Pittsburgh is expecting a foot of snow today. Wet, heavy snow – the kind that will break limbs on newly-leafed trees and bring down power lines. In October, we had Snowtober; in the spring we’re having Snopril. Meanwhile, the southwest is bracing for record-breaking heat with temperatures expected to break 100 in Phoenix.
The October snowstorm inflicted a minimum of $3.5 billion in damages bringing the total extreme weather price tag for 2011 to $14 billion – an all-time record. With freak spring snow, massive tornado outbreaks and extreme heat, 2012 is set to keep pace.
Two recent surveys have found that Americans are connecting a warming climate with increased extreme weather events. The latest from the Yale Project on Climate Communication and the George Mason Center for Climate Communication shows that the public is getting more educated about the results of climate change, and they even understand that large snowstorms are completely compatible with scientists’ predictions of a climate disrupted by higher global temperatures.
The fossil-fuel industry has carried out and funded an expensive propaganda campaign to sow doubt and confuse people about climate change and its causes. But reality and observation are more convincing to most people than propaganda any extreme weather day.
While millions of dollars of oil and gas barons Koch brothers’ money cannot match the reality of the weather, it can impose discipline on the Republican Party. Only one of the Republicans vying for their party’s nomination for president, John Huntsman, fully accept established climate science and understand the urgent need to take action to reduce global warming pollution. Mitt Romney, the winner of the Republican primary dog fight, has held every position on climate change and its consequences. Right now, he doesn’t know what’s causing the planet to warm. We’ll see what he espouses after a summer that may well bring more wild weather and a spate of opinion polls tracking the public’s greater acceptance of climate science and their expectations of national leadership to act on it.
Last Thursday, Mexico passed one of the strongest national laws to combat climate change. It commits Mexico to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent below current levels by 2020 and by 50 percent by 2050. As one of the ways to reach those goals, the law also requires 35 percent of Mexico’s energy to come from renewable resources by 2024.
So while the April snow piles up in Pittsburgh and the thermometer pushes past 100 in Phoenix, an alarmed American public may finally create the political space to set enforceable pollution-reduction and visionary renewable energy goals needed to stabilize our climate.