The Thinker

Recipe for extinction

Last winter, during our record snowstorms here in the East, various Republicans and climate skeptics took advantage of the extreme weather to tout that global warming was not happening. After all, what could be more convincing that a couple double-digit snowfalls? They had a good time with it and the media shamefully went along. Politicians in general seem anxious to deny the reality of global warming. The Senate seems unable to do anything to move legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, meaning instead being a leader on the global warming issue, the United States prefers the role of laggard. At this point, I would be happy if we could just be laggards. Instead, we prefer to just stick our heads in the sand and ignore the issue altogether.

To complement the near record snowfalls last winter, the East Coast (where I live) has been suffering through record high temperatures. It is not our imaginations. No less than NOAA has formally declared that the March through June of this year has been the hottest months on record. Doubtless these records will be easily broken, likely next year. As much as we would prefer to ignore global warming, chemistry is what chemistry is. Keep dumping more carbon into the atmosphere and average temperatures are going to increase.

Storm events on average are also getting more severe. We here in the mid-Atlantic witnessed this again this weekend when a powerful cell of thunderstorms raced through our area, taking out power to hundreds of thousands of customers and causing three deaths. The thunderstorms came with seventy mile an hour winds that toppled trees like matchsticks and killing a boy in nearby Sterling, Virginia.

It just so happened that about an hour after the thunderstorms blew through, my wife and I had a party to attend in Montgomery County, Maryland. We ended up on roads blocked by trees. We encountered downed power lines stretching across the road. Needless to say, we turned around and tried other routes. At least half of the traffic lights were out as well. The lights were also out at the house where our party was held, but daylight and cooler temperatures from the storms made the party endurable. Most likely the house is still without power, as is much of the more rural parts of Montgomery County. Power crews from as far away as Ohio are coming to help restore power. One thing is clear: with record heat, there was plenty of energy driving these massive thunderstorms.

July in the Washington region is always a time you sweat your way through. Triple digits are not uncommon, nor are Code Red, Orange, Yellow and Purple days when the air quality is poor. The air quality doesn’t have to be this bad but, of course, we refuse to look toward renewable forms of energy. Instead, Midwestern power plants along with power plants hidden in the Appalachian Mountains grind out the energy our air conditioners need, almost entirely using coal. The greenhouse gases of course go into the atmosphere, turn our local atmosphere toxic soup and make the already dangerous triple digit heat even more dangerous.

I thought I had seen everything global warming had to offer at this point until on Sunday when I took a shower. In sweltering ninety degree plus heat and humidity I found I had to replace a post with our mailbox on it. I tried to minimize my misery by doing it during the mid morning, but it was still a sweaty and exhausting job. I looked forward to a tepid shower when I finally finished the job, knowing that a cold shower was out of the question.

The last thing I wanted though was a hot shower, so I kept dialing back the hot water until nothing was coming from our water heater at all. Instead of tepid water, though I was getting warm water. If I was hoping to cool down from a shower, I had hoped in vain. Our land was so hot and so cooked that our water pipes, buried more than a foot underground, now carried only warm water.

This was new. Eighteen sweltering summers in my house but only now in 2010 have I had no choice but to endure a warm shower.

Nothing will convince climate skeptics, but if I were looking for proof this warm shower experience would be very alarming. But not for long. Soon, I will expect to take warm showers during the summers. As for climate skeptics, if they acknowledge it at all, they will probably say it’s entirely natural. It’s part of God’s plan or something, when all it really is is us humans thoughtlessly and recklessly throwing trillions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. All this global warming is entirely preventable. All we have to do is choose to act.

Instead, we seem to be embracing our extinction. Climate skeptics tend to be pro-life, so to me the irony of their position is inescapable. Let’s just hope that on our way to extinguishing our own species a few other species can cling on. Perhaps they can find a way to live in balance with nature. We sure haven’t. Nor do we seem inclined to do anything meaningful that would at least halt our extinction.

Unlike the millions of species that went extinct due to natural selection, at least we can’t say we didn’t see it coming.

Future generations trying to survive in an overpopulated and overheated world will rue us for our current thoughtlessness. We won’t care. We will be dead but oh, the memories we will take to our graves: driving big and dirty cars, eating greasy artery clogging food and comfortable summers spent indoors in air-conditioned houses. These climate skeptics might as well give our children and grandchildren the finger, because it’s obvious they don’t really care about them or their children. All they care about is living selfishly and recklessly and letting others in the future pay the consequences.

 

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