Warming, Anyone?

So it was 80 degrees yesterday. Yesterday was also October 23. That's unusual. But it hasn't been unusual for this fall in Washington, DC. When I went apple picking a few weeks ago, it was incredibly hot -- summerish -- not good weather for a classic fall activity. But they said the orchard was going to be closed for further picking after that weekend, because thanks to the massive drought sweeping the southeastern US, the trees were going to be no good after that. The good news, though, was that the bizarre weather meant this might be the best year ever for Virginia wines.

Meanwhile, much of California appears to be on fire as drought conditions and unusual winds make it more difficult than it's usually been to contain the wildfires. Watching displaced people taking shelter in Qualcomm Stadium one wonders if this -- huddled masses of American refugees in NFL stadiums -- won't be the iconic image of the Bush years. One also wonders if it'll be the iconic image of the American future.

No doubt one can't scientifically prove that Katrina wouldn't have been so bad, or that yesterday's weather would have been more pleasant, or that orchards in Maryland would be healthier, or southern Californians safer from fire if only the Kyoto Protocol had been ratified seven or eight years ago. The weather is just too hard to model in detail. But this seems certain to be the kind of thing we can expect more and more of in years to come if the planet keeps getting warmer, a stark reminder that while the price of building a low carbon economy may be high, doing nothing is hardly a cost-free alternative.