Wednesday April 1st… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ET’s will be listed at the very end of my article, below the news section for each day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ET’s (not extraterrestrials)😉
Main Topic: America…A Land of Denial and Death
Dear Diary. Welcome to April after a rough March worldwide due to COVID19. No fooling, I think that our best days are behind us:
I was blessed to have a fairly good childhood, being too young to get drafted into the Vietnam conflict. I attained my goal of becoming a meteorologists in large part since our educational system was at a high point during the 1970s when science was well respected, and most teachers had decent salaries. The Weather Channel started and prospered during this Pax Americana, so I had a great career, being employed there from 1983-2014. Many individuals and companies prospered due to the advent of new tech, such as the Internet, during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. The middle class continued to flourish, building on the foundation set up by the New Deal of the 1930s. The Cold War ended in 1990, so fear of inhalation and mass destruction, such as occurred during the 1940s, relaxed considerably during the last decade of the 20th century.
Even during my “Pax Americana,” though, there were horrific events such as the Energy Crisis, the Iran Hostage Crisis, the Dotcom Bust, 911, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Great Recession. Yet these can’t compare to the Great Depression, the Civil War, two world wars, slavery, and the era of Jim Crow, and of course, the Vietnam War with a myriad of assassinations during the 1960s. Also, during the relative period of peace from 1865-1916 life was pretty hard on the American Frontier and elsewhere before 20th century conveniences due to inventions from the Industrial Revolution began to pop up, kicking modern life into high gear. Now that same Industrial Revolution will be responsible for making life much harder due to our changing climate.
Indeed though, the future is not set in stone, and perhaps at some point in U.S. history if we all work very hard, adhering to advice to rebuild society from scientific experts, we may see another 40-50 year period of relative peace and stability. However, could underlying factions within the United States kill any hope of returning to very good times?
The following statement is very difficult for me to write. The United States has become a land of death and denial. As of April 1st, 2020 this is so true looking at how we have handled the coronavirus crisis, so far, and the climate crisis since the 1980s. As of 4/1/20 the United States has passed China with the most COVID 19 deaths. Only Italy and Spain have seen more. Paul Krugman has written an essay, which encapsulates some of my own thoughts during this time in which we have fallen over a cliff. There is not much hope of seeing the boom time of the 2010s continuing into the 2020s since we are wrecking our economy trying to fight a pandemic, which might have been avoided had experts been trusted to lead. As of today American deaths have surpassed those from 911 and could surpass those from the Vietnam War era before this year is out. This is worth some deep thought:
COVID-19: How America became a land of denial
Paul Krugman 1 day ago
© Provided by Gulf News 200323 New York
Death comes at you fast. Just three weeks ago the official line at the White House and Fox News was that the coronavirus was no big deal, that claims to the contrary were a politically motivated hoax perpetrated by people out to get Donald Trump.
Now we have a full-blown health crisis in New York, and all indications are that many other cities will soon find themselves in the same situation.
And it will almost certainly get much worse. The United States is on the worst trajectory of any advanced country — yes, worse than Italy at the same stage of the pandemic — with confirmed cases doubling every three days.
Among advanced countries, the US has long stood out as the land of denial and death. It’s just that we’re now seeing these national character flaws play out at a vastly accelerated rate
– Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate
I’m not sure that people understand, even now, what that kind of exponential growth implies. But if cases kept growing at their current rate for a month, they would increase by a factor of a thousand, and almost half of Americans would be infected.
Flatten the curve
We hope that won’t happen. Many, although not all, states have gone into lockdown, and both epidemiological models and some early evidence suggest that this will “flatten the curve,” that is, substantially slow the virus’ spread.
But as we wait to see just how bad our national nightmare will get, it’s worth stepping back for a few minutes to ask why America has handled this crisis so badly.
Incredibly bad leadership at the top is clearly an important factor. Thousands of Americans are dying, and the president is boasting about his TV ratings.
But this isn’t just about one man. Neither the scientific denial that crippled the initial response to this pandemic, nor the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths that now seem likely, are unique to COVID-19.
Among advanced countries, the US has long stood out as the land of denial and death. It’s just that we’re now seeing these national character flaws play out at a vastly accelerated rate.
Latest on coronavirus
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About denial: Epidemiologists trying to get a handle on the coronavirus threat appear to have been caught off guard by the immediate politicization of their work, the claims that they were perpetrating a hoax designed to hurt Trump, or promote socialism, or something. But they should have expected that reaction, since climate scientists have faced the same accusations for years.
And while climate-change denial is a worldwide phenomenon, its epicenter is clearly here in America: Republicans are the world’s only major climate-denialist party.
Nor is climate science the only thing they reject; not one of the candidates contending for the GOP’s 2016 nomination was willing to endorse the theory of evolution.
What lies behind Republican science denial? The answer seems to be a combination of fealty to special interests and fealty to evangelical Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr., who dismissed the coronavirus as a plot against Trump, then reopened his university despite health officials’ warnings, and seems to have created his own personal viral hot spot.
The point, in any case, is that decades of science denial on multiple fronts set the stage for the virus denial that paralysed US policy during the crucial early weeks of the current pandemic.
About death: I still sometimes encounter people convinced that America has the world’s highest life expectancy. After all, aren’t we the world’s greatest nation? In fact, we have the lowest life expectancy among advanced countries, and the gap has been steadily widening for decades.
This widening gap, in turn, surely reflects both America’s unique lack of universal health insurance and its equally unique surge in “deaths of despair” — deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide — among working-class whites who have seen economic opportunities disappear.
Is there a link between the hundreds of thousands of excess deaths we suffer every year compared with other rich countries and the tens of thousands of additional excess deaths we’re about to suffer from the coronavirus? The answer is surely yes.
In particular, when we conduct a post-mortem on this pandemic — a stock phrase that, in this case, isn’t a metaphor — we’ll probably find that the same hostility to government that routinely undermines efforts to help Americans in need played a crucial role in slowing an effective response to the current crisis.
What about the larger picture? Is there a link between the uniquely American prevalence of science denial and America’s uniquely high mortality? To be honest, I’m still trying to figure this out.
One possible story is that the US political landscape gives special power to the anti-science religious right, which has lent its support to antigovernment politicians. But I’m not sure whether this is the whole story, and the power of people like Falwell is itself a phenomenon that demands explanation.
In any case, the point is that while America is a great nation with a glorious history and much to be proud of — I consider myself very much a patriot — the rise of the hard right has, as I said, also turned it into a land of denial and death. This transformation has been taking place gradually over the past few decades; it’s just that now we’re watching the consequences on fast forward.
Paul Krugman is one of America’s foremost public intellectuals. He is a Nobel laureate and teaches economics at the City University of New York
Perhaps my readers are thinking that the Climate Guy has gotten too dark here on April 1st. For most of 2019 I was “optimistically” suggesting that if American politics went the right way, jettisoning Trump, we may avoid the worst the climate could deal us if we got our carbon polluting house in order. Even during 2019 I was writing a lot of sentences with “ifs and mays,” and that’s without any mention of a pandemic. Now we are finding that due to COVID19 the world is beginning to delay more necessary change with our carbon intense infrastructure. Solar and wind companies are being hurt. I’ll have more about that tomorrow on the Extreme Temperature Diary.
Now, here are some of todays articles on the horrendous coronavirus pandemic:
Here is more climate and weather news from Wednesday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article.)
Here are some cold “ET’s” for a change:
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”