by Dell deChant
As the fall of 2016 begins with the autumnal equinox (September 22), here in this part of Florida most folks are probably aware that we’ve had an usually hot summer – which is saying something for the Tampa Bay Region. This should not be too much of a surprise however, since August and July tied for the hottest months on record and, as reported by NASA, “each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month in the modern temperature record.”
Memories of seasons past suggest that there should have been a cool spell or two by now – a hint of fall, at least. Not this year, unless you count the few sub-90-degree days in early September when Hurricane Hermine passed by. We’ve not only been in the 90s, we’ve often been in the mid-90s, with more than a few 95-degree days in July and August, and now September. In this part of Florida, the average high for the summer months is 90 degrees – exactly. A cursory check of Tampa’s high temperatures shows we’ve been at or above that most days (about 80% of the time), with plenty of days in the 93-96 range.
This is incredibly hot for Florida, and more than a few folks have remarked to me that they do not remember it ever being this hot. I don’t either, and I’ve lived here for more than 60 years.
Then, again, I’ve never experienced the impact of climate change. None of us have.
But we all are now, and this summer is just a hint of what will come – and here in the United States, we have it so much better, so much easier than the rest of the world.
We have it so much easier, that we can simply ignore the consequences of anthropogenic climate change. We can affirm that we are not scientists and so do not have a clue about what is going on. We can turn down the thermostat. We can claim that taking action to combat climate change will harm the economy, so we shouldn’t do anything. We can change the channel when stories of drought and famine come on the TV. We can support candidates and a political party that do not believe in anthropogenic climate change – as though it were a matter of belief.
We can ignore the wildfires in the American west, rising sea levels that are already flooding streets along the Eastern Seaboard, the slow death of the Indian River Lagoon and the sudden death of Black Skimmers on St. Pete Beach, Zika babies – and even the heat.
Oppressive, mind-numbing heat, is not the half of it. The high temperatures are just warning signs, and temperatures will be higher still in years to come. Imagine that. As I reflect on the world to come, I realize today’s children will look back at September 2016 and likely remember it somewhat like I remember Septembers of my youth, 50 or so years ago – as cooler than it is in that future time of theirs. Consider a world, when 90 degree days are cool – a least in memories. I think of babies being born today, and consider their life in 60 years – 2076. The United States will be celebrating its tri-centennial. How hot will it be then? What will those celebrations be like?
Too often we hear scary projections introduced with the tired old rhetoric: “If current trends continue….” I suspect most folks tune out what comes after such introductions. I also suspect most folks already know exactly what will come if current trends continue; and I suspect they know exactly what will come even if they don’t believe in climate change–as though it was a matter of belief.
Dell deChant is the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida. He is a Master Instructor and has served at USF since 1986. The author of three books, over 30 articles in professional publications, and chapters in twelve books, deChant’s specialization is religion and contemporary cultures. His current research focuses on the religious and ecological dimensions of food production as it manifests in American popular culture and religion.