Let’s not disclaim our fossil fuel addiction
Saying we can't tie any individual heat wave to long-term climate trends is as reckless as saying we can't tie an individual case of lung cancer to a two pack-a-day smoking habit.
By Kimberly Larson
Coal trains derail because of extreme heat. Oil companies drill previously inaccessible oil because the ice has melted. And with the recent rash of extreme weather, some journalists like Bryan Walsh and Seth Borenstein are finally saying what we know is true: global warming is happening.
Americans are dripping in the heat, breathing in smoke from fires, talking about the weather around the kitchen table, knowing this isn’t how it used to be. We now live in the global-warming future, with once-unimaginable droughts, hurricanes, forest fires and floods, crazy rain and “Snowmaggedons.”
But too many people who have the responsibility to mobilize Americans to fight the climate threat are trapped in a “CYA” mentality. Even a great opinion piece in the Washington Post last week included the disclaimer that no one event can be blamed on climate change.
Can we say that this heat wave, that flood or one forest fire can be caused by global warming? Or do we need to say the dreaded disclaimer that starts with “no one weather event can be attributed. . .”? Should we just stick to analogies of more carbon is like “loading the dice” to hit extreme weather jackpots more often, or being like “steroids” increasing the likelihood of more homeruns?
As Forecast the Facts' Brad Johnson e-mailed me, saying that we can't tie any individual heat wave to long-term climate trends is as reckless as saying we can't tie an individual case of lung cancer to a two pack-a-day smoking habit. This was echoed by NRDC this week.
Now today, a new poll by Stanford University and the Washington Post shows that “most Americans say they believe temperatures around the world are going up and that weather patterns have become more unstable in the past few years.” We need to follow Anna Fahey’s first rule of talking about extreme weather and climate change: Talk About It.
I’m tired of disclaimers since they’re just that: disclaiming. Disclaiming runs the risk of undermining urgency, especially when people are connecting the dots and know that climate change is happening and they want it to stop. We need to "get it right" by making it right.
And here’s the other key part to the new poll: Americans also see “future warming as something that can be addressed, and majorities want government action across a range of policies to curb energy consumption.”
We need to demand that elected leaders stop putting a finger up to see which ways the winds are blowing on the issue of climate change. It’s not just temperatures that are rising, but also Americans desire for action. Changing the future means rolling up our sleeves, standing up to some big fossil fuel bullies and continuing to support and engage in the hard work to build the clean-energy economy.