Summer 2012 is breaking all sorts of records. On the bright side, one benefit of extreme weather is that it wakes people up to the fact the climate is changing. Record high summer temperatures gripping most of the continental U.S. and severe drought conditions appear to be helping Americans connect the dots between climate change and their daily life. The big question, however, remains: what are we going to do about it?
In a recent poll conducted by the Washington Post and Stanford University, six in 10 say global weather patterns have become unstable in the past three years and almost as many say average temperatures were higher during the past three years than previously. The poll went on to say that “55% said a ‘great deal’ or ‘good amount’ can be done to reduce future global warming. At the same time, 60% of those polled say it will be extremely or very difficult for people to stop [global warming].” Interestingly, two-thirds of those polled mentioned that they want the United States to be a world leader addressing [global warming], even if other major industrial countries do not pitch in.”
So why is the U.S. still dragging its feet when it comes to swift and overarching climate policy? The Washington Post and Stanford University poll clearly indicate that more Americans are aware of and concerned about climate change than mainstream news media sources may lead you to believe. Not only that, these figures suggest Americans want something done about it. Still, extreme weather shouldn’t be the only factor that “convinces” the public that global warming is real; weather patterns can shift and we’ve all seen the fickle mentality that comes when weather returns to “normal.”
Climate models are much longer term and are composed of weather events over time, so even if weather returns to something a bit more familiar next summer (unlikely), that doesn’t necessarily mean the overall climate is stable. This fact is ultimately what fuels the climate “debate” that has been fed to the public by sources like the Koch Brothers and Fox News who continue to deny the existence and severity of climate change – and therefore stall abatement — in order to maintain financial and political interests.
Even so, it’s not just the weather that’s troubling, it’s the domino effect. Meteorologists call for the drought presently afflicting the U.S. Midwest, the drought said to be the worst in a quarter of a century, to “worsen, taking a bigger toll on the country’s corn and soybean crops.” This, in turn, will significantly impact livestock and meat production across the nation (most of the corn and soybean crop being impacted isn’t used for human consumption). Furthermore, there is water scarcity. Reservoirs and watersheds are drying up with so much heat and so little rain that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared “over 1,000 counties in 26 states as disaster areas — the largest declaration in history — as a result of the recent drought, wildfires and other extreme weather events…”
All of this information can feel utterly depressing and debilitating, but the positive flip-side is reflected in the above mentioned poll: the majority of Americans want something done to address climate change. The unfortunate news is that climate change is already happening, yet we continue to live our lives the same way we always have. Debating the existence of climate change is frankly a waste of time at this point and seeing is believing. Let’s just hope this polling trend continues so we can take positive, swift action against climate change as a country and as a united global community.
Photo Credit: Diego Moya