When I testified before the Senate in the hot summer of 1988 , I warned of the kind of future that climate change would bring to us and our planet. I painted a grim picture of the consequences of steadily increasing temperatures, driven by mankind’s use of fossil fuels.
But I have a confession to make: I was too optimistic.
My projections about increasing global temperature have been proved true. But I failed to fully explore how quickly that average rise would drive an increase in extreme weather.
In a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures, which will be published Monday, my colleagues and I have revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present.
This is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened. Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked 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.
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. And once the data are gathered in a few weeks’ time, it’s likely that the same will be true for the extremely hot summer the United States is suffering through right now.
These weather events are not simply an example of what climate change could bring. They are caused by climate change. 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.
We're in the ghost story, as they say. Get used to 105+ degree summer days here in the Midwest, folks. Get used to 50% of the counties in America being under disaster-level drought conditions nearly every year. Expect food prices to skyrocket as farmers lose their crops year after year. 2012 is just the beginning. It's far worse than anyone thought as we're well into the first stages of global warming.
Some 24 years after global warming was predicted, the effects are now here. We wasted a generation doing nothing as our corporate masters screamed at us to obey the Almighty Profit and we rolled over. Now we will all pay, and some of us will pay dearly. And we still refuse to do anything to limit the damage.
Our children and grandchildren will never forgive us, of course. Nor do we deserve their forgiveness.