From Wyoming Public Media (Robyn Vincent):
Just weeks into the summer season, a heatwave is once again suffocating parts of the Mountain West including areas already grappling with historic drought conditions.
Blistering temperatures in Nevada, Utah and Idaho come on the heels of an analysis by the World Weather Attribution linking extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest to human-caused climate change.
“An event such as the Pacific Northwest 2021 heatwave is still rare or extremely rare in today’s climate, yet would be virtually impossible without human-caused climate change,” the study reads. “As warming continues, it will become a lot less rare.”
Bryan Shuman, a climate scientist at University of Wyoming, was not surprised by the analysis.
“There’s no doubt that as the atmosphere and the ocean absorb more heat, we’re going to have more warm days,” he said. “The Earth is currently absorbing far more heat from the sun than it releases back to space. And so we feel that — it’s like putting on a warm coat around the whole planet.”
Across the Mountain West, Shuman says this summer’s heat is “really unusual, in terms of how incredibly hot it’s been, but it’s also really surprising, I think to many people, how early the heat has come.”
The reality right now, Shuman says, is that extreme warm events, like heatwaves, are becoming the norm. “In fact, we basically have lost our extreme cold events. What would seem like cold events now are actually just normal events — middle of the road, cool weather.”
That is a concern in the Mountain West for multiple reasons. For one, many homes lack air conditioning…
Easing the impacts of the climate crisis hinges on small behavioral shifts, such as flying less, Shuman said. “That’s probably the biggest single way I personally add carbon in the atmosphere and help make things warm.”
But he was careful to point out that large systematic shifts are significantly more impactful. To spur that kind of change, he suggests tapping into economic forces, such as enacting a tax on carbon emissions.