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July 13, 2018

Drivers of disbelief


July 13, 2018

The last few days of June 2018 saw most people in the United States sweltering in an epic heat wave. High temperatures were uniformly between 90 and 110 degrees in a mind-boggling 17 states. Heat indices in parts of the East and Midwest approached 120 degrees. Heat Advisories or Excessive Heat Warning were issued by the National Weather Service for all or parts of 21 states. Hazardously poor air quality arising from the reaction of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides with sunlight and heat compounded the agony in 9 states.

On top of this, catastrophic drought gripped the southwestern US, largely the product of a devastatingly dry winter. Snowpack during the winter of 2017-2018 in mountains south of a line running roughly through mid-Nevada, Utah, and Colorado was nearer 0 percent than 100 percent of normal – hardly worth even being called ‘snowpack’.

And virtuous Americans were not the only ones suffering. Near-record heat and drought was scorching northern Europe, fanning peat fires in England. Plus an all-time record minimum temperature of 109 degrees was recorded amidst the baseline excessive heat of Oman.

Meanwhile, the northern Rocky Mountains, where I live, was basking in near-normal June temperatures while being bathed in near 170 percent of normal rainfall – a factoid that will no doubt be seized upon by people obsessed with denying the reality of human-driven climate warming.

But climate warming is real, as is the role of humans. All of the recent weather patterns we’ve been experiencing – locally, as well as globally – are precisely what climate scientists have predicted will accompany climate warming. Extremes will amplify, especially of heat, storms, seasonal precipitation, and drought. But these extremes will be – and have been – piggy-backed on a steady increase in average annual and seasonal temperatures going back to the 1980s, with increases greatest for minimum daily temperatures.

I am in good company when I invoke this evidence and unambiguously assert the reality of climate warming. Contrary to the claims of conservative demagogues, there is near unanimity about the reality of human-driven climate warming among scientists who have studied climate and climate change. In fact, more than 95 percent of such scientists agree on this fact. And to claim that such consensus is the result of a conspiracy requires either mind-boggling ignorance about the nature of scientific inquiry or highly disturbing and deeply sinister motives. Yet roughly 30 percent of Americans don’t believe that climate warming is happening and/or that recent warming is largely caused by human activities.

Interestingly, this is roughly the same percentage of American adults who offer Trump their unwavering support.

Scientists of all sorts, but especially those studying climate, are confounded and distressed by the fact that there are so many doubters among American adults, and that so many more, even among believers, dismiss the consequences of unfolding climate change and are unwilling to make the radical changes needed to avert a catastrophe, not just for humans, but for all life on Earth.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘The Sinister Underbelly of Climate Change Denial’.


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