News at 11: How Climate Change Affects You

Our daily weather
reports, cheerfully presented with flashy graphics and state-of-the-art
animation, appear to relay more and more information.

And yet, no matter how glitzy the presentation, a key fact is
invariably omitted. Imagine if, after flashing the words "extreme
weather" to grab our attention, the reports flashed "global warming."
Then we would know not only to wear lighter clothes or carry an
umbrella, but that we have to do something about climate change.

I put the question to Jeff Masters, co-founder and director of
meteorology at Weather Underground, an Internet weather information
service. Masters writes a popular blog on weather, and doesn't shy away
from linking extreme weather to climate change:

"Heat, heat, heat is the name of the game on planet Earth this
year," he told me, as the world is beset with extreme weather events
that have caused the death of thousands and the displacement of

Wildfires in Russia have blanketed the country with smoke,
exacerbating the hottest summer there in 1,000 years. Torrential rains
in Asia have caused massive flooding and deadly landslides in Pakistan,
Kashmir, Afghanistan and China. An ice shelf in Greenland has broken
off, sending an ice island four times the size of Manhattan into the
ocean. Droughts threaten Niger and the Sahel.

Masters relates stark statistics:

  • 2010 has seen the most national extreme heat records for a single year: 17.
  • The past decade was the hottest decade in the historical record.
  • The first half of 2010 was the warmest such six-month period in the planet's history.
  • The five warmest months in history for the tropical Atlantic have
    all occurred this year (likely leading to more frequent and severe
    Atlantic hurricanes).

"We will start seeing more and more years like this year when you get
these amazing events that caused tremendous death and destruction,"
Masters said. "As this extreme weather continues to increase in the
coming decades and the population increases, the ability of the
international community to respond and provide aid to victims will be
stretched to the limit."

And yet the U.N. talks aimed at climate change seem poised for collapse.

When the Copenhagen climate talks last December were derailed, with
select industrialized nations, led by the United States, offering a
"take it or leave it" accord, many developing nations decided to leave
it. The so-called Copenhagen Accord is seen as a tepid, nonbinding
document that was forced on the poorer countries as a ploy to allow
countries like the U.S., Canada and China to escape the legally binding
greenhouse-gas emissions targets of the Kyoto Protocol, which is up for

Bolivia, for example, is pursuing a more aggressive global agreement
on emissions. It's calling for strict, legally binding limits on
emissions, rather than the voluntary goals set forth in the Copenhagen
Accord. When Bolivia refused to sign on to the accord, the U.S. denied
it millions in promised aid money. Bolivia's United Nations ambassador,
Pablo Solon, told me: "We said: 'You can keep your money. We're not
fighting for a couple of coins. We are fighting for life.'"

While Bolivia did succeed in passing a U.N. resolution last month
affirming the right to water and sanitation as a human right, a first
for the world body, that doesn't change the fact that as Bolivia's
glaciers melt as a result of climate change, its water supply is

Pacific Island nations like Tuvalu may disappear from the planet
entirely if sea levels continue to rise, which is another consequence of
global warming.

The U.N. climate conference will convene in Cancun, Mexico, in
December, where prospects for global consensus with binding commitments
seem increasingly unlikely. Ultimately, policy in the United States, the
greatest polluter in human history, must be changed. That will come
only from people in the United States making the vital connection
between our local weather and global climate change. What better way
than through the daily drumbeat of the weather forecasts? Meteorologist
Jeff Masters defined for me the crux of the problem:

"A lot of TV meteorologists are very skeptical that human-caused
global climate change is real. They've been seduced by the view pushed
by the fossil-fuel industry that humans really aren't responsible ...
we're fighting a battle against an enemy that's very well-funded, that's
intent on providing disinformation about what the real science says."

It just may take a weatherperson to tell which way the wind blows.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 TruthDig