Forecast: Heavy Weather
"I've seen fire, and I've seen rain," James Taylor sang sweetly, back when I was in college and both of us had more hair.Mr Robinson does not address the really inconvenient truth - there are too many people living in the wrong places.
If Taylor were writing that song today, given that much of the country is experiencing severe drought, he might want to rethink the "rain" part. "Fire" would still resonate with listeners, though -- especially out in Malibu, where some of the nation's most picturesque and expensive real estate is in flames.
Atlanta is so parched that it's running out of water. The canyons of Southern California are ablaze. Here in Washington, temperatures have been climbing into the 80s -- in late October. Can all this be blamed on that "inconvenient truth" that Nobel laureate Al Gore keeps warning us about? Is climate change -- often imprecisely called "global warming" -- loosing plagues upon the land?
No. Not exactly. Maybe. Probably not. Could be. Nobody knows. You can pretty much take your pick, since it's not possible to link any specific meteorological event -- the strength of the fire-fanning Santa Ana winds in Southern California this year, for example, or the rainfall deficit in the Southeast, or an unusually balmy fall in the Northeast -- with climatological changes that take place over decades or centuries and span the globe.
The weird weather does tend to concentrate the mind, though. Even George W. Bush acknowledges the scientific consensus that climate change is real. Most people, even conservatives, now have no problem taking the next step and acknowledging that human activity -- the burning of fossil fuels and the release of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- is causing climate change, or at least accelerating it.
Beyond those fundamentals, though, are a couple of even more inconvenient truths that few seem ready to come to terms with.
I doubt that the drought in the SE US is unprecedented. What is unprecedented is a metropolitan area with over five million people. That population can be supported in the good times but not in the bad. This is not the first "bad" time and won't be the last.
While it may have been accelerated by CO2 emissions climate change is natural - drought and Santa Anna winds are natural but millions of people are not. The fires were probably started by human activity and wouldn't be a problem were it not for billions of dollars worth of real estate.
Yes, climate change is real and human activity may be impacting it but it's more than CO2 emissions. It's too many people trying to maintain an unsustainable life style.