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Too Hot Not to Notice?

Posted on May 3, 2012
AP/Jim Cole

What remained of the Bartonsville covered bridge in Vermont after the Williams River flooded in August 2011.

By Bill McKibben, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

And across North America, as the sun moves westward, activists in Halifax, Canada, will “swim for survival” across its bay to highlight rising sea levels, while high-school students in Nashville, Tennessee, will gather on a football field inundated by 2011’s historic killer floods. 

In Portland, Oregon, city dwellers will hold an umbrella-decorating party to commemorate March’s record rains. In Bandelier, New Mexico, firefighters in full uniform will remember last year’s record forest fires and unveil the new solar panels on their fire station.  In Miami, Manhattan, and Maui, citizens will line streets that scientists say will eventually be underwater. In the high Sierra, on one of the glaciers steadily melting away, protesters will unveil a giant banner with just two words, a quote from that classic of western children’s literature, The Wizard of Oz. “I’m Melting” it will say, in letters three-stories high.

This is a full-on fight between information and disinformation, between the urge to witness and the urge to cover-up. The fossil-fuel industry has funded endless efforts to confuse people, to leave an impression that nothing much is going on.  But—as with the tobacco industry before them—the evidence has simply gotten too strong. 

Once you saw enough people die of lung cancer, you made the connection. The situation is the same today.  Now, it’s not just the scientists and the insurance industry; it’s your neighbors. Even pleasant weather starts to seem weird.  Fifteen thousand U.S. temperature records were broken, mainly in the East and Midwest, in the month of March alone, as a completely unprecedented heat wave moved across the continent.  Most people I met enjoyed the rare experience of wearing shorts in winter, but they were still shaking their heads. Something was clearly wrong and they knew it.


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The one institution in our society that isn’t likely to be much help in spreading the news is ... the news. Studies show our papers and TV channels paying ever less attention to our shifting climate.  In fact, in 2011 ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox spent twice as much time discussing Donald Trump as global warming. Don’t expect representatives from Saturday’s Connect the Dots day to show up on Sunday’s talk shows.  Over the last three years, those inside-the-Beltway extravaganzas have devoted 98 minutes total to the planet’s biggest challenge. Last year, in fact, all the Sunday talk shows spent exactly nine minutes of Sunday talking time on climate change—and here’s a shock: all of it was given over to Republican politicians in the great denial sweepstakes.

So here’s a prediction: next Sunday, no matter how big and beautiful the demonstrations may be that we’re mounting across the world, “Face the Nation” and “Meet the Press” won’t be connecting the dots. They’ll be gassing along about Newt Gingrich’s retirement from the presidential race or Mitt Romney’s coming nomination, and many of the commercials will come from oil companies lying about their environmental efforts. If we’re going to tell this story—and it’s the most important story of our time—we’re going to have to tell it ourselves.  

Bill McKibben, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet,” is the founder of, which is coordinating Saturday’s Connect the Dots day.  You can find the event nearest you by checking

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Bill McKibben

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By jerrymat, May 5, 2012 at 11:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Science operates by proposing hypotheses and then seeking data to
confirm or deny the accuracy of each hypothesis and each group of
related hypotheses.

The IPCC scientists have specialized in using computer models to
generate climate hypotheses.  For the last decade, the data fail to
confirm these hypotheses.  Therefore the hypothesis of human released
CO2 causing massive climate change is wrong; it is not supported by the
data. If a hypothesis fails for more than a decade in its predictions, we
need to start over in our work.  If they would be more open in their
publication of their research, others could offer help in redesigning the
computer models.  I, for one, feel that reducing a spherical rotating earth
into a flat pancake that does not rotate my have to do with the IPCC

The author makes too many wrong statements to list here, but his chief
one is confusing local weather events with world wide climate. The
author has said “This is a full-on fight between information and
disinformation…..” and he is giving the most disinformation.

I encourage anyone to do web searches for data gathered by geologists
and others.  It turns out the sea is not rising at any faster rate than it has
been since the last ice age.  Islands are not going to drown, nor will
coastlines be inundated by the ocean.  The polar ice caps are not melting
at any faster rate than they have done since the last ice age.  In fact
some geologists suggest that as long as the ice caps remain we are still
in the remainder of the last ice age.

If you would know about these things study science and ignore writers
such as this one.  I do suggest that you do a web search for the work of
Danish climate workers, their chief man, Svensmark, and the CLOUD
experiments at CERN.  That is real science.

Svensmark’s work seems to bring in positive results.  He has shown that
clouds and cloud formation are caused by the sun, the solar system’s
position in the Milky Way and the explosion of super novas and the
resulting cosmic rays and their interaction with the solar wind.  That is
real science.

I would like to finish by scolding truthdig for running such an article as
this one.  It is not informative but an attempt to coerce political thinking
with falsely reported science.

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By JohnT, May 5, 2012 at 10:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I lived in central PA in the 70’s (73-79) and in the 90’s (90-01). Over both those decades I experienced variation in the severity of winter cold and storms, some mild, others severe. Never however, did I remember the early spring and mid-summer heat that my relatives suffered through over the past ten years since I left.

Rarely did the summer come until June and then air conditioning was generally not required except for an occasional heat wave that may have lasted two or three days.

This year in April a ten day stretch of gorgeous weather was unheard of and broke all existing records. Something is up for sure. Is it anthropogenic? You will never convince the Faux News crowd….

What did shrub say immediately after 9-11?

Go shopping.

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By Maani, May 3, 2012 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment

NYC has always had among the widest range of weather in the U.S.  We get everything from super-cold Winters with lots of snow to super-hot Summers with high THI’s, from gorgeous Spring days to brisk but beautiful Fall nights.

I have lived in NYC for over four decades, and I noticed things changing LONG before anyone was talking about climate change and global warming.  First, we started “losing” Spring and Fall, with extended winters and “Indian” summers.  Where seasons “should” be approximately three months each, we were getting MAYBE six weeks each of Spring and Fall.

Then things just continued to get more bizarre, and in this past decade we started getting more “freak” storms, and evehn our first Hurricane in quite some time.  This past winter was the warmest I can remember, with only a single minor snow flurry.  And we started getting “unseasonally warm” temperatures earlier than ever.  I am going to perdict that the next winter will barely be “winter” at all.

If NYC is a bellwether (pun intended), one needs to be living under a fairly sizable rock not to see and feel what has been occurring over the past decade ot more.


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By Big B, May 3, 2012 at 9:33 am Link to this comment

My personal evidence is largely anecdotal, but it just feels different these days. Yes our summers in the upper Ohio valley have been hot for the last 20 years now, but the most telling difference is the length of the summers now. They seem to start in mid to late April and carry through to early october. Our springs and falls feel very short these days.

And there is still a half dead tree in my front yard that I could not pay double to get taken down last year because all the local tree trimmers went south in late march to make buckets of money cleaning up after the historic tornado outbreak.

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