The drought in the West is climate change. We need to say that.
Heat makes drought worse. Drought makes heat worse. A feedback loop this extreme wouldn't be possible without global warming.
We are in a climate emergency. And you were born at just the right moment to help change everything.
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In the past few years, as the weather has grown more and more severe, as hurricane seasons have blossomed, as fire seasons have become year-round, as our reservoirs are drying up, we’re still struggling with collectively understanding a deep and haunting truth: This is climate change.
Sure, we may know scientifically that the world is getting warmer. We’ve all seen the documentaries about the melting glaciers. But I never really imagined it would be like this.
And I’m definitely not alone. Although climate coverage is growing in the media, it still sharply lags coverage of the weather, which means too often that folks are just not connecting the dots. We’re not getting the emergency message of the climate emergency.
We’re just hours into summer, and some remarkable records have already been set:
Last week featured the hottest day ever in Salt Lake City. Even Billings, Montana hit 108°F — 20 degrees hotter than Miami. In Death Valley, California, the overnight temperature never dropped below 100°F.
After last year's failed monsoon rains, Arizona can no longer fly water-scooping firefighting aircraft because lakes are too low.
In Los Angeles, vegetation is drying out at a rate four months ahead of the driest month in city history. The city has received just 38% of its normal rain this year.
And it’s still only June. Heat like this is coming more than a month before the hottest days of summer. This connection between heat and drought should be leading the news and it’s just… not.
In fact, as the drought has grown worse over the past three months, search traffic for climate has actually declined after peaking on Earth Day:
I’m worried that what we’ve come to associate with climate change: recycling, protecting endangered species, “saving the planet” is too distant and far too removed from what climate change actually is — an immediate threat to people alive today, a driver of inequality and injustice, and one of the biggest and most consequential challenges in human history.
In short, we are in a climate emergency.
This heat is climate change. This drought is climate change.
We’ve got to say it. Over and over and over.
This is climate change
Out West, fire fuels are near all-time records for dryness. And the dry season has just begun, with no meaningful rain expected until November. More than two-thirds of the Western US is now in severe drought, or worse — the most expansive drought on record.
A new study out this month shows for the first time a 70-year trend of dryness in the Western US that explicitly ties global warming to a feedback loop of drier conditions.
This drought is quickly moving beyond the scale of anything we've experienced before.
The impacts are getting worse
Three of the largest reservoirs in the United States — Lake Oroville, Lake Mead, and Lake Powell — are dealing with water levels that are so low, their hydropower generation may be forced to shut down in the coming months. Even if rain comes, the water levels could continue to drop because of additional evaporation from the record heat. In the Bay Area, some municipalities are considering building water pipelines. The fight over water is escalating. Fires are burning more fiercely than at any time in millennia.
And it’s not just in the United States. Globally, the amount of heat that’s being trapped by greenhouse gases has doubled in just the past 15 years. Not only are we not fixing the problem, we’re actively making it worse.
This is climate change
We need to change everything
None of this is inevitable. Our jobs, at this moment in history, are to make sure we hold our leaders accountable and provide care and aid to our neighbors in our collective struggle to build a world that works for everyone.
It’s not going to be easy. But it’s some of the most necessary work we’ll ever do.