2021 wasn’t hottest year, but oceans are hottest ever

As the world warms, oceans store an ever more solar energy to increase global ocean heating and polar ice melting.

As the following article explains, thanks to the continuing rise in the greenhouse effect caused by the continuing rise in concentrations of CO₂ and methane, our planet continues to capture more solar heat that it can radiate away to space. Some of this excess increases air temperatures. However, most of the excess solar energy goes into ocean heating. Hot oceans heat Earth. The warmer water can melt polar ice covers and heat can be stored for slow release into the terrestrial environment and atmosphere over many years.

The increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activities traps heat within the climate system and increases ocean heat content (OHC).

Another Record: Ocean Warming Continues through 2021 despite La Niña Conditions

by Lijing, et al., 11/01/2022 in
Advances in Atmospheric Sciences

Abstract: The increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activities traps heat within the climate system and increases ocean heat content (OHC). Here, we provide the first analysis of recent OHC changes through 2021 from two international groups. The world ocean, in 2021, was the hottest ever recorded by humans, and the 2021 annual OHC value is even higher than last year’s record value…. The long-term ocean warming is larger in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans than in other regions and is mainly attributed, via climate model simulations, to an increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. The year-to-year variation of OHC is primarily tied to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). In the seven maritime domains of the Indian, Tropical Atlantic, North Atlantic, Northwest Pacific, North Pacific, Southern oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea, robust warming is observed but with distinct inter-annual to decadal variability. Four out of seven domains showed record-high heat content in 2021. The anomalous global and regional ocean warming established in this study should be incorporated into climate risk assessments, adaptation, and mitigation.

Read the complete article….

Excess heat in the oceans will continue to drive further global warming even if we stop all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

The accumulating heat in the ocean serves as a source of positive feedback to drive global temperatures even higher.

  • By melting sea ice – the warm water melts ice cover that used to reflect solar heat away from the ocean, allowing it to be absorbed tin warm the water further
  • By further warming the atmosphere to spread excess heat to the land to warm soils, increase wildfires, thaw permafrost, and warm wetlands – all increasing ‘natural’ greenhouse gas emissions to trap more solar heat
  • By reducing the solubility of CO₂ and other greenhouse gases in seawater – driving them into the atmosphere where they contribute to further warming and ocean heating
  • By reducing oxygenation to produce ‘dead zones’ where animals and green plants are suffocated to die and decompose anaerobically producing methane and poisonous sulfide gases.

In other words, even without an annual record high air temperature, the process of global warming is accelerating and becoming progressively more difficult to stop and reverse. Unless we mobilize and act soon and vigorously to resolve the climate crisis, enough solar energy will be captured to ensure that the warming process continues. Even if we stop all human carbon emissions the warming will be driven by positive feedbacks from the warm oceans. Beyond stopping human emissions we need to deploy global geoengineering projects. First to capture and sequester greenhouse gases (e.g., by fertilizing the ocean deserts and farming phytoplankton together with ecosystems of plankton eaters able to send much of the carbon fixed by the algae to the bottom sediments of the oceans in the form of feces and dead bodies). And, secondly, to help the Earth reflect more solar heat back to space (e.g., by making the atmosphere more reflective with aerosols such as calcium carbonate).

Australia’s current COALition Government in Canberra is controlled by Captain Humbug (i.e., Scotty from Marketing) and his fellow puppets and clowns of the fossil fuel special interests. They have been working for years to subsidize and protect their puppet masters’ industry from being shut down or even being inconvenienced by actions against global warming. If we are to act effectively and swiftly enough to have any hope of stopping and reversing global warming we need to replace all of the special interests’ clowns and puppets by voting for people in their electorates who understand the currently escalating climate emergency and will put action to resolve the crisis as their highest priority in Parliament. Otherwise, we will have little chance to avoid the global mass extinction that will ensue if we don’t act.

Vote Climate One’s Traffic Light Voting Guide won’t tell you who to vote for, but it will help you avoid voting for anyone whose preferences are likely to flow to the COALition and their allies. Also, if you think our approach here is a useful one, please consider joining with us to become a Climate Hero.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

European summary of the current climate

The EU’s Copernicus satellite-based environmental monitoring program gives their summary of the current climate state and change.

