I'm feeling bad for my West Coast friends as global warming asserts itself this week. One of my best friends moved to Oregon ten years ago and raved about the temperate climate. "Don't get too used to it," I said in my typical doom-and-gloom way. "I don't think there's any place that's safe from what's coming." (I've spent years following what's happening in Australia, the canary in the coal mine.)
For the past week, as computer models have consistently forecast seemingly unbelievable numbers, meteorologists struggled to grasp how a heat wave of this magnitude could even be possible, given this region has never experienced anything of this magnitude before. Were the models wrong? Or, given climate change, should we now expect the unexpected — is this now just becoming routine?
Turns out, the models were correct and we should expect extreme heat waves, even unprecedented ones like this to become more routine. "There is no context really, in the sense that there is no analog in our past for what we are likely to see this week," says Dr. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State and author of the new book The New Climate War.
But calling it a new normal does not suffice says Mann, "Some people called this a 'new normal. But it is worse than that," explained Mann. "We will continue to see more and more extreme heat waves, droughts, wildfires and floods as long as we continue to warm the planet through fossil fuel burning and carbon emissions."
As shown in the below illustration from the Oregon Climate Assessment, this is only the beginning of the heating which is expected if humanity continues burning fossil fuels. By 2100, temperatures are expected to be 7 to 10 degrees above what they naturally should, and that would mean a dramatic increase in extreme heat waves.
So I don't have a lot of patience with intramural Democratic politics. This is the only issue that matters, and to address it in any meaningful way, we need strong Democratic majorities. Period.