Large portions of the U.S. are on fire. Record droughts currently encompass massive swaths of America. The areas not experiencing droughts have been inundated with flooding. Winter weather in many areas was almost non-existent. A few years ago, an Academy Award-winning film called “An Inconvenient Truth” warned wary Americans that all of these events would become the new normal due to climate change. But these are no longer warnings – this is the reality that we’re living in now.
It is becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore the evidence of extreme weather that surrounds all of us. And it isn’t just the United States. Every corner of the globe is experiencing the direct effects of climate change in some form or fashion. And again, we were warned that all of this was going to happen.
My hometown of Gulf Breeze, Florida feels like it's been a petri dish for climate change disaster stories. In the past month, we’ve had two separate droughts that were both ended by flash flooding. In between these events, we avoided a hit from pre-season tropical storm Debby, which turned eastward and drenched central Florida with torrential rains. Last weekend we had a heat index of 112 degrees, and I awoke this morning (again, after weeks of drought) to find half of my yard underwater due to coastal flooding.
In the U.S., the reality of climate change has certainly been an eye opener for many Americans.
This year has been like none we’ve ever seen. It began in the winter, when snowfall dropped to near-record lows, whereas the previous year had given us record amounts of snowfall. Some areas did see an increase in snowfall, but that was quickly offset by record-breaking high temperatures. Springtime also brought us record-breaking temperatures, and has now become the hottest Spring season on record. In March alone, a staggering 15,000 high-temperature records were broken. For the entire year, as of July 3rd, we’ve broken more than 40,000 high-temperature records in the U.S.
In January of this year, the U.S. witnessed at least 70 tornadoes. Since then, almost 800 additional tornadoes have been reported in the country.
And, for once, most of the media is actually paying attention. Here’s a recent piece from the Associated Press, via Huffington Post:
Among the extreme events…record-breaking wildfires in the West in the past two years, including in Colorado, where blazes recently damaged or destroyed nearly 350 homes and killed two people.
Last spring was the warmest in the Unites States since 1895, when records were first kept. For only the third time since hurricane records started in 1851, two hurricanes formed over the North Atlantic before the season officially began June 1.
Think Progress reported on several NBC affiliates that have sounded the alarm over the extreme weather events we’re seeing:
NBC Meteorologist Bill Karins said on Friday , “We’ve never really seen a heat wave like this in the month of June.” Sadly, in a few decades this will just be considered a normal June.
How hot is it? It is so hot that NBC Washington’s Chief Meteorologist, Doug Kammerer, explained on air “If we did not have global warming, we wouldn’t see this.”
The United States is parched, with more than half of the lower 48 states experiencing moderate to extreme drought, according to a report released today (July 5).
Just under 56 percent of the contiguous United States is in drought conditions, the most extensive area in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. The previous drought records occurred on Aug. 26, 2003, when 54.79 percent of the lower 48 were in drought and on Sept 10, 2002, when drought extended across 54.63 percent of this area.
There are countless stories online quoting experts who are proclaiming “this is what climate change looks like.”
But that’s just the online print world. The mainstream media is a different story all together. According to Media Matters, the idea of “climate change” has been absent from most of the reporting on the devastating wildfires that have engulfed Colorado: The major television and print outlets largely ignored climate change in their coverage of wildfires in Colorado, New Mexico and other Western states. All together, only 3 percent of the reports mentioned climate change, including 1.6 percent of television segments and 6 percent of text articles.
These findings are on par with a previous Media Matters report from earlier this year, that showed that coverage of climate change and related issues fell by 90% on Sunday morning talk shows between the years 2009 and 2011, and by 72% on nightly news programs.
The recent extreme weather events have done little to sway the hardcore climate deniers, but the American public seems to be paying attention. They are starting to realize that this is no longer an issue where we can bury our heads in the sand. Climate change is happening, and that’s the sad reality in which we now live.