CANCUN, Mexico -- Critical negotiations are under way here in Cancun, under the auspices of the United Nations, to reverse human-induced global warming. This is the first major meeting since the failed Copenhagen summit last year, and it is happening at the end of the hottest decade on record. While the stakes are high, expectations are low, and, as we have just learned with the release of classified diplomatic cables from Wikileaks, the United States, the largest polluter in the history of the planet, is engaged in what one journalist here called "a very, very dirty business."
Our daily weather reports, cheerfully presented with flashy graphics and state-of-the-art animation, appear to relay more and more information.
And yet, no matter how glitzy the presentation, a key fact is invariably omitted. Imagine if, after flashing the words "extreme weather" to grab our attention, the reports flashed "global warming." Then we would know not only to wear lighter clothes or carry an umbrella, but that we have to do something about climate change.
I put the question to Jeff Masters, co-founder and director of meteorology at Weather Underground, an Internet weather information service. Masters writes a popular blog on weather, and doesn't shy away from linking extreme weather to climate change:
In the hit movie Up in the Air, George Clooney plays a professional who travels around the U.S. to fire people on behalf of employers. Clooney's character logs thousands of air miles. In fact, he flies so often that one of his personal goals is to become a member of the exclusive ten-million-mile-club. I'm a fan of Clooney and appreciate a well-told story, but the question that kept nagging me during the movie was: "What do all those miles add up to in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions?"