Copernicus: Globally, the seven hottest years on record were the last seven; carbon dioxide and methane concentrations continue to rise

Press Release 10/01/2022, Copernicus Reading (UK)

Monthly global CH4 concentrations from satellites (top panel) and derived annual mean growth rates (bottom panel) for 2003–2021. Top: The listed numerical values in red indicate annual XCH4 averages in the latitude range 60oS – 60oN. Bottom: Annual mean XCH4 growth rates derived from data shown in the top panel. The listed numerical values correspond to the growth rate in ppb/year including an uncertainty estimate in brackets. Data source: C3S/Obs4MIPs (v4.3) consolidated (2003– mid 2020) and CAMS preliminary near real-time data (mid 2020-2021) records. Credit: University of Bremen for Copernicus Climate Change Service and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research in Leiden for the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/ECMWF.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is C3S_PR_Jan2022_ts4_XCH4_C3SCCI_CAMSNRT_20220103_v1.png


Read the complete release….

What does this mean and what can we do about it.

The process of global warming that underlies the present climate emergency is continuing to make the crisis worse. There is no evidence yet that humans (or Australians) are doing anything to even slow the process that is leading us ever closer to a point of no return, where nothing humans can do will suffice to stop Earth’s Climate System from flipping to the Hothouse Earth state that will result in a global mass extinction event. (My graphical essay explains the science underlying this claim.)

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are contributing significantly to this problem. Not only are Captain Humbug and his troop of willing puppets forming our COALition government doing little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they continue to subsidize, promote, and protect their patrons in the fossil fuel industry over working to assure the futures of the citizens who elected them. If we value our own futures and the futures of our children and grandchildren, it is time to replace these coal-handed clowns with people who will give first priority to action on climate change. This year’s Federal Election gives us the chance to do exactly this.

The reality is that if fail to stop and reverse global warming, our families will have no future — meaning that no other issues matter because there will be no one left to be concerned by them.

The Vote Climate One team has assembled a downloadable Traffic Light Voting Guide to help you use your vote to ensure that your preferences will not flow to any of the COALition puppets. We don’t tell you how to vote, but give you a tool to help you decide who you can safely vote for, whose preferences won’t flow to the COAL puppets and clowns should they fail to be elected.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Improve your health and double your climate dividend by eating less mammalian meat

Animal-based foods have higher carbon and land footprints than their plant-based alternatives, and are most commonly consumed in high-income countries. The study, published in Nature Food, investigates how the global food system would change if 54 high-income countries were to shift to a more plant-based diet.

If this land were all allowed to revert to its natural state, it would capture almost 100bn tonnes of carbon – equal to 14 years of global agricultural emissions – the authors note. They add that this level of carbon capture “could potentially fulfill high-income countries’ CO2 removal obligations needed to limit warming to 1.5C under equality sharing principles”.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Global warming means urban wildfires are after you

Amongst many other growing perils resulting from global warming, as long as we allow our only Earth to go on warming urban firestorms will become more frequent, fiercer, and deadlier. Many of Australia’s close packed and leafy suburbs would also be susceptible to this kind of urban firestorm.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Why isn’t the Press tracking the existential crisis overwhelming us?

The climate emergency is an existential crisis for humans. Bill McKibben explains why the Press and politicians ignore the climate emergency even though we risk extinction by ignoring it.

We face an existential crisis of our own making. It threatens to exterminate the human species and most other complex life on our only planet. Yet, day after day, after day, …. the Australian daily press will print multiple pages with nothing but news about the ‘Covid crisis’. And this doesn’t include long articles on the travails of a multi-millionaire anti-vaxer tennis star not being allowed to play his usually tantrum punctuated game at the Australian Open.

At it’s worst, even if nothing is done to minimize its effects, Covid would only kill 1 to 5% of the population. The 1918 ‘Spanish’ flu pandemic (see Wikipedia’s List of Epidemics) killed about this many people. Similarly, 100 years later the Covid Pandemic would be hardly noticed as a minor ripple in human history. Even the Black Death around 1350 that may have killed 50% of all humans at the time had no particularly detrimental consequences on the success of our species.

Today, the ultra-conservative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecasts utterly dire consequences for humanity and our biosphere if we don’t solve the climate crisis. If we fail here, there will be no human history at all, not just a minor blip! Yet the Press and politicians ignore the climate emergency Surely, this is the crisis that the press should be covering every day.

Bill McKibben 05/01/2022 – Just a little too slow. From The Crucial Years.

Journalism is constructed around finding something new. (I think that’s why they’re called newspapers). Which is a problem when it comes to the climate crisis. In geological terms, we are speeding toward the abyss—we’re pouring carbon into the atmosphere hundreds and thousands of times faster than during the volcanic outpourings that marked the previous great extinction events in earth’s history. But in journalistic terms, it happens just a little too slowly to quite register—climate change today is pretty much the same as climate change yesterday and tomorrow. Over a decade or two it will profoundly change the planet, but a decade is not a unit that really registers for TV, much less Twitter. The climate crisis is at all times the most important thing happening on earth, by far, but there’s rarely a twenty-four-hour period when, by the standards we’re used to, it’s the most important thing happening that particular day. It is inexorable, and inexorability is hard for journalists to capture.

And so, even though there’s finally skilled and deep coverage of the issue in some corners of the press (I think over the last five years the Times and the Post have done a better job of covering global warming than any other subject, with one remarkable reporting job after another), its scale—the fact that it threatens everything we know and hold dear—hasn’t sunk in. It requires repetition, constant reiteration of the same small set of facts: the planet is heating rapidly, cheap solar and windpower can slow it down, these are being blocked by vested interest. But repetition and constant reiteration are precisely what reporters and editors don’t like doing, hence the constant search for a “new angle.” I follow, for instance, the Twitter feed of Terry Hughes, the Australian marine scientist who has done more than anyone to chart the ongoing realtime destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. If journalism worked better, that destruction—over the course of a very few years, of the largest living structure on the planet—would be a compelling story. But instead, to his constant and correct exasperation, absurd updates about, say, 3-D printers producing new corals help take the edge off the tragedy. They get attention simply because they’re new; the mass death of an enormous ecosystem is the same story as before.

McKibben nails the issues where the 4th Estate (journalism) is concerned, but says nothing (here) about how the press’s selective inattention helps serve the special interests of the patrons and puppet-masters of the 2nd Estate (our government) over the rest of humanity. Unfortunately, here in Australia (and in many other areas of the world) we are cursed by the fact that many of our governing politicians are more concerned to support the selfish short-term special interests of their multi-billionaire patrons rather than the life-time interests of the people who elect them. By default, the press’s easy distraction by trivia, humbug, fake news, misrepresentation, and misdirection so easily created by the special interests and their government lackeys works to hide the real crisis that threatens our survival.

Stopping human greenhouse gas emissions on its own, will probably not be enough. To initiate actual cooling we will probably also have to actively remove carbon from the atmosphere and safely sequester it somewhere that it will not simply return to the atmosphere, and increase Earth’s ability to reflect excess solar energy away from the planet.

One of the few ways I can think of to remedy this situation is to take charge of the electoral process to purge our Parliament of puppets working for special interests and replace them with people we have good reasons to think will understand the real dangers that face us, take the climate emergency seriously as a first priority, and begin the work to mobilize society to begin effective actions to reverse global warming. In every electorate, Vote Climate One’s Traffic Light Voting Guide will help you direct your votes away from the puppets and towards people our research suggests will put climate action first where their parliamentary actions are concerned.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Scotty from Marketing sets the tone of truthfulness for the COALition Government he leads.

Can we believe anything this crew of special interest puppets says on climate change?

The Crikey article presented here documents our Prime Minister’s deeeep respect for truth and honesty in government and shows how the COALition misrepresents reality. Can we afford to allow him or any of his fellow puppets stay in Parliament?

Peter Fray and Eric Beecher in Crikey, May 25, 2021 – “A dossier of lies and falsehoods – How Scott Morrison manipulates the truth”

A Dossier of Lies and Falsehoods identifies a litany of statements, interviews, speeches and comments over the past two years from Morrison that are demonstrably untrue. Some were clearly intended to mislead, and these are marked as “lies”. Other statements were untrue, or turned out to be so, and these are marked as “falsehoods”.

“There are a great many of both,” writes Crikey politics editor Bernard Keane, “and most of them have been uttered while Morrison occupied the highest office in the land.”

The PM “lies openly and frequently, about matters large and small — Australia’s carbon emissions, or an inquiry in relation to a sexual assault within the ministerial wing in Parliament House, or simply whether he spoke to someone who refused to shake his hand”, Keane writes.

“Most of his lies are about himself, or his government, and what it has done, or failed to do; often he has lied about things he himself has said or done, as if he wasn’t present when a woman refused to shake his hand and he turned his back on her, or he didn’t carefully explain to Parliament that the secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet had given him no update about his report in relation to Brittany Higgins.”

Why have we made a distinction between “lies” and “falsehoods”? Because we appreciate that sometimes the PM might misspeak or be poorly briefed. We are not inside his head. We don’t always know his motive.

But when he repeats or fails to correct the same untruth, in the face of evidence to the contrary, we can only conclude that someone of his intelligence and high status objectively understands and knows what he is doing is lying.

As I have shown in many posts here and elsewhere there is a vast array of factual evidence that our we face an existential climate emergency from human caused global warming. Now that the warming is started it is further amplified by increased rates of ice melting, permafrost thawing, ocean warming, increasing aridity, increasing wildfires, weakening and wandering jet streams, etc.

If we cannot stop and reverse the warming process soon, the heating will continue to accelerate until our world literally becomes too hot for most living organisms to survive. Whole ecosystems will fail and collapse, including our agricultural ecosystems. If the heat doesn’t kill our species directly (e.g., death by heat stroke), crop failures, famine, social disorder, extreme weather, etc. will.

Given that we probably have not yet passed the point of no return — where nothing humans could do would be enough to stop the runaway warming process — there are many actions we can and should be making to mitigate and avoid the risk of extinction. Many of these would benefit from Government promotion and coordination: e.g., to immediately stop the production of greenhouse gases by stopping the burning of fossil fuels and methane gas producing agricultural practices. However, even the best science tends to understate the risks of inaction. Unfortunately, this makes it easy for our present COALition government to lie, misrepresent, obfuscate, distract, and humbug to hide any uncomfortable facts. And further, to actively work to prevent and delay any emergency actions that might in any way inconvenience their patrons and puppet masters in the from positive actions to control global warming.

To help you with your voting decisions we have reviewed all of the parties (even the microparties) and independent candidates to see who they are likely to pass their preferences to and where they stand on climate. Our conclusions inform our Stoplight Voting Guide. We don’t tell you who we think you should put at No.1 on your ballot, but using the Stop Light Guide, by putting our red-light candidates last you will ensure that your vote doesn’t helps to remove them from or keep them out of Parliament. Green-light candidates are those we think will put addressing the climate emergency at the top of their agenda in Parliament.

In terms of guaranteeing that our children and grand children have a viable future, stopping global warming is the only issue in the upcoming election that really matters. If we fail here, we might as well practice singing hymns as our house burns down around us, because nothing we might do will have any effect on the outcome.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

How wildfires affect our likely future

Wildfires and special interest politics in Colorado paint a similar picture to what we see in Australia

This Denver Post article summarizes the longer term impacts and costs of wildfires to society. This applies to Australia as well as the USA and elsewhere. Despite all the political humbug to the contrary, global warming continues to accelerate.

The picture above shows the smoke plume on 30 December, 2022, when hurricane-force winds in Boulder County whipped fires across drought-parched grasslands and suburban neighborhoods, incinerating 991 structures, including part of a shopping center, a hotel, and a town hall. Two people are still missing, presumed dead. (Aqua-MODIS Satellite view. NASA).

Costs and damages due to wildfires will increasingly overlap and concatenate as fire conditions become hotter, drier, and windier. If global warming cannot be reversed, we will sooner or later have no more forests to catch water, and society will eventually be overwhelmed by fire damage and costs.

The only long term solution will be to attack the cause of the accelerating climate emergency by stopping and reversing the warming. Besides stopping all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, this will almost certainly require global geoengineering. I think this is still possible, but it will take global mobilization of the scale of a war effort to save our biosphere from the heat death in the Hothouse Earth.

Stability landscape showing the pathway of the Earth System out of the Holocene and thus, out of the glacial–interglacial limit cycle to its present position in the hotter Anthropocene (Will Steffen et al. PNAS 2018;115:33:8252-8259

Transformation of our capitalist society is needed. We also have to start soon. To achieve these things we must elect an Australian government that puts fixing the climate as the first order of business. No matter what your politics, if we can’t fix this problem, nothing else matters because the wildfires will continue to spread until there is nothing left to burn and there will be no long term survival for the human species.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Australia is shaping up to be the villain of COP26 climate talks

Australia is becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the world with its obstinate approach to the climate crisis. Leaders like US climate envoy John Kerry and COP26 President Alok Sharma have been focused recently on the climate challenge of China — but it’s Australia that’s emerging as the real pariah of the COP26 talks.

