expert in climate change, but an expert in math. Do I think man is polluting the planet? Absolutely! Do I think it has the impact of climate change? No! We need to be good stewards of our planet, but not because of a bunch of imbeciles that jump on the global warming bandwagon in much the same way they did so for global cooling in the 70s. Nonetheless, if you truly believe that we are making such an impact, then get rid of your low mileage vehicles, put in a super energy efficient HVAC system, reinsulate your house and create a vapor barrier, and recycle everything that is recyclable. That is what I am doing with a zone controlled Geothermal HVAC system, Icynene for insulation, and a recycle rate of three to one. And all of that energy efficiency I did well before anybody thought it was cool to do so in the early 1990s. Were you preaching that same tune then or is this another of your precious progressive causes du jour? You are just another of the several troll of a liberal windbags in here with an agenda as your historical comments have so demonstrated. I’m done with you. Have a nice day!

0

Say_that_again 2 years, 4 months ago

Didn't mean to run up your blood pressure. I agree with you that pollution is bad for other reasons and should be reduced so it does not matter whether your primary motivation is climate change, general health or acid rain. The results are the same and that is what matters. I too work for lowering my carbon footprint and believe people driving low mileage vehicles should examine their priorities. You have put forth no evidence that man is not contributing to climate change and scientists have provided plenty of evidence that we are carbon emissions have a major adverse effect on the climate of the world. I will continue to believe the scientific studies rather than the industries that benefit from our consumption of fossil fuels. Climate changes of the past millenniums that were primarily caused by volcanic action and large meteorite showers in no way lets man off the hook for his responsibility in today's deterioration of the health of the planet.

0

LilburnGwinnett 2 years, 4 months ago

Say that again, as you can see NewsReader can't come up with facts only with insults. I thought conservatives were supposed to be civilized (that's what conservative radio host Dennis Prager thinks everyone should be). By all means debate but don't resort to insults. I pay close attention to what a climate scientist has to say because, after all, they have an advanced education and the experience. The fact Richard Muller has re-considered his position is very telling.

0

kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

There is no global warming caused by human beings. Have you ever noticed when the weather man announces a recoding-breaking heat day how old the previous record was? "We broke a record from 1936! There were a lot less people in 1939 than there is today folks. Humans are not causing this. Haven't the stupid Liberals figured it out yet? The Earth has its own mind and makes changes whenever it wants to. Anyone ever read about the Ice Age or some other drastic weather change over the past million years?

Robinson needs to find something else to do then to write articles for the GDP. It is killing this paper. He does provide a good laugh better than the comics page!!

0

Dubbin 2 years, 4 months ago

Here's the deal - nobody knows if global warming is real or not or whether it is people, solar flares or anything else causing it. What we should do is be as energy efficient as possible so we can save money, be more self reliant, and keep our environment as free from toxins as possible. And the fossil fuels we do use should be produced HERE so we don't send billions per year to the weird beards who want to blow us up! This all makes complete sense no matter what you think of the science.

0

FactChecker 2 years, 4 months ago

For those that question climate change or man's involvement in it, here is one of the latest articles with supporting information. http://www.procon.org/headline.php?headlineID=005107 After reading this article, click on their "home" and find "climate change" under Science and technology. Here you will find a page with pro and con arguments and references to research each side uses to support their argument. You should note that the discussion is not whether global warming occurs but how much the activities of man contribute to the problem. The scientific evidence that climate change is occurring is overwhelming and should not be ignored.

0

LilburnGwinnett 2 years, 4 months ago

The national science academies of all the major industrialized nations recognize global warming as the product of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases due to human activity.

1

Sign in to comment