When I opened my iPad and checked my weather app this morning I saw temperatures like this, beginning with today: 51, 54, 55, 56, 50, 50, 49, 50, 49, 49. Ten days of unusual warmth with no end in site, coming after several weeks of temperatures mostly in the 40s. And this at 3,000 ft elevation, at the foot of 10,000+ ft mountains, in January. This is not a typical winter.
Our Cascade snowpack, from which Oregon draws most of its water, was reportedly 32% on January 1. Since then we've had one brief storm that brought a little rain and an overnight snow of about one inch. It was gone by the following day.
I was thinking about this when I took my walk this morning. I looked at the tall pines and wondered if they would still be here a 100 years hence, or dead from heat and disease. I thought about the great reservoirs of underground water that feed the lovely Metolius and McKenzie Rivers, and pictured fishermen dropping their lines into isolated pools of stagnant water surrounded by the rocky debris of once great rivers. I passed a small herd of deer munching dead grass and thought about our little town without them.
We know that occasional weather events, like our unusual winter temperatures—here and in the east—are not evidence of global climate change. But if we're paying attention we also know that these changes have been increasing at an ever faster rate. The storms are bigger and more destructive, the temperatures more extreme. While the eastern half of the U.S. freezes, the southern hemisphere is suffering through an extended heatwave. In Australia, a hundred thousand bats have dropped dead from heat up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Parrotts, emus, and kangaroos are also dying from the heat. This is not a typical summer.
A recent report on Desmogblog.com, a popular site that tracks scientific climate research and related stories, indicates that out of 2,258 peer-reviewed climate articles by 9,136 authors, only one writer rejected man-made global warming. In a previous analysis the author, James Lawrence Powell, found that in 13,950 peer-reviewed articles between 1991 and 2012, just 24 scientists rejected global warming. He even offers his Excel spreadsheet of articles in case anyone wants to refute his analysis.
I don't want to refute it; I want to do something about it. But what? Wind and solar energy are helping (witness Germany's success with solar energy) and it appears we are driving less. But that isn't going to change things quickly enough. We're still allowing and subsidizing companies who do fracking and oil drilling. Coal is still being mined and shipped and burned. We haven't raised taxes on gasoline, or invested in clean, efficient mass transit. There's no political will to take meaningful action on this or any other problem facing us. It's beyond frustrating.
I love our planet. I love being outdoors. I love walking through wildness, listening to the quiet, and surrendering my worries to the magic of a wild river, forest, desert or seashore. Nature is one of our greatest blessings. That we have apparently withdrawn our protection of this gift leaves me deeply saddened. So what are we to do?
What are we to do?
A report at mediamatters.org today shows just how little our national media have been covering this topic. For instance, "out of a year's worth of coverage, the Sunday news shows focused on climate change for 27 minutes, the most aired since 2009." This is shameful, and incredibly irresponsible given the dire warnings of climate scientists.