By Frances Lamberts
A decade ago at July’s end, “We’re Gonna Be Sorry” was the headline in a New York Times opinion piece by Thomas Friedman. It dealt with the serious impacts of climate change, of drought and record-breaking heat waves affecting “East Coasters” and other parts of the world. It expressed his disappointment at abandonment in the U.S. Senate of a legislative effort, the Climate Stewardship Act long championed by Senator John McCain, which had sought to cap greenhouse gas emissions through a price-on-carbon mechanism.
He noted that the oil companies, in particular, were calling climate change a hoax.
That year, the website of the Town of Jonesborough listed its (past) average and maximum-average July temperatures at 77 and 85 degrees, respectively, rainfall averaging nearly six inches.
Now, with temperatures running well in the upper 80s and into the 90s and high humidity, the Tennessee Valley Authority is advising measures to beat the new heat wave. In our gardens, the soil cracking after less than an inch of rain this month, berries and vegetables are shriveling without supplemental watering.
While the pollinating insects seem frantically at work on still-flowering native plants, some of these, like the Orange Coneflower, have died prematurely while many others show severe heat stress.
As temperatures continue to rise, more plants could reach the point of being unable to form “crops” of their seeds. Joint to flooding and other climate change effects, this could come to impact farming and food production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture shows various crops, when reaching a “failure temperature,” to experience not only yield reductions but outright failure in pollination and seed setting. For beans, for example, it lists the failure temperature at 92 degrees.
President Trump, calling climate change a hoax, has reversed many protective measures implemented by his recent and earlier predecessors.
As Friedman was writing, Russia was sweltering under an extended heat wave and suffering its worst drought in 130 years. This year in June, Arctic temperatures in Siberia reached 100 degrees, their highest ever. China, Bangladesh and other southeast Asian countries see millions of people displaced and hundreds dying as torrential monsoon rains are flooding their rivers.
Global heating is accelerating. Yet, our national leader continues to negate this dire reality and has withdrawn the U.S. from the international Climate Accord to address it.
To ensure our not having to “be sorry,” he should follow the late Senator McCain’s valiant effort and support current carbon-pricing proposals, in the U.S. Congress, to deal with climate change.