We had bright sunshine for a few moments, at least last week when I was trying to put together a column. I went to a window to get a closer look at the strange brightness. Raindrops falling in puddles at the edge of our street reassured me that our cool, wet spring was still in progress.
Here in Butte, Montana, we’re used to a lot of sunshine and you can almost feel the pent-up frustration by local residents when we look out and see that it’s raining, or even snowing at the end of May, the beginning of our short and fleeting season, summer.
We remind ourselves that May and June are usually among the wettest months of the year. Over the years, people have made money betting that it would rain on at least 25 days during the month of June.
If the last few weeks have seemed unusually cold and wet, we should keep in mind that in eastern states people have been sweltering through triple-digit heat waves. A Facebook acquaintance in eastern Pennsylvania posted a photo of cauliflower heads he’d harvested from his garden around the middle of May, the earliest he’d ever harvested cauliflower.
Also, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean in northwest Russia, temperatures in Arkhangelsk soared to 84 degrees Fahrenheit on May 11. The next day, temps hit 87º in an area east of Arkhangelsk. During March, many locations in northern Alaska had record-breaking high temperatures.
Eastern Oklahoma is having severe flooding. So is the Rocky Mountain Front area of northern Montana. Large areas of Nebraska and Iowa are still recovering from massive flooding back in March. Also, in the last two weeks of May there were some 500 reported tornadoes, nationwide, even in New Jersey, with parts of the Midwest having tornado warnings every day for 13 consecutive days.
It is in the nature of weather to be unusual. That’s why we track record-breaking temperatures, both hot and cold, and rainfall or lack of rainfall. Still, more and more people are aware that weather patterns are getting more and more bizarre.
Last month, The Guardian reported on effects of climate change, including destruction of coral reefs, loss of rainforest, and a million species of plants and animals at risk of extinction. The United Nations issued a report based on over 15,000 studies warning of the consequences of climate change.
While scientists around the world report findings about our changing climate, here in the United States, where we might hope that an educated citizenry might take notice of scientific alarm bells, it boils down to politics.
By and large, people of conservative political leanings have been skeptical of climate change and the Trump Administration has been systematically silencing climate scientists. The Administration also withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords. Jennifer Rubin, a Washington Post columnist writes that the Administration’s efforts to stymie science “requires, as so much of the Trump agenda does, a war on reality, science and common sense.”
On the other hand, other politicians and groups are paying attention to climate change and proposing radical changes in environmental policies. Some are affiliating with a concept or group of concepts loosely defined as a Green New Deal, to make dramatic changes over the next two decades to address global warming.
So, as we approach another election year we choose sides and if we drink the Kool-Aid they sell us, we’ll either accept the warnings of scientists and start working to turn back from the brink, or we’ll ignore scientific findings, even deny the validity of scientific research and go blithely on our way, whistling in the dark, as our weather becomes more and more erratic.
I’m a church-going person and take in stride that some things we have to take on faith. Climate change, however, with turbulent weather, smoky summer skies, drought, floods, tornadoes; the whole schmear, is well-documented. It isn’t something that’s being imagined by wild-eyed dreamers.
Perhaps some politicians can skate along, pretending that science doesn’t exist, but that is not a viable long-term policy.