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Mother Nature Isn’t Sending a Message . . . It’s Just Coincidence

Climate expert Bill McKibben, activist and founder of the global climate campaign, recently wrote an op ed for the Washington Post gently pointing out the coincidence between climate change predictions and the growing number of deadly “natural” disasters that seem to be sweeping across the globe.

Deadly tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts in some regions and floods in others happen every year; it’s difficult to attribute every single weather episode directly to global climate change, even though the evidence suggests with more warming, we will see more, and more extreme, weather-related events.

But as we’ve seen 100-year events happen twice in a few years, or record temperatures several years out the last ten, extreme weather causing record or near record deaths time after time, you’d think even the most skeptical would at least begin to ask, what’s going on? And shouldn’t we start to worry about this?

Don’t expect the Tea-GOP leaders to get this logic. They’re led by Republican leader Eric Cantor, who not only hides in deep denial but complements that by telling the victims of the Joplin and other tornadoes that he’ll consider helping them rebuild only if Congress cuts something else, like funding for NOAA, climate studies or alternative energy budgets.

That’s not just stupid; it’s cruel. There’s no way to reach people like that. But what about others?

McKibben notes the many recent environmental retreats by the Administration and Congress and then frames the attitude of our ostrich-like government:

It is vitally important not to make connections. . . .

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. . . .

Every night, the evening news shows us the destruction and deaths wrought by another example of Mother Nature’s wrath, as though every one is an entirely unrelated event. And the next story moves, without connection, to the debates in Congress, in which the Administration and dodo Congressional leaders haggle over contrived non-problems and positions oblivious to what’s happening in the real world.

The common problem facing humanity across the planet is the disconnect between governments, whether elected or self-selected, authoritarian or democratic, and the people they presume to govern. Like leaders elsewhere, America’s leaders simply aren’t addressing the things that affect the lives of real people. And you have to wonder how long America’s two parties and the media that cover them can keep up this denial, this mind-numbing, stuck on stupid indifference to things that matter.

See the three little pigs cartoon from Toles, which captures it well.
More from Rep. Ed Markey, Time to take warming-driven extreme weather trends seriously

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley