We’re still more than four months away from the first votes being cast in the 2016 presidential race, but the spectacle is drawing media attention like a porchlight draws moths. The incendiary bombast of Trump, the increasing shrillness of Republican also-rans trying to out-Trump Trump, the caginess of Hillary Clinton to sidestep manufactured scandals, Sanders’s roiling economic populist movement, the quiet tickle of a possible Biden run…. There’s so much going on, it’s like watching a plate spinner on a Vaudeville stage. How long can he keep it going?
But while the political circus draws spectators, some very real news is getting short shrift in the media.
Were you aware, for instance, that July 2015 was the hottest month ever recorded? Since 1880, when these things were first tracked, no month has had higher temperatures, globally. The record it broke? July of 2014.
Science Daily, citing materials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reports that the temperature on land was 0.96 degrees Celsius higher than the average for the 20th century, while ocean temperatures were 0.75 degrees Celsius over the 20th century average. Put that together, and you have the hottest month on record.
But you probably never heard about it. As Sam Stein reported on Huffington Post, cable news outlets mentioned the report just ten time, total. Five times on MSNBC (the so-called “liberal media”), and five times on CNN. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, there were exactly zero mentions of it on Fox.
The consequences of global warming are becoming clearer by the day. Earlier this month, three firefighters lost their lives battling a wildfire in Wenatchee, Wash., just the latest wildland fire to destroy property and lives. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), whose state is mired in a historic drought, says expanded wildfire season is “the new normal.” Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent fighting the flames that have devoured the hillsides choked with dry vegetation, leading Brown to challenge the GOP presidential field: What are you going to do about it?
The Guardian reports that about 2 million Californians live in areas at risk from wildfires, so Brown’s question is not merely a political thumb in the Republican Party’s climate-denying eye. More than half of the US Forest Service budget now goes into fighting fires. That’s a powerful signal that change is upon us.
Global warming is not just threatening Americans in where they live, but in how they make their living. Al Jazeera reports that rising river temperatures are threatening sockeye salmon stocks in the Pacific Northwest. Extraordinary efforts are underway to save what’s left of the endangered fish, which can be killed by water temperatures above 70 degrees fahrenheit; current temperatures hover around 68 degrees, leaving them disoriented and lethargic, unable to return to their homes to lay eggs.
Similar scenarios are playing out in fish habitats around the globe, leading the NOAA to develop plans with U.S. fisheries to adapt as rising ocean temperatures push fish species farther away from their normal habitat in search of cooler waters.
“Fishermen are the eyes and ears on the ocean,” Roger Griffis, climate change coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, told Rhode Island Public Radio. “They are out there seeing these changes in real time. So the strategy puts a big emphasis on working more with fishermen, fishing communities, to better understand the changes and prepare for those changes.”
Many climate deniers, and even some who acknowledge the threats posed by global warming, assure us that even if the worst were to come to pass, we can find a technological solution.
Research published this month in the journal Nature Climate Change says the damage done already to the ocean is beyond fixing, even if somehow we were able to rid ourselves of excess carbon dioxide, a leading contributor to the greenhouse effect. It also impacts ocean temperature, acidity, and oxygenation of the water. Think of it this way: a warm beer foams more than a cold one, because gases– like oxygen– dissolve poorly in warm liquids. Without enough oxygen in the water, fewer fish and shellfish can live in it.
“Interestingly, it turns out that after ‘business as usual’ until 2150, even taking such enormous amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere wouldn’t help the deep ocean that much – after the acidified water has been transported by large-scale ocean circulation to great depths, it is out of reach for many centuries, no matter how much CO2 is removed from the atmosphere,” one of the study’s authors told The Guardian.
All of this news has come out in recent weeks, with little attention paid from the mainstream media. Granted, the GOP spectacle has been especially spectacular this election season. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore everything else.
In fact, the issues we discussed here have a connection to the Republican battle royale: The Guardian reports that the candidates have received $62 million in campaign contributions from fossil fuel sources.
Though the circus is in town, there’s still real work to do.