In February 2015, Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, hefted a snowball on the Senate floor to underscore his denial that climate change was nothing more than a hoax. Inhofe’s circus act was part of a rambling speech trying to rebut, among other things, scientific evidence that 2014 was the warmest year on record due to climate change. Inhofe, who along with his grandchildren built an igloo near the Capitol during a record snowstorm in 2010, is noted for claiming that global warming was ‘the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.’
At the time of Inhofe’s stunt, and despite Washington’s cold weather, January 2015 had been one of the warmest January’s on record.
Now, here we are in mid-January 2017. If Inhofe wants to pull his snowball stunt this month, he’s out of luck. At 5:30 pm on January 19, 2017, the thermometer at my house in suburban Maryland, just outside DC reads 48 degrees Fahrenheit. We’ve even had a couple of days when it was near 60, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record since such we began keeping records in 1880. In fact, this marks the third year in a row of the hottest temperatures on record, and NOAA’s findings have been supported by NASA, the World Meteorological Organization, the British meteorological office, and other monitoring groups.
Now, don’t break out the sunblock just yet. Even though the U.S. northeast is warming faster than other regions of the country, it hasn’t yet reached the point where you can sun bathe year round. But, scientists see a clear warming trend since the late 20th century, and have determined that most of it’s due to heat-trapping gasses from the burning of fossil fuels. The average amount of ice in the Arctic Ocean, for instance, reached a record low in 2016.
Only the blind or the incredibly stupid could fail to see that the climate has changed. I recall in 1968, the first time I went to Southeast Asia, you could almost set your watch by the Monsoon rains. When I returned to the region in 2002, you could no longer predict when, or if, it would rain during Monsoon season.
What worries me, and should worry everyone, is that too many of the people in positions to do something about climate change before it’s too late, are too political, too greedy, or too stupid to take the necessary actions to forestall it. They’d rather say it’s a hoax created by the Chinese, or that it’s just a hoax, and the presence of the occasional snowfall proves their view. One has to wonder what they’ll say when we all wake up one day and discover that we should have done something the day before.
Somehow, ‘oops’ just won’t be enough.