As President Obama prepares for his meeting tomorrow with Senators at the White House to discuss clean energy and climate change legislation, he might want to check with the White House staff on an important matter first. No, not the details of the legislation, although that’s important of course. Instead, what President Obama might want to make absolutely sure about is the non-trivial matter of whether the White House air conditioning is in tip-top shape. I say “non-trivial,” but these days it’s more like “life or death.” How hot is it in the Washington, DC area? As NBC Washington puts it, “We're Talking Spontaneous Combustion.” (UPDATE: it's more likely this is apocryphal than literally true, but it sure feels like plants could catch on fire these days in Washington, DC!)
How hot is it? It's so hot that dead plants are spontaneously combusting in Frederick, Md.
Don't believe it? Just ask Frederick County Fire Marshal Marc McNeal, who told the Frederick News-Post that excessive heat caused a dead plant to catch fire Sunday afternoon in a hanging planter on the rear deck of a townhouse.
The hanging basket fell to the deck and burned some vinyl siding, causing about $3,000 in damages.
It has definitely been hot in the Washington region. Monday will be the 10th day in a row that we've reached 90 degrees or higher, and this will be the 17th day of the month that the thermometer has reached 90.
NBC4 meteorologist Tom Kierein said that when it's all said and done, June 2010 likely will be the hottest June on record in the District.
Dead plants catching on fire in the hottest June on record in the Washington, DC area? Sadly, this may not be an aberration, but a frightening sign of things to come in a global warming world. True, we shouldn’t draw broad conclusions about the earth’s climate from one heat wave in one specific geographic area, as certain climate change deniers dishonestly did during last winter’s “snowpocalypse” blizzards. However, when we see month after month, decade after decade of record-setting heat globally, it starts to get a bit hard to ignore.
In fact, climate scientists are not ignoring these heat waves and other phenomena. Earlier today, for instance, The Project on Climate Science reported that the “record-breaking heat wave” we are currently experiencing in the eastern United States “is consistent with climate change.” According to Tom Peterson, Chief Scientist for NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, “We’re getting a dramatic taste of the kind of weather we are on course to bequeath to our grandchildren.” Of course, as The Project on Climate Science points out, “individual heat waves can be driven by a number of factors.” However, they conclude, “more frequent heat waves are one of the more visible impacts of climate change already underway in the United States” and “will occur more frequently in the future.”
In sum, if you enjoy record-setting warmth – not to mention the stronger storms, mass extinctions and “record sea ice shrinkage” in the Arctic that go along with that warmth – you have a lot to look forward to! If not, then you should contact your Senator and let him or her know you want climate action now.
Come to think of it, perhaps we should all hope for the White House air conditioning to be broken tomorrow – or turned off on purpose – so that the Senators meeting there get a taste of what the planet will feel like everywhere if they don’t do something about it now. When you think about it, a bit of Senatorial sweat and a few stained shirts is not too high a price to pay if it results in long-overdue, comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation on the President’s desk sometime this sweltering summer. Is it?