This year’s hurricane season has got me thinking a lot about the fragility of our environment and especially global warming.
This is Not Global Warming
There is an old fable describing the death of a frog by boiling. The idea is that if a frog is put into boiling water, it will jump out. However, if a frog is put into lukewarm water which is then slowly brought to a boil, it will not understand the danger and will be cooked to death. This premise holds true for climate change. Climate change is happening slowly. From one year to another, the change is difficult to perceive. However, decade after decade of the burning of fossil fuels to power electricity, transportation, industrial power, heat, and automation has wreaked havoc on our planet.
Over the past one hundred years, the average surface temperature has increased by more than 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius). This heat has been melting glaciers, causing sea levels to rise and changing precipitation patterns. We see the side effects of global warming in the form of more extreme weather events all around the world. From our vantage point in the middle of the Atlantic, we focus mostly on hurricanes. Hurricane Dorian was one of the two largest storms ever to make landfall in the Atlantic.
This is Global Overheating
The financial toll of these disasters is measurable.
The Economist reports that very costly disasters are becoming more frequent. Between 1980 and 2015 the United States had an average of five events each year causing over $1bn in damage (in current prices). Between 2016 and 2018 the yearly average was 15 events.
The human toll is immeasurable.
Let’s stop calling what is happening “global warming.” Warming is cozy, comfortable. There is nothing comfortable about what is happening to the earth, or the side effects of that atmospheric change.
Maybe we can all agree to change global warming to planetary meltdown, or global boiling, or at the very least, global overheating. We are boiling ourselves to death. Not unlike our proverbial frog.