Opinion: Commentary: It Is Hot Outside

Opinion: Commentary: It Is Hot Outside

The extended weather forecast for this week indicates that temperatures will be in the mid- to upper-90s. Before the end of the month, it is likely to get hotter. Before complaining, however, we should consider what is happening in other parts of the world with a surging pandemic, extreme weather conditions from droughts to severe flooding, raging fires, and unsettled political conditions.

A report issued in June of this year from the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, titled “The Impact of Climate Change on Virginia’s Coastal Areas,” advises us that “climate change will have an increasingly disruptive effect on people living in Virginia…and these disruptions will have repercussions across the Commonwealth.” VASEM is a nonprofit group made up of the best minds in Virginia’s institutions of higher education and other scientific and research organizations. (http://www.vasem.org/) The report is not yet online but is available in print form.

The scientists advise us that “small recalibrations of the greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere can have enormous implications for the solar energy the earth retains. This surplus of energy, mostly in the form of heat, has set in motion the changes that will define the century.” The evidence they have gathered indicates that for most of the past 800,000 years the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been between about 200 and 280 parts per million, but in the past century that amount has jumped to more than 400 parts per million. The result has been that the earth has absorbed a tremendous amount of energy that is raising temperatures at a rate expected to be 2.7 degrees by 2050. That increase has been brought on by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation.

According to Virginia scientists and experts, the results of climate change will have more impact on the weather than simply being hotter outside. While the report focuses on the coastal region of Virginia, the entire state can expect erratic weather patterns of extreme rainfall, extreme winds, and increased variability in seasonal temperatures. These changes can have important consequences for agriculture and growing seasons and for human health. For the coastal area of Virginia, the consequences will be sea level rise brought about by melting ice sheets and glaciers and by thermal expansion of water. The Virginia coastline is affected by land subsidence as land area actually goes down. According to the report, “The rate of relative sea level rise in coastal Virginia which combines both sea level rise and land subsidence, is among the highest rates in the United States.”

It is hot outside, but it is going to get hotter! Irrefutable scientific evidence proves the existence of climate change and its resulting weather and other impacts as the VASEM report and hundreds of others like it document. The time for debate is past. We need to move up the date for achieving zero emissions in all sectors of our society and take other actions to stop the changes in our climate.