There’s a new study about climate change – and our new climate normal – which is truly shocking and, for those of us concerned about future generations, alarming.
The lead researcher’s first name is Cassandra, no doubt an unintended choice in the pecking order of the paper’s authors, but still.
For much of the past four decades, climate activists have warned us that we are approaching tipping points and thresholds that will alter the way Americans live, cost us a fortune, and kill thousands of Americans each year.
Now here we are. Our “normal” climate is dead; the weather has gone crazy, and it’s killing Americans and millions of people all over the world.
This is how quickly it happened to us: when I published the first edition of The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight in 1996 (it has been updated twice since then) there was still vigorous debate here in the United States – funded largely by the fossil fuel industry and its allies in the right-wing media – about the whether climate change was even a real thing.
They knew their product was poisoning our atmosphere, but they were making hundreds of billions of dollars. Nothing was more important to them than this money.
They and their bought politicians started believing their own lies, or at least some did, and figured that wouldn’t happen until they were all dead anyway, even if it was true .
But then it happened. The climate emergency that worried us has arrived. It’s here, now.
“Six-fold increase in historically large simultaneous heat waves in the Northern Hemisphere caused by warming and changing atmospheric circulationsis the title of the shocking new study published a few months ago in The American Meteorological Society’s Climate Journal.
Looking at statistical information on major heat waves – especially those that hit several continents at the same time – they found:
“Such simultaneous heat waves are 7 times more likely today than 40 years ago. They are also hotter and affect a larger area.
In the 1980s, the northern hemisphere experienced an average of about 73 heat waves during the summer months of May through September. By the 2010s, that number had risen to 152 heat waves per summer.
And those heat waves are also almost 20% hotter than they were the year Reagan won the presidency (and denied climate change throughout his 8 years in office funded by fossil fuels ).
One of the most startling understandings of what’s going on has only become apparent in the last decade: that the Polar Jet Stream is acting weird and thus making our extreme weather conditions more severe.
In multiple conversations with the world’s top climatologists, I’ve learned that the Polar Jet Stream – the fast-moving river of high altitude air (over 30,000 feet) that circulates around the North Pole – has slowed down, is weakened, and is beginning to “dribble” over parts of North America, going as far south as Texas.
It is, in fact, what caused the harsh winter that shut down the privatized Texas power grid last February, as well as the “bomb cyclone” ice storms that hit the Midwest. and the Northeast, and the three days of 116 degree weather we had here in the Pacific Northwest last summer.
Historically, the Polar Jet Stream was held in place – primarily in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere – by the temperature differential between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, where most Americans live (outside of northern Alaska).
Cold arctic air defined the northernmost margin of the Polar Jet Stream while warmer mid-latitude air defined its southernmost margin. Although it pushed the weather across North America for much of my life, it rarely dipped below the Mason-Dixon line and, even when it did, usually just brought hot/cold or wet/drought weather behind it for only a day or two.
But the Arctic has warmed at least three times faster than the mid-latitudes where most of us live, which means the temperature difference between the Arctic air north of the Jet Stream and our air south decreased.
The North/Arctic Pole, once a solid ice cap where Santa Claus was supposed to live, is now an open sea every summer.
As this temperature differential decreased, the strength and velocity of the Jet Stream also decreased. Now, instead of crossing the northern hemisphere, it often spreads as far south as Mexico and then stays put for days at a stretch.
What would have been a one-day cold snap or heat wave becomes days long enough to cause billions in damage to a state’s residential and energy infrastructure.
What would have been a storm lasting a few hours becomes an incessant downpour that lasts for days, creating massive flooding.
Changes to the Jet Stream, combined with the warming of our oceans (whose temperatures also determine weather patterns), have also caused what were once routine weather patterns to change.
Areas that were only dry in the summer are now experiencing drought all year round; parts of the country where flooding was occasional but rare now regularly experience massive multi-day storms that destroy homes and inundate entire regions.
Flights are getting bumpier and canceled with increasing frequency due to weather as we are only now slipping into this unknowable new era of severe weather.
It’s our new normal, and it’s costing us lives and billions of dollars every year, all to preserve the profits of a fossil fuel industry that knew in the 1960s that their product was poisoning the world and leading to this results.
But don’t think that just because it’s the new normal is that this “normal” will last. The last time our planet saw CO2 levels at their current level of 420 parts per million was 60 feet tallr and the trees were growing in Antarctica.
In other words, we are on a path, not a destination. The planet will catch up with all that CO2 and as it does, our climate will continue to get harsher and harsher until we find a way to bring CO2 levels back to 1950s levels of just over 300ppm.
Meanwhile, we are currently dumping more CO2 into the atmosphere than at any other time in human history, despite efforts by developed countries to reduce their carbon footprints.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a major kick for Europe to break free from its dependence on fossil fuels and go green, as were the high prices of oil and gas around the world.
Here in America, the Supreme Court (with 5 justices appointed by fossil fuel billionaire money) just on your knees the ability of the Biden administration to regulate CO2 and promote green energy.
And, of course, Republicans deep in the pocket of big oil, gas and coal companies continue to deny that climate change is even happening.
The top ten recipients of fossil fuel money in Congress so far This year are:
Manchin, Joe (D-WV) $724,270
McCarthy, Kevin (R-CA) $396,284
Lankford, James (R-OK) $275,148
Pfluger, August (R-TX) $268,011
Kennedy, John (R-LA) $264,788
Murkowski, Lisa (R-AK) $249,808
Sinema, Kyrsten (D-AZ) $230,160
Fletcher, Lizzie (D-TX) $191,765
Cuellar, Henry (D-TX) $191,450
Scott, Tim (R-SC) $181,291
Scalise, Steve (R-LA) $181,263
Gonzales, Tony (R-TX) $174,461
Rubio, Marco (R-FL) $165,636
Amazing how little it costs to buy off a congressman to maintain your multi-billion dollar a year profits, isn’t it?
Here is what opensecrets.org says are the main recipients throughout their career:
Romney, Mitt (R-UT) $8,291,262
Cornyn, John (R-TX) $4,678,062
Cruz, Ted (R-TX) $4,138,421
McCain, John (R-AZ) $3,766,042
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) $2,852,107
McCarthy, Kevin (R-CA) $2,581,832
Obama, Barack (D) $2,361,861
Hutchison, Kay Bailey (R-TX) $2,332,021
Inhofe, James M (R-OK) $2,320,139
Pearce, Steve (R-NM) $2,236,714
Barton, Joe (R-TX) $2,211,987
Brady, Kevin (R-TX) $2,087,396
Gardner, Cory (R-CO) $2,048,152
Gramm, Phil (R-TX) $1,858,679
Scalise, Steve (R-LA) $1,847,013
Murkowski, Lisa (R-AK) $1,792,602
Americans are dying because these paid accomplices either failed to act or actively blocked any meaningful change in our country’s climate policy. They have blood on their hands, and more are to come as each year brings more severe floods, storms and droughts.
We can no longer tolerate this criminal political misconduct.
If America is to reclaim its position as a leader and role model for the world and prevent the disastrous new climate “normal” we are entering from becoming radically more severe, we must control our use of fossil fuels.
It means ostracizing elected officials in the industry’s pocket, rolling back United Citizens so Big Oil and Coal cannot continue to bribe members of Congress and pour large subsidies into greening our energy and transportation systems.