Gene Lyons examines the terrible costs of denying climate change in his new column, “The Terrible Victory Of Global Warming Deniers:”
At the expense of being tedious, from a climatological perspective, 2011 was a real killer—both figuratively and literally. If not quite so hot as 2010, which tied 1998 for the warmest in recorded history, it’s likely to end up among the top ten, all occurring over the past fifteen years according to the World Meteorological Organization.
Extreme weather plagued much of the world. Drought in East Africa has caused mass starvation; catastrophic floods came to Thailand, southern Africa and Australia. Winter temperatures across Russia averaged 4 degrees Celsius (roughly 9 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. Arctic sea ice was the second lowest on record.
Closer to home, extreme drought and wildfires turned Texas and adjacent southwestern states into a living hell last summer. In Texas alone, 3 million acres burned up. Conditions haven’t improved much since. Cattlemen wonder if their way of life can be sustained there very much longer. F5 Tornadoes destroyed huge swaths of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Joplin, Missouri. In August, Vermont and upstate New York suffered record hurricane damage—Vermont!
So what else is new? When it comes to climate change, it appears that the stronger the evidence, the weaker the response. Recent United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa accomplished little but to postpone things until 2015. Then negotiators will try to devise what the Washington Post called “global climate pact with legal force, applying to all nations.”
What with China, India and the United States resisting binding limits to greenhouse gas emissions, the odds seem remote that can happen.