Killer tornadoes are marking the transition from a freakishly warm winter into yet another freakishly dangerous spring. The multi-billion-dollar drought in Texas and Oklahoma is expected to continue into the indefinite future. Planting seasons, maple syrup seasons, and cherry blossom festivals are starting at weirder and weirder times. Torrential rains and record heat waves are becoming commonplace. Migrating birds are straying from their normal path, insect pests are multiplying, and trees are dying.
Americans are starting to trust the evidence of their own senses about the growing impacts of climate change, instead of the barrage of misinformation and confusion that comes from media sources. A new poll from the Brookings Institution shows that a strong majority of the American public agree that there is “solid evidence that average temperatures on earth have been getting warmer over the past four decades,” and “about half of Americans now point to observations of temperature changes and weather as the main reasons they believe global warming is taking place”:
A sampling of the open-ended comments provided by survey respondents helps demonstrate the role that weather plays in shaping individual views on global warming. A male senior citizen from Illinois, who feels that there is solid evidence of global warming, said that the primary reason that led him to this conclusion was “winters just aren’t as cold as they were in the past.” Similarly, a middle-aged woman in Florida attributed her position on global warming primarily to her observations that “this time of year is warmer than it is expected to be.” A young man in Texas identified the primary reason for his view that the Earth is warming to “temperatures last summer that were awful,” while another young Texan stated that the “droughts this past summer” were the primary reason that she believed temperatures on earth were increasing. In these cases and many others Americans turn first to the weather they experience as the key reason for their acceptance of global warming.
This intuitive, natural approach tying the long-term warming of the entire planet by fossil-fuel pollution to local observations is backed by the science. Scientific research has determined that the continental United States is growing hotter in every state, with greater extremes in precipitation. The warming of the oceans and atmosphere has fueled the freak droughts and heat waves that the poll respondents cited. In almost every measure, the weather of the United States has diverged perceptibly from the 20th-century norm — in line with scientific projections of the consequences of global warming pollution.
In 1988, NASA climate scientist James Hansen predicted that the local changes in temperature caused by global warming pollution would become apparent in everyday life by the 21st century. That prediction has now come to pass — despite billions of dollars spent by polluters to argue against the evidence of people’s own senses.
In short, our weather has been poisoned by the fossil fuel industry, and every day more and more Americans know it, just by going outside.