About a dozen years ago, the New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tom Friedman wrote a column in which he explained that “global warming” was a misnomer for the coming changes to the earth’s environment. He quoted some climate scientists who suggested that the more-appropriate way to think about the coming changes in our weather pattern is to call it “global weirding.”
That’s because, wrote Friedman, the effects of spewing fossil fuels into the environment will not become manifest in something as benign-sounding as “global warming.” After all, if the planet gets a little bit warmer, the term “global warming” suggests that we only need to crank up the AC in the summer and we can turn down our thermostats in the winter. No big deal, right?
But by using the term “global weirding,” the scientists were telling us that extreme weather events, fueled by a warming atmosphere, would become the norm in every part of the globe.
Consider that in this summer alone, the American West is facing a drought that appears to be the worst in 1200 years and the northeast is also now experiencing drought conditions.
Yet at the same time, record rainfalls have brought about floods that have overwhelmed St. Louis, Kentucky, Yellowstone National Park, Dallas, Mississippi, and Georgia.
Boise, Idaho just experienced its hottest August and has seen the most days over 100 degrees (already at 22) in a year since the city’s record-keeping began in 1875.
Some parts of China are experiencing their longest sustained heat wave since record-keeping began in 1961, according to China’s National Climate Center, leading to manufacturing shutdowns owing to a lack of hydropower because of dried-up rivers.
Yet there also has been dramatic flooding in other parts of the country.where the highest-ever water levels in history have been recorded on some rivers.
Parts of Japan are in extreme drought and that country recently endured its hottest June since record-keeping began in 1874.
In Europe, the drought affecting Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy is on track to be the worst in 500 years.
Yet two weeks ago, torrential rains once again drenched England, turning London’s streets into rivers and flooding the underground train system. Oh, and London earlier this summer recorded its hottest day on record that precipitated wildfires in the city’s outskirts.
A dozen years after Mr. Friedman’s column, the term “global warming” has been retired and we now use the more-accurate term of climate change.
On the other hand, given how crazy the weather has been all across the planet these past few weeks, “global weirding” does have a better ring of truth to it.
But whatever we want to call it, it is clear that there is no escaping the inevitable effects of our warming planet — and about the only thing we can say for sure is that things are going to get a lot worse. While we certainly applaud the recently-passed bill (the so-called Inflation Reduction Act) by Congress that will set the U.S. on a world-leading path to reducing fossil fuel emissions, we can’t help but think that it is too little, too late.