Of all the developed countries, Australia has the poorest standing on climate. It’s clear that Australia will just be absent, basically, from the talks,” Bas Eickhout, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, told CNN.”

They were quite happy with the role the United States played until last year, and now of course they seem to be the last-man standing from the Western countries to block progress,” he said, referring to the US’ absence in global climate efforts during the Trump years.

It appears that lobbying fossil fuel companies have hijacked climate policy from the Australian people. Most Australians support more climate action from the government, according to a poll by the Lowy Institute in May. The poll found that 78% of Australians would support a net zero emissions target for 2050. Around the same number support the government subsidizing electric vehicles. And 63% support a ban on new coal mines opening in Australia. Yet of the world’s 176 new coal projects, 79 of them are in Australia, according to Fitch Solutions’ Global Mines Database.

Lucy Manne, the CEO of 350.org, which is an international organization with an Australian presence, accused the Morrison government of deliberately slowing down climate progress.

“This is extremely frustrating, and the government will only see the movement calling for action grow,” she said.”

The Morrison government risks Australia becoming not just a pariah state on the world stage, but also our economy falling behind. Australia has the potential to become a clean energy superpower and exporter, and the Australian public wants us to be a leader, not a laggard.“Angela Dewan, 13 Sept. 2021. Australia is shaping up to be the villain of COP26 climate talks. CNN World.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

NB4 – A new neologism applied to never before encountered climate extremes

‘NB4′ is a very useful neologism for our times and we all need to seriously think about why we need to invent this term for the crescendo of climate related catastrophes and what that is telling us about our species’ prospects for the future. And note, with one exception, the Yale Climate Connections article below only lists NB4s affecting North America. Based on the last few years of news, most countries in the world would be able to list their own crescendos of NB4s.

In Australia conspicuous NB4s include the unprecedented flooding in 2019 of NW Queensland that killed around 600,000 cattle and untold wildlife, the 2019-2020 Black Summer wildfires burning more than 18 MILLION hectares in eastern and southern Australia, and even the mid June flooding and storm damage in Victoria – equivalent to what a Cat 3 Cyclone might cause.

The exception in the Climate Connections article is, of course, the plethora of NB4s associated with the ‘amplification’ of global warming in the Arctic, including the NB4s of ice melting, high temperature records, and associated wildfires.

The unmentioned elephant in the room of this article is to think about what is the climax that the crescendo of NB4s is building to. If we do not stop the process causing the crescendo, the inevitable climax will be the sixth global mass extinction, including our own species extinction — and this will be in the near term.

It is time for the Congress and its citizen constituents, decision-makers of all sorts, and opinion-makers of all political persuasions [and particularly in Australia] to acknowledge that human-driven climate change is undeniably causing catastrophic effects in ways never seen before. And those often-calamitous effects are not only in the “usual suspect” places and the results of predictable reasons.

[Extracted from the article below]

If we are to have a future, acknowledgement of the reality must be urgently followed by total mobilization and action to slow, stop, and reverse global warming. Because the process is clearly accelerating (as demonstrated by the rapidly growing sequence of NB4s), if we don’t do this pretty damn quick it will be too late as Earth’s Climate System flips us and our biosphere into its Hothouse Earth mode.

This is why we must Vote Climate One to elect Parliamentarians who will put stopping global warming as the number one priority guiding their actions in government.

‘Never Before’ (NB4) extreme weather events … and near-misses

by Gary Yohe, Yale Climate Connections – September 9, 2021,

A recurring and troubling pattern of first-time historic weather events provides firm support for citizen and leaders to acknowledge human causation and take needed needed mitigation and adaptation steps.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy visits storm-ravaged Mullica Hill
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy visits storm-ravaged Mullica Hill on September 2, viewing damages caused by ‘remnants’ of Hurricane Ida. (Photo credit: Edwin J. Torres/NJ Governor’s Office)

Attributing extreme events to climate change – including those highly reported though the media – is a difficult task frequently requiring lots time to complete rigorously. The usual mantra is that climate change did not cause X, but climate change did contribute significantly to its intensity and/or its frequency. Which raises the question: “By how much?”

But experience on the ground sometimes makes that attribution to climate change a no brainer. How so? Because no other influence can explain many of the recent events because there is no precedent for their having ever been happened before. Call them “Never Before” in history events (NB4s).

