Another Day Ruined by Global Warming


It's happening again. For the second time in two weeks, my basement is slowly but inexorably filling with water, the result of a near-biblical string of rainstorms that has hit New England over the last several weeks. We are poised to smash the all-time record for rainfall in the month of March, with the vast majority of that rainfall coming since mid-month.

During the last storm, the Boston Globe ran a telling graphic featuring Celtics seven-footer Kevin Garnett. The graphic showed what would have happened if the rain that fell during that storm had fallen as snow instead - not an implausible thing for New England in mid-March. As it turns out, the snow would have come up to about Garnett's eyebrows: 80 inches.

Of course, just a couple of months ago, there was freakish snowfall just south of here in the mid-Atlantic states, with Washington, D.C. and other cities getting pounded by a series of record-breaking storms. (We, on the other hand, enjoyed a warmer-than-normal winter with less snow than normal.) The snow was so bad that some observers questioned whether it would scuttle chances for congressional action on energy and climate legislation.

It doesn't take too much sleuthing into the scientific record to find out that global warming is expected to lead to exactly the set of changes that buried D.C. in snow and are even now putting the homes of thousands of New Englanders at risk. Our own report from two years ago, When it Rains it Pours, documented the trend toward a greater number of extreme precipitation events - both rain and snow - in the United States over the last 60 years. Since warmer air can hold more water, these kinds of extreme events are predicted to continue to become more common as the planet warms.

For the climate deniers and many in the media, however, to crib Ronald Reagan's famous malapropism, "facts are stupid things." It is a lot more interesting to make fun of Al Gore or to build an igloo in front of the capital than to actually have a serious discussion about the science of climate change. It's no wonder that there is so little momentum in Congress for the kinds of changes we need to make to prevent the most dangerous impacts of global warming - impacts that will make flooded basements and major snowfalls look like child's play.

At any rate, this evening I'll return home to do what New Englanders are supposed to do - stoically and patiently deal with adversity. Which, come to think of it, isn't bad advice for those of us working to convey the reality and importance of global warming to the media and the public.