It began with fire. It ended with ice. In between, there were the storms and floods. And the extremity of it all should have caught anyone’s attention.
First, of course, there was that burning season that set staggering records across California — four million acres incinerated, double the previous high — Oregon, and Washington. Those devastating burns spread as far east as Colorado at a moment when the Southwest may well have entered a climate-change-induced “megadrought.”
Then, of course, there was that Atlantic hurricane season: a record fifth-straight above-normal season with 30 named storms stretching across two alphabets, 12 of which “landed” with often devastating effect in this country. Let’s not forget those floods either, one of which set a record in Michigan.
And finally, of course, as 2021 began, the stunning winter storms with record cold and ice that essentially turned Texas into a failed state. Millions of Texans were left without power or running water in freezing temperatures evidently caused at least in part because the Arctic is rapidly overheating, pushing frigid air southward in winter. Of course, the governor of Texas promptly went on Fox News to assure those iced-in millions that it was all the fault of alternative energy systems. (It wasn’t, not faintly.)
And keep in mind that such climate extremity is becoming the norm. After all, the last seven years have been the hottest in recorded history and 2020 tied for the warmest of them all.
Such records (a word that, when it comes to climate change, has to be used again and again) should be daunting enough to make one thing obvious, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author of All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change, points out today: the two greatest greenhouse gas emitters on planet Earth, the United States and China, desperately need to collaborate to bring climate change under control. It’s so self-evident it should hardly need to be said and yet, eerily enough, as Klare has been reporting, the U.S. and China seem ever more locked into a new, increasingly militarized, cold-war-style relationship, one that the Biden administration seems by no means prepared to avert. Under the circumstances, that’s the definition of a catastrophe. Tom