The mundane “Who cares?” version of an NB4 event can be found in the time series of an index of annual mean surface temperature. The five-year trend comparison has been de rigueur for decades, but over just the past 20 years, the “This has been the hottest year ever” framing has been assigned to five of those years.

Another example of a time series worrisome to many experts involves Hurricane Harvey, in 2017. Harvey stalled over Houston for nearly two days.  It dropped 42 inches of rain while it was just hanging around with nowhere to go.  Stalling of hurricanes has been attributed to a reduced temperature difference between the poles and the tropics. It is a signature of climate change that now includes Ida over Louisiana.  In Houston, climate change caused the third “500-year flooding” event in four years – certainly a damaging NB4. 

In the summer of 2020, leaking methane from the melting permafrost across tundra in Siberia released methane that spontaneously ignited when temperatures well above the Arctic Circle exceeded 100oF. The high temperatures are a product of global warming, but the interaction with the tundra is a very troubling NB4.

Hurricane Ida was the second Category 4 (nearly a Cat 5) storm to make landfall in Louisiana in two years.  Ida tied the record for gaining intensity when approaching landfall. The cause of that rapid intensification? Temperature of the Gulf of Mexico waters provided fuel to buttress the intensity. Those water temperatures across the Gulf ranged between 88oF and 90oF to a depth of 150 feetnever before in recorded history.

Subsequently, how is it possible that more than 15 times as many people died from exposure to Ida in eight mid-Atlantic states than in Mississippi and Louisiana combined? Because the severity was unexpected, and many people were unprepared.

In New York City, sustained rain for one hour exceeded three inches during Hurricane Henri in early August, an all-time record.  Less than two weeks later, the remnants of Ida piled on with a new all-time record of 3.15 inches for New York City and 3.24 inches for Newark, New Jersey. Surely another NB4, and especially for piling on. IDA was an NB4 event at least three times over.

Who should care? Surely insurance companies should … and do. They diversify by geography against severe storm events. They increasingly face storm liabilities not only in the anticipated urban and rural and coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico, but also, and increasingly, in the more densely populated broadly distributed areas of New York City, New Jersey, and even Philadelphia. The former they’ve anticipated. The latter, not so much.

And then, not to be outdone or forgotten, there are the rampant wildfires in California: 2018 brought the largest fire in Cal Fire’s recorded history. The following year, 2019, was more modest in its aggression, but 2020 erupted with a new largest fire in history.  The conflagration was also burning at the very same time as the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th largest fires in history. Why the intensity? Megadrought, pine bark beetles that had not suffered through their usual winter freeze for a decade, and extreme record heat combined with record dry lightning.  2020 was an NB4 year.

This calendar year, 2021, has shown no sign of backing down from the challenge to be the worst. It, too, boasts an NB4 claim not only from the same causes, but also for a different reason: No California fire in history had ever climbed the Sierra Nevada mountains and rolled down the eastern side toward Nevada. The Dixie fire accomplished that heretofore-unprecedented feat. But wait, as the cheap cable commercials say, there’s more: A month or so later, the Caldor fire did the same thing, soon seriously threatening South Lake Tahoe for the first time in history. Consider it an NB4 two-fer.

With regard to heat waves, look across the U.S. Pacific Northwest and western Canada. Seattle, for instance, experienced three successive days in the summer of 2021 with maximum temperatures of more than 100oF (June 26-28, 2021). In all of prior recorded history, Seattle had seen only three days above 100oF (July 16, 1941; July 20, 1994; and July 29, 2009). Portland, Oregon, and other areas – places where residential air conditioning are few and far between – fared no better and in some places worse.

And then there is rain in Greenland for the first time, the biggest tornado (spawned by Ida) in New Jersey history, seven inches of rain in Central Park tying the 1927 record, and so on …

It is time for the Congress and its citizen constituents, decision-makers of all sort, and opinion-makers of all political persuasions to acknowledge that human-driven climate change is undeniably causing catastrophic effects in ways never seen before. And those often-calamitous effects are not only in the “usual suspect” places and the results of predictable reasons.

They are occurring unpredictably and in surprising and unexpect[ed], and therefore often [the] least prepared, places.

The hottest summer most Americans have ever lived through

Gary Yohe is the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He served as convening lead author for multiple chapters and the Synthesis Report for the IPCC from 1990 through 2014 and was Vice-Chair of the Third US National Climate Assessment.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.