Can I get your thoughts on something?
This has been the summer of our climate discontent, a time when the various effects of global warming and other climate change consequences have arrived with a vengeance.
In Mexico, more than 200 people have been killed by extreme heat. About 60 percent of the US population has been under extreme heat watches. Merely falling on the asphalt in Arizona has been enough to send people to the hospital with serious burns. The Southwest and the Northwest have baked in the sun, with heat-related hospitalizations spiking.
People in the Mediterranean region have been advised to stay inside during the peak of the day. The heat has wilted summer tourism in Greece and Italy. Wildfires have roared through Canadian forests, with the smoke plaguing American cities. Torrential downpours have sent rivers of rainwater coursing through the streets of cities and towns in the US Northeast. In China, livestock, rabbits, and farmed fish have perished in the heat.
There have been other intense weather events in many regions, badly aggravated, if not completely caused, by the human-made climate crisis.
“There’s absolutely no question that the wildfires, storms, floods, and droughts are dramatically intensified by climate change,” said climate expert (and former Boston Globe reporter) Ross Gelbspan, author of two books about the climate crisis. “The climate has always been marked by these extreme weather events. But their frequency and intensity are dramatically ramped up by a hotter atmosphere.”
Indeed, according to scientists at the World Weather Attribution initiative, human-induced global warming has made heat like that which China has sweltered under a once-every-five-years event, whereas such a period would otherwise occur only once every 250 years.
Several decades ago, there was at least the beginning of a bipartisan impulse to address climate change. But even as the science grew stronger, the Republican Party slid into a period of denialism — one promoted by the fossil-fuel industry — that endured for years.
In former president Donald Trump, the nation had a man who called climate change a hoax, withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement establishing voluntary greenhouse gas-reduction targets, and made clear he would do nothing to transition the United States away from fossil fuels, which he saw as a reservoir of potential American wealth.
Only relatively recently — that is, in June 2021 — did some congressional Republicans form the Conservative Climate Caucus and acknowledge that the problem of human-caused climate change is real.
So here are my queries: If you’ve had doubts about human-caused climate change in the past, are they resolved now, and if so, what specifically brought you around?
If you still don’t believe in human-caused climate change, how do you reconcile that view with the events of this summer — or the fact that so many scientists insist it is not just real, but an urgent threat?
Do you have relatives or friends who still insist that climate change results mostly from natural causes, as about a quarter of Americans thought in one recent poll? Or have they changed their minds or gone silent during this summer?
Do you see climate change as a major threat, as 78 percent of Democrats do, or do you fit more with Republican thinking, where only 23 percent consider it such, according to the Pew Research Center? What level of sacrifice do you think we as a country must be prepared to make to ward off its most serious effects? What are your preferred solutions?
If you are a Republican or independent who believes in climate change, how important will it be to have a candidate determined to do something about the problem as you decide your vote? (Of the GOP presidential candidates, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, and former US representative Will Hurd of Texas are the most forthright about the problem, though the remedies they have offered to date are far from sufficient.)
If you are a Democrat, do you believe that nuclear power must continue to be part of our energy mix? Do you think a new generation of nuclear power plants should be added?
In an effort to promote a broader discussion during a summer that has brought the matter to everyone’s attention, I’ll feature some of your comments in a follow-up column. If you’d like to participate, give me your thoughts on any or all of those questions via email.
Specify whether you are willing to be quoted by your full name in a follow-up column, and if so, please also give me your age, occupation, and town or region of residence. Thanks for reading — and please join in.