Hot month, hot topics
July 2019, the hottest month ever! July will be the hottest recorded month on earth, topping the previous record set in July 2017. It follows the hottest June in the 140 years of record keeping, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Nine of the ten hottest Junes have occurred since 2010, and the first six months of this year indicate 2019 will probably become the second-hottest year.
Heat waves kill more Americans than any other type of weather event. Excessive heat and humidity can damage internal organs, including the kidneys and the brain, and can cause heatstroke or even heart failure. Heat waves like the one we just experienced – multiday periods during which temperatures barely go down overnight – can be especially deadly because people without air conditioning at home can’t open their windows and cool off while they sleep.
Thirty years ago, then-NASA scientist James Hansen testified before the Senate Energy committee and warned the country about the threat of global warming. Hansen made three key points: First, the Earth has gotten warmer. Second, it’s so warm that the trend was almost certainly due to the greenhouse effect, which is enhanced by emissions of gases like carbon dioxide and methane from the burning of fossil fuels. Third, as a result, summer heat waves and other extreme weather events will become more common – as they have. In the 30-year period prior to Hansen’s testimony, the Earth’s surface was, on average, less than 0.2°F warmer than the 20th-century average. In the 30 years since, the planet’s surface has, on average, undergone a six-fold temperature increase.
How can anyone deny that the earth’s climate is changing, that the globe is warming? Last year, the Trump administration released the 1,000-page second volume of the fourth congressionally-mandated National Climate Assessment of the impact of climate change on the United States. It is the product of 300 scientific experts under the guidance of a 60-member federal advisory committee, and was open to review by the public, 13 federal agencies, and a panel at the National Academy of Sciences. The assessment concluded that climate change could cost the United States billions of dollars annually within decades if greenhouse gases aren’t dramatically reduced. “Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.”
Climate-change deniers cite uncertainty as a reason for not addressing climate change, but the longer we go without addressing it, the harder it will be to cut emissions and avert major impacts.
The late Senator Ted Kennedy once said, “We should stop the non-scientific, pseudo-scientific, and anti-scientific nonsense emanating from the right wing, and start demanding immediate action to reduce global warming and prevent catastrophic climate change that may be on our horizon now. We must not let the [right wing] distort science and rewrite and manipulate scientific reports in other areas. We must not let it turn the Environmental Protection Agency into the Environmental Pollution Agency.”
Maybe the scientists are wrong or exaggerating the problem. But they may be right, and I’d rather not have to explain to my grandchildren why we allowed their world to suffer as a result of our collective failure to act.
Who’s badmouthing America? The president who took office with an inaugural address decrying “American carnage” now says it’s unpatriotic to speak ill of the country. Complaining about our country? Love it or leave it! Yet during his campaign, he also said “Our country has become so politically correct that it has lost all sense of direction or purpose.” “Our country and our ‘leaders’ are getting dumber all the time.” “How stupid has our once respected country become!” “Did you ever think our country would become an economic basket case?” “Have you ever seen our country look weaker or more pathetic...” “Our country is looking very bad right now!” “Do you really believe our once great country can continue to survive with incompetent leadership? The answer is no and we better move fast!”
Does he really believe his administration, with its revolving door for acting secretaries (of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, Interior, Health and Human Services, etc.) and dozens of staffers (too many to list in this column) has “fixed” everything as he promised?
Is the deficit shrinking? My favorite Trump quote is, “President Obama has almost doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion, and growing. And yet, what do we have to show for it? Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in Third World condition, and forty-three million Americans are on food stamps.” This from a president who inherited a budget deficit in 2016 of $587 billion and proceeded to run up a deficit in 2017 of $779 billion and $896 billion in 2018, adding trillions to a national debt he promised to eliminate. Under Obama, annual deficits fell from more than $1 trillion in 2011 to about $400 billion in 2015.