Scott Thill: We’ve got heat domes in the Midwest and the East, and cool marine layers chilling summers in the West. In related news, up is down and down is up.
Peter Ward: Well, right now Seattle is 64 degrees. We’ve had the wettest, coldest summer in history. We’re freezing. It’s insane, but so is global warming.
ST: So how do you see climate change unfolding in the next 50 years?
PW: Unless we do something about human population, I doubt we will be able to do anything. The thing is, we’re good enough at fixing diseases and feeding ourselves that we’re not going to lose 20 to 40 percent of the human population. But if we could drop human population back down to four billion, we’d have a fighting chance. But we can’t. I truly believe that we’re heading to 10 or 11 billion by the end of this century, at the latest. We’re increasing longevity with wonderful medical advances. But people don’t realize that by increasing lifespans a decade or more around the world, we’re decreasing the death rate as the birth rate keeps rising. So we’re in a runaway human population situation and have been since the ’80s and ’90s. The scary thing is that we’ve got an intersection of declining freshwater and too many people.
And the freshwater decline is due to global warming, which is raising the snow levels in the mountains. California is a prime example. When it gets to the point that it rains all winter in the Sierra Nevada, what do you have when the hot summer arrives and you need that water for irrigation? When there’s nothing to melt anymore by March or April, you’ve got a desert. So the agriculture of the San Joaquin Valley is in deep trouble from decreased freshwater and soil that is turning salty because of sea-level rise. This is the case all over the planet. The lowest lying lands have the richest soil, and these are the lands that rising sea level is going to salinize.
ST: Although extreme weather variation is a climate change no-brainer, the party line for the Republican base is that snow of any kind is evidence that global warming is a hoax.
PW: It just drives me crazy. Why do they think we’re getting more snow? Because there is more water in the atmosphere! And why is that? Oh yeah, it’s warmer. If we could teach science in school, these guys would get a clue. These are enormous wet-air masses that are anomalously produced in winter, and work their way across North America and push up against the Arctic cold. Of course it turns to snow! It’s more water than has been in that area than ever before.