Over the Hill

Paso hot spell, Gulf Coast flooding signal climate change

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Most of you probably know I live in Paso Robles. Maybe you think I’m stupid to live here because Paso has a reputation for being a really high-temperature place. And it really was hot here recently for over a week. But it was dry heat so I didn’t get soaked with sweat.

It was a torrid, 10-day hot spell, with temperatures as high at 115 degrees. But despite the heat, our air wasn’t muggy. My computer’s dictionary defines muggy as “very humid, or unpleasantly hot and humid.”

“Muggy” isn’t a word that we commonly hear in California. But in western New York State where I grew up, the word “muggy” was almost as common as “Mommy” and “Daddy” (at least during the summers). Back there, hot summer days aren’t just humid; they are muggy.

Last Saturday Paso Robles’ temperature hit 115-degrees.That made the next day’s temperature of 101 seem cool. What should we make of those 10 straight days with temperatures over 100 degrees? They strike me as convincing evidence that climate change is real.

But that’s pretty minor compared to what Hurricane Harvey did in late August to some areas of Texas and Louisiana on the Gulf coast. With overpowering winds and about 52 inches of rain, Harvey caused widespread flooding and 50 deaths. America’s weather is obviously getting wilder.

So who’s to blame for changing the Earth’s climate? I guess I am, and a few billion other humans. You see, I was born in 1930. The National Geographic says the Earth’s human population in 1930 was only two billion. But now the U.S. Census Bureau says there are more than 7.4 billion humans living on Earth.

So just in my lifetime the Earth’s human population has increased by over 5.4 billion and we’re still multiplying. We’ve probably also increased the pollution of the Earth’s water and air by a similar ratio. We also have trouble “being nice” to each other and getting along.

We don’t trust each other, sometimes for good reasons. And we kill and maim each other in our endless wars. We want to boss each other. We want to keep people out of our territory but sometimes we encroach on theirs. We take each other’s stuff.

Our greatest liquid asset is our natural underground water, but we still don’t have a really fair way of sharing it.

Some people don’t believe our climate is really changing. But maybe this latest 10-day streak of temperatures above 100 degrees will convince some doubters. And maybe the pictures and news stories of Texas and Louisiana’s huge hurricane disaster will convert some other skeptics. I hope so.

I am writing this column at home Sunday evening. A brief rainfall just showered my roof. Somehow that reassured me that despite climate change and huge natural catastrophes, life will always strive to continue on.

Phil Dirkx's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every other week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.