Think of them as omens of our age. While global temperatures have been soaring lately — May was the 13th month in a row to break all-time heat records — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just reported, more parochially, that this was the hottest June on record for the lower 48 states. (USA! USA!) No state came in below the norm and in the West and Southwest, it was hot as hell. Record hot.
Then consider this: Arctic summer sea ice is heading for oblivion at a remarkable pace (which, since ice reflects sunlight, means that those waters will now be absorbing yet more heat). In June, that ice was disappearing at a rate 70% faster than the norm. Looked at over the longer term, as Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian explained, “a vast expanse of ice — an area about twice the size of Texas — has vanished over the past 30 years, and the rate of that retreat has accelerated.”
By the way, if you want to keep your eye on the horizon for future such omens, a possible 2016 record is already looming when it comes to billion-dollar-plus weather disasters with eight of them so far this year. The average had once been five annually, but in recent years has been around 11.
If you’ll excuse a mixed (but appropriate) metaphor, given the subject TomDispatch regular Michael Klare takes up today, there seem to be an awful lot of canaries in the coal mines at the moment, and wherever you turn, they’re expiring. Klare’s latest report on our fossil-fueled planet suggests that the use of coal, oil, and natural gas will not fall, but actually continue to rise in the next decades and so, of omens, there will be plenty to come.