Delusions of Normalcy

1 11 2016

Twenty-five years ago today, the Twin Cities was just starting to deal with an epic snowfall. The great Halloween blizzard of 1991 dropped 28 inches of snow from October 31 to November 2. The storm set records that stand today. Worse, arctic cold followed, freezing packed snow onto roadways that remained treacherous for weeks.  Worse still, Thanksgiving weekend brought another two-day storm, with 14 more inches of snow, followed by more cold.

This set the Twin Cities up for a long, cold, old-fashioned winter. This had the added effect of shutting up those nervous nellies who were already nattering about global warming.  After all, that alarmist Bill McKibben had written The End of Nature two years prior, and NASA scientist James Hansen had had his day at Congress in 1988, waving his arms and warning legislators (some of whom like to remind us they are not scientists themselves) that human-caused global warming was under way and needed to be stopped.

So we needed a good-solid burst of cold, cold winter to prove that there was really nothing to worry about.  And by God, we got it, didn’t we?

Well, no, actually, we didn’t. Winter sports nuts like me were in heaven after those two big snowfalls.  But by New Year’s, nearly all that snow was gone.  And then it just got worse. We received only 18 more inches of snow the entire winter, and all that melted within a few days of arrival. Heck, January featured 23 days of high temps of 32 or above, and February had 21.  So the winter was actually more like the winters I grew up to hate in my native New York City, and less like the solid Midwestern winters this region knew for decades, centuries, until recent times.

Even the winter of 2013-14, rightfully remembered as beastly cold (50 sub-zero overnight lows, and four sub-zero daytime highs) bears the fingerprints of human-caused climate disruption.  That’s right.  You see, even with all that unrelenting cold delivered by the dreaded polar vortex, the Twin Cities set not a single daily record low temperature.  And if you widen the lens, you learn that, while the eastern half of the US was dealing with repeated bouts of cold and snow, western North America, all the way up to Alaska, was basking in unnatural, record warmth.  And that whole bipolar winter was itself a product of the rapidly warming Arctic, thanks to our greenhouse gases.

So why is this important to anyone other than climate curmudgeons like me?  Especially here in the old US of A, we don’t really want to “believe” the science of human-caused climate disruption.  And though we are per capita, the largest emitters of climate-disrupting greenhouse gases, we still look for shreds of evidence that it is not really a problem.  In fact, we Americans continue to be outliers in our climate change views compared to other parts of the world. This makes us easy meat for the oil-soaked lies of the Heartland Institute (funded in large part by the exposed liars at ExxonMobil, plus the Koch Brothers), and legislators and governors who continue to serve as what I call Hired Liars, denying the obvious reality of human-caused climate disruption.

Since the great blizzard of 1991, humanity has continued to pump 100 million tons of carbon dioxide, every single day, into the atmosphere.  How could this NOT change the climate system?  And yet, we continue to allow the Hired Liars to stymie policy changes that could help us get control of and beat back the crisis.

We need to unseat the Hired Liars by voting as if the climate and the future of humanity on earth depend on it, because they do. We need a carbon tax.  We needed it in 1991, and we REALLY need it now.

I am about to step out and walk my dog. In shirtsleeves. In St. Paul. On November 2.  We have not had a freeze yet in the Twin Cities, and there is not one in sight. High temps are predicted in the 60s for the foreseeable future.  And yet we still don’t admit that human-caused climate disruption is real and growing.

I am sorry to say that pignorance (pretend-ignorance) continues to prevail.

In the words of that old Coal Mine song, “How long can this go on?!”

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