GLOBAL WARMING is already here, striking substantial regions of the United States with increasing severity. That is the upshot of an exhaustive Post investigation in which Steven Mufson, Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin and John Muyskens analyzed decades of local temperature records and identified a variety of hot spots where warming has proceeded more quickly.
“A Washington Post analysis of more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data across the Lower 48 states and 3,107 counties has found that major areas are nearing or have already crossed the 2-degree Celsius mark,” The Post found. An increase of 2 degrees Celsius — 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — is a temperature threshold that scientists warn the world, on average, should not surpass. “Today, more than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles. Seventy-one counties have already hit the 2-degree Celsius mark.”
Surpassing 2 degrees locally means different things in different places. If the average world temperature were to breach the 2-degree threshold, that would mean some places would have warmed far more than 2 degrees, bringing massive changes, and some places less. But in many of the regions The Post examined, substantial negative effects were clear. Global warming’s consequences are various, pervasive and not always obvious when people consider how their lives will be directly affected — until they are.
The lobster catch around Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay is down 75 percent because of warmer waters. Toxic algae blooms are making a New Jersey lake off-limits to swimmers and boaters. The lake does not freeze like it used to, deterring ice fishermen. Spurred by warmer temperatures, southern pine beetles are invading northern forests. The restless ocean is washing beach homes out to sea. People who now find that their homes and businesses are far closer to the shore than when they bought them are moving them farther back — but fear they will have to move again.
Scientists offer various reasons for the temperature hot spots that have emerged across the United States. Alaska’s breakneck heating aligns with their prediction that human greenhouse-gas-driven warming strikes higher latitudes particularly hard. In the Northeast, a shifting Gulf Stream — a massive flow of water that runs from the Gulf of Mexico, up the Atlantic coast of the United States and then toward Europe, its path influenced by melting Arctic ice — seems to explain some of the temperature anomalies. The underlying cause, though, is human-caused global warming.
The warming will continue. Humanity has steadily shifted the chemistry of the atmosphere, in ways that could not be reversed quickly even if rational policy were being implemented. The carbon dioxide that emerges from smokestacks and tailpipes lingers in the air for decades. All the more reason to change behavior now. Yet, whether for political advantage or out of sheer pigheadedness or both, President Trump continues to deny and ignore reality. It is beyond unforgivable.
Samuel Myers: Climate change is sapping nutrients from our food — and it could become a global crisis