With much of the US experiencing searing heat, parching drought and catastrophic wildfires, a survey released today shows that Americans are accepting the reality of climate change.
The poll shows that 70% of Americans believe climate change is occurring – 87% of Democrats, 72% of Independents and 53% of Republicans.
Indeed, worldwide greenhouse gas emissions rose another 3.2% in 2011 after rising 5% in 2010, hitting their highest levels ever.
Those increases come squarely from China now, where emissions rose a startling 9.3% last year. They’ve been dropping in the US since 2006, but not enough to counteract China’s rise.
China is now responsible for 29% of global emissions versus 16% for the US, reports Reuters, followed by the EU (11%), India (6%), Russia (5%) and Japan (4%).
In fact, the average Chinese citizen now has a carbon footprint almost equal to that of the average person living in Europe, reports The Guardian.
Meanwhile, a massive iceberg twice the size of Manhattan (46 square miles) broke off one of Greenlands’ major glaciers last week. Two years ago, an iceberg twice that size slid into the ocean.
"It’s dramatic. It’s disturbing," says University of Delaware professor Andreas Muenchow, one of the first researchers to notice the break. "We have data for 150 years and we see changes that we have not seen before. It’s one of the manifestations that Greenland is changing very fast."
"This is not part of natural variations anymore," says NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot.
Sea levels on the US east and west coasts are rising much faster than expected.
Weather Offers Convincing Climate Change Argument
The US is broiling in the worst drought since the 1950s. Nearly 81% of the nation is "abnormally dry" or in drought and forecasters now warn it could widen and intensify through October.
June 2011-June 2012 is the warmest period since record-keeping began in 1895. North and South Korea are also experiencing the worst drought in a century, and central and eastern Canada are in drought. In contrast, Russia is grappling with terrible floods, and earlier this spring Florida had torrential floods.
The US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) has declared 1,297 counties across 29 states a massive federal disaster zone – accounting for 88% of the nation’s corn supply and 87% of soybean crops.
Rising prices are already affecting livestock and dairy farmers, and are expected to show up in the form of higher food prices within two to three months.
On July 23, the USDA announced measures to support drought-affected farmers, including emergency loans and opening up lands enrolled in environmental conservation programs for agricultural uses.
"As a leading exporter of corn and soy, the U.S. is intricately linked to the global food market," say Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell of the Center for Climate and Security. "Drought and crop failure in the U.S. could spike world food prices and have serious implications for places like Mexico, China, Central America and India, who rely heavily on imports of these crops, as well as animal feed."
This is part of "the globalization of hazards" and could have far reaching consequences, they warn. "What we’ve seen is that spikes in world food prices have increased the likelihood of instability and riots. In some instances, crop failure in one part of the world is associated with instability halfway around the globe, can contribute to serious diplomatic crises between the U.S. and its allies — as occurred with Egypt — and could conceivably result in U.S. military involvement."
Time for the Media to Get Involved
"This is just the beginning," warns Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground, of what life with the impacts of climate change will look like.
Masters is one of the few meteorologists who have been willing to connect the dots with climate change to the public. He says he will take advantage of the Weather Channel’s recent purchase of Weather Underground to educate Americans. "I think it’s important for the public to hear that what we’re seeing now is the future. We better prepare for heatwaves, fires and storms. We better educate people on what’s going on, give the best science that’s out there on what climate change is doing and where it’s likely to head. I think TV meteorologists are missing a big opportunity to educate and tell the population what is likely to happen."
Only 3% of media mentioned climate change in connection with the wildfires in the US west.
In June, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) gave a major speech on the Senate floor lamenting the failure of the US political system to address the global warming crisis, but the media didn’t cover it.
He says: "In the United States, a calculated campaign of disinformation has steadily beaten back the consensus momentum for action on climate change and replaced it with timidity by proponents in the face of millions of dollars of phony, contrived ‘talking points,’ illogical and wholly unscientific propositions and a general scorn for the truth wrapped in false threats about job loss and taxes."
"The level of dissembling – of outright falsifying of information, of greedy appeal to fear tactics that has stalled meaningful action now for 20 years – is hard to wrap one’s mind around," he says.
Finally, for the first time ever, scientists say they can confidently attribute specific weather events and patterns to man-made global warming, including unusual cold spells, prolonged heat waves and drought, intense storms and extreme floods. They issued the conclusion in the ‘State of the Climate‘ report, produced each year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the American Meteorological Society.
"2011 will be remembered as a year of extreme events, both in the United States and around the world," says Deputy NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. "Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment."
Another poll shows that a majority of Americans think that much can be done to reduce future global warming and about two-thirds want the US to be a world leader on addressing the problem.
Almost half of those polled say President Obama wants a "great deal" or "quite a bit" of government action on global warming, but only 11% say the same about Mitt Romney.