There's no denying it. Our globe is experiencing unprecedented bouts of severe weather.
While Pennsylvania has been experiencing seemingly endless rain and temperatures ranging from winter to summer, with little in between, Texas is suffering the worst drought in its history. Severe flooding is taking place in New England and the Dakotas, and the Mississippi River is rolling south, flooding all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. Communities are already underwater with homes and businesses submerged, and the high water is expected to last for days.
April brought historic and deadly tornadoes to our southern and Midwest states, with a record 312 tornadoes in one day - more than twice the previous record. That one day's tornadoes killed 340 people, the single deadliest day since 1925.
This week, more extreme weather is expected in the Midwest and south, with severe thunderstorms adding to the already devastated victims of the previous floods and tornadoes.
Globally, it's more of the same. Temperature extremes. Drought in some places, floods in others, cyclones and tornadoes. Citizens of island nations are being forced to relocate, and everywhere communities are rethinking what normal is, and whether the cost of living near water is becoming too steep.
An alarming new report by the international Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) says record high temperatures in the Arctic - higher than any time in the last 2,000 years - are melting glaciers and ice caps at a rate that is projected to raise global sea levels by 3 to five feet by the year 2100. That's up from a 2007 projection of 7 to 23 inches by the U.N.'s scientific panel on climate change.
That amount of sea level rise threatens coastal areas like Florida and cities like London worldwide, and could add millions to the people of Asia and Africa who are already climate refugees. It also poses threats to our food supply and to national security.
All this climate instability isn't shocking. The U.S. EPA and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that climate instability was in our future if we didn't take action. Most hoped, however, that it was in the far future. But it's here now.
But even with all this evidence, there are some who still deny that our climate is becoming unstable, and that human activities have anything to do with it. The good news, though, is that hardly any ordinary citizens agree with them. While the words "climate change" or "global warming" still raise red flags, robust environmental policies - particularly around energy use - are extremely popular.
A poll just out from the Pew Research Center for People and the Press shows that Americans overwhelmingly believe that "This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment." The 71 percent who agree with this statement would be a landslide victory in an election. Even the 59 percent who strongly agree is a significant majority.
And Americans are pretty clear about what action must be taken to protect the environment. Nearly two-thirds, or 63 percent of Americans - across party and demographic lines - believe that the most important priority for developing American's energy supply is to invest in renewable energy. Since changing what kind of energy we use and how we use it is the single most important action for fighting pollution of all kinds, and climate instability in particular, this is an important finding.
Americans also aren't buying the line that environmental protection harms the economy. More than half - 53 percent - believe "Stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost" compared to 39 percent that say "Stricter environmental laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy."
Here in Pennsylvania, our growing green energy sector - with 16 working wind farms and more than 4,000 solar projects, along with our robust energy efficiency programs, are giving average families and businesses the tools they need to put the brakes on climate change. But we've only just begun.
The business community is ready for more. Our families want to do more. It's time for our leaders to put new policies and funding in place, before it's too late.
Build the Bridge between Natural Gas and Renewables
PennFuture Session Daze
Green buildings legislation advances in the Senate
Energy Center Re: Energy
Kudos to the PUC for Supporting Global Wind Day
A Bear in the Woods
Environmental Law Blog
Fracking Requires An Environmental Impact Statement
A Climate for Change
Making a flap about climate change