It's Hot and It's Just Going to Get Hotter

Around the world, people are facing record heat. The UK's Guardian newspaper reports, "Record highs have occurred in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine -- the three nations at the centre of the present eastern European heatwave which has continued for more than three weeks -- but also many African, Middle Eastern and Latin American countries." In all, 17 nations globally have set records, with only one nation -- the west African nation of Guinea -- having reached a record low so far this year. In Russia, the heatwave is contributing to wildfires with the potential of becoming a nuclear disaster.

All of this follows a year that, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, tied for the second warmest on record. NASA also tells us that 2009 marked the end of the "warmest decade on record." Long story short, it's freakin' hot. And a new study by the National Wildlife Federation shows that it's not going to get any better. What we call a "heat wave" today, we'll call the normal tomorrow.

"Global warming is bringing more frequent and severe heat waves and the result will be serious for vulnerable populations," says Dr. Amanda Staudt, a climate scientist with the National Wildlife Federation. "That means air pollution in urban areas could get worse, bringing increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks. Children, the elderly, poor, and people of color are especially vulnerable to these effects." And, of course, this trend brings with it a cyclical problem; more heat means more energy usage. As the mercury rises, thermostats are turned down. We can't be blamed for this really -- excessive heat is extremely dangerous.

"The science confirms that the frequency and duration of heat waves has increased significantly over the last 50 years. In the United States, heat waves already kill more people during a typical year than floods, tornadoes and earthquakes combined," says Peter Wilk, MD, executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility. "Given these worsening trends, taking decisive action to stop global warming becomes a medical necessity."

In short, we're in the middle of a slow-motion emergency. And this is what it looks like:

The trend is down
Click for full-size graph

That's the trend for arctic sea ice volume from July 1979 to July 2010. As you can see, it's dropping and most recently that drop has become drastic. The world is losing ice because it's getting warmer and warmer and warmer. At this point, the global warmer deniers are operating on pure faith -- the evidence contradicts their wingnut religion.

But hey, look on the bright side. Pretty soon you'll be able to bake a cake by locking a bowl of batter in your car. So that's something. It's not all bad news.

Here's a crazy idea: let's actually do something about this. Do you have any idea what tackling CO2 emissions could do -- especially now? We're talking about new markets and industries. We're talking about bringing manufacturing back to the United States. We're talking about moving from an unsustainable economy where everyone is a paper-shuffler and becoming a nation that actually produces something again. We're talking about the production of actual, real-world, tangible gears and wires and turbines and solar cells, not fancy -- but stupid -- ways to resell our own personal debt to each other.

We need to change our economy and bring back jobs. At the same time, we need to avoid a future where global temperatures are uniformly dangerous. We can kill two birds with one stone. Economically and environmentally, we can't afford not to.

Which begs the question; why aren't we?


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