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Fossil fuels create pollution and global warming
Jeremy Symons' op-ed column on extreme weather patterns of global warming in Virginia

 Dan Webster cleans up storm debris at his home in Spotswood Estates after a microburst damaged trees and buildings earlier this month.
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Date published: 7/24/2012

VIRGINIA, welcome to the new "normal." And hold on to your hats, because the recent damaging storms are a warning of the extreme weather that lies ahead. Like it or not, we have some choices to make.

We have always looked East and South for the big blows as hurricanes make their way inshore from the Atlantic or move up from the Gulf. The recent "derecho" storm took everyone by surprise, and from a new direction. The storm formed suddenly and rushed eastward from the Midwest at high speeds, sometimes covering 80 miles in a single hour. At 3 p.m., wind gusts were exceeding 90 miles per hour in Indiana. Unused to seeing hurricane-like winds approach from the West, the National Weather Service waited until 6:30 p.m. before issuing a severe thunderstorm watch for Virginia. Four hours later, wind gusts of up to 80 mph hit Fredericksburg.

The storms recently formed during scorching heat--the front end of a record-melting heat wave that lasted for 11 consecutive days of 95-degree-plus heat. Our local heat wave is the latest in a global trend. Since the year 2000, we have witnessed nine of the 10 hottest years ever recorded, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which tracks global surface temperatures. The first half of 2012 is officially the warmest six-month start to a year ever.

Pollution is warming the planet, and the extra heat is putting our climate on steroids, wreaking havoc with traditional weather patterns. America's pre-eminent scientific body, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, has concluded that pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes is destabilizing our climate. Climate change, they write, "is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems. The sooner that serious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions proceed, the lower the risks posed by climate change."


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