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Droughts of Land and Morals: Why Global Warming Matters Locally

Photo by Roland Peschetz, via Flickr Creative Commons

NASA pointed out last week that the planet has just experienced the hottest six months on record, fanning fears the pace of global warming is accelerating.

The six-month period stretches from April through September. The months April, May, June, and August were the hottest recorded for those months in history. According to one meteorologist who writes for Slate: "...global temperatures may have already passed a level that human civilization has never experienced."

Meanwhile, the Pentagon last week issued a report outlining how climate change should be a current factor in determining how the United States military should operate. One risk of climate change, for example, is the destabilization of foreign governments because of famine caused by drought or another major severe weather event, which can lead to unrest and extremism.

All this might seem far removed from Oklahoma, but that's not the case for these following reasons:

(1) Just because it was a relatively cooler summer this year in Oklahoma doesn't mean that it wasn't steaming hot in other places on the planet or that overall mean temperatures didn't increase. It's the overall, larger frame that counts when it comes to global warming, not the day-to-day weather conditions. These new statistics could portend events and crises that could have a major impact in the state over the long term. Major ecological disasters, for example, could severely impact the world economy, which, in turn, could devastate Oklahoma's own economy.

(2) Although Oklahoma experienced a relatively cooler and rainy summer, as I mentioned, extreme drought conditions persist in western Oklahoma, threatening water supplies and affecting agriculture. Is this related to climate change or just part of a multi-year cycle? It just makes common sense to at least consider factors such as increasing world temperatures when dealing with this question.

(3) Oklahoma continues to experience a record number of earthquakes, which scientists argue are caused by the injection well process used in the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, drilling method. The burning of fossil fuels, which then become carbon emissions, is at the heart of manmade global warming. So Oklahoma gets it both ways. The release of climate-changing fossil fuels from the ground also threatens the safety and property of Oklahoma residents through the potential of major earthquakes.

(4) U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who is on track for reelection this year in Oklahoma, is one of the world's most well known deniers of manmade global warming despite the growing evidence that the planet is perilously close to major disasters because of climate change. Inhofe, it should be noted, has received more than $400,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry since 2009. Let's be clear that a vote for Inhofe is a vote for an unregulated oil and gas industry that can do massive damage to the environment without penalty.

Drought and earthquakes here, combined with local political leaders who don't believe in the scientific method, means Oklahomans have much at stake as the world grows hotter through the carbon emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Given the circumstances, it only makes sense here to increase the development of renewable energy sources that have less of a negative impact on the environment and to ban fracking entirely as some communities across the world have already done.

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