The cumulative effect of weather-related disasters in Canada, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, New York, Germany, Belgium and elsewhere sends a clear message: Time is up.
Heat wave brings record highs to Pacific Northwest, residents react
Cities like Seattle and Portland are seeing record-setting temperatures.
Associated Press, USA TODAY
The shocking extreme weather of late comes as no surprise to scientists who warned for decades that we are heading toward climate catastrophe.
“These extremes are something we knew were coming,” Christian conservative and climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe recently told the Washington Post. “The suffering that is here and now is because we have not heeded the warnings sufficiently.”
Those warnings go back to 1988 when Iowa native and then-NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen testified before Congress that ”we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming.”
The “greenhouse effect” Hansen referred to is the additional carbon dioxide humans have emitted by burning fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution. As more CO2 accumulates, more heat is trapped in the atmosphere. The summer of 2021 is providing an unwelcome glimpse of the hellish future that awaits future generations.
In the Pacific Northwest, the village of Lytton in British Columbia hit 121 degrees Fahrenheit, then burned up in a fire. Portland, Oregon, reached 115 degrees. On June 28, the temperature soared to 108 degrees in Seattle, a city where only 44% of households are air conditioned.
Nearly 200 deaths in Oregon and Washington state have been attributed to the heat wave.
I recently experienced Western wildfires from a distance, as while on a road trip through Glacier National Park, our views of the landscape were invariably hazy. We hiked in 88-degree weather and saw waterfalls swollen by rapid snowmelt.
Scientists have confirmed what is intuitively obvious: A direct link exists between the recent heat wave and climate change. A group of 26 scientists called World Weather Attribution said such extreme heat “would have been virtually impossible without climate change.” While it was a rare event, such extremes may be more common if global warming continues unabated.
While the West has roasted, in the eastern U.S. and western Europe, torrential rainfall has unleashed deadly and destructive floods. New York City, Detroit, Germany and Belgium are among the most publicized locations this summer.
The unprecedented rainfall causing these floods is partially attributable to warmer air that holds and eventually discharges more water. Scientists are also looking at changes in the jet stream, caused by global warming, that are making weather patterns linger longer, increasing the damage.
The cumulative effect of these weather-related disasters sends a clear message: Time is up to address climate change. Signs of hope emerged recently as the budget reconciliation process kicked off in Congress.
The budget blueprint contains measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of cutting those emissions in half within 10 years. To reach that target, the budget reconciliation bill must include the essential tool most effective in reducing carbon pollution: a robust price on carbon.
Several bills have been introduced to set a strong price on carbon and protect American families economically by giving carbon fee revenue to households. These bills would also protect American businesses with a carbon border adjustment mechanism on imports from nations that do not have an equivalent price on carbon. The budget reconciliation proposal includes such a carbon border tax. In order to comply with World Trade Organization rules, the U.S. would likely need a domestic carbon price to impose a levy at the border.
We thank Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Joni Ernst and Rep. Ashley Hinson for supporting the recently passed Growing Climate Solutions Act, which will support farmers in implementing more sustainable and resilient agricultural practices. To ensure that the indispensable tool of carbon pricing is included in upcoming legislation, please contact them to also support a price on carbon. You can call the senators at 202-224-3121 or email them from their websites. Remind them that the border carbon adjustment will protect American businesses.
Recent extreme-weather disasters underscore that we are running out of time to address climate change. Congress needs to go big on solutions, now.
Leslie Sand is a volunteer with the northeast Iowa chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Mark Reynolds is the executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
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