Much of North America is sizzling under multiple heatwaves that are shattering temperature records across the continent. This is the beginning of the nightmare scenario that scientists have been warning would one day rear its head if action was not taken to slow or reverse the effects of anthropomorphic climate change.
On Tuesday’s edition of CNN’s Reality Check, host John Avlon tore into climate change denialists for ignoring the science – which has as close to a global consensus as the laws of physics – and imperiling the short-term survival of our civilization.
Anchor Erica Hill gave a rundown of the scorching temperatures:
Temperature records are falling faster than the mercury is rising across North America. Spokane, Washington just set an all-time high of 109 degrees. Some roads as you can see there are buckling in the heat near Seattle, where the mercury hit 108 on Monday. Portland, Oregon, 116 degrees on Monday. That is the third record-setting day in a row. And in British Columbia, the temperature in one city climbing to a shocking 121 degrees Tuesday. That is a new all-time record for the area. With all of this, with Portland hotter than Las Vegas, it’s getting more and more difficult to deny climate change, as John Avlon explains in our Reality Check.
Avlon delivered a four-minute monologue in which he admonished deniers of climate science – aka, Republicans – for refusing to act:
This could be the summer when climate change denial finally goes the way of the dodo. Because of the pain and the stakes, the need for mitigation and adaptation is clear.
The heatwave in the Pacific Northwest is horrific. And no, it’s not just seasonal extremes. Not when Portland, Oregon, sees its hottest day on record wirh 116-degree heat in June. Or when Seattle hits temperatures higher than any recorded in Atlanta, making the highways there buckle. Canada is suffering as well with a village in British Columbia cracking 121 degrees – by far the hottest ever recorded in Canada, passing the hottest temperature in Las Vegas – with more than 230 heat-related deaths reported to date. Farmers in the western U.S. are fearing for their crops and livestock amid a massive drought, and peak fire season hasn’t even started yet. And yes, this spike in extreme weather is driven by climate change. It’s part of an undeniable pattern.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee gets it:
‘Now we’re here. The opening act has arrived of the climate catastrophe, and we’re getting it in the Pacific Northwest right now. Everyone’s gonna get hit by this climate catastrophe.’
Avlon explained that the recent condo collapse in Florida was likely hastened by structural damage caused by rising sea levels:
Now, in this record-breaking heatwave, much more collective attention this past week has been focused on the horrific building collapse in Surfside, Florida. It’s an urgent as opposed to slow-moving crisis. While still too soon to know the precise cause or triggering event for the collapse, the structure seems to have been stressed over time by king tides that come from rising sea levels which flooded the building’s parking garage on a regular basis, according to residents.
There’s talk about how the building was old at 40 years. That’s only old for South Florida. But the not-so-stable combination of concrete and saltwater can be doubly dangerous, given how much the Florida coast is built not on bedrock, but on porous limestone and landfill. I want to be clear: There’s no reason to believe the adjoining properties are at risk at all, but this is a wake-up call. And the broader toll of climate change on our coastal communities can no longer be ignored.
So who could have seen this coming? Pretty much anyone who paid attention to the science. But instead, we’ve seen decades of political foot-dragging by climate change denialists, some of whom hail from the worst-hit Southern Sunbelt states. We’ve seen belated changes from folks like Senator Rick Scott [R] who didn’t want to mention climate change when he was governor, but now he’s suddenly admitting it’s real. That’s good. Maybe he took a hint from the Republican mayor who spent $192 million on sea rise and flood mitigation.
But we’re beyond the piecemeal approach. Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do it all or cannot do so well for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.’
That’s climate change. That’s infrastructure. And that’s why there should be additional urgency in passing an infrastructure bill that can help mitigate the effects of climate change.
We need to strengthen our cities, including our roads and bridges, to deal with extreme weather conditions including flooding. We need to strengthen our electrical grid to make it more resilient. And yea that includes you, Texas. And we need to innovate our way from fossil fuels.
Here’s the bottom line. Short-term thinking helped get us into this mess. Long-term thinking and action will help get us out. And that’s your reality check.
Watch below via Crooks and Liars:
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.