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Summer

August 6, 2012

A couple weeks ago, renowned climatologist and sometime political pundit George Will explained on ABC's "This Week" the year's late extreme weather.

"Summer." That was his one word diagnosis for us novices.

Baseball is his stronger suit. The remark was a good example of what's wrong with the pundit heavy, expert light debate on this issue.

The "This Week" round table commentary on climate change was better suited to small talk at a family picnic over checkers and dominoes in an old-timers rocking chair corner on the porch.

Why is climate change an important issue for furniture? Because green furniture would likely be tied to a decreased emissions story, a carbon story and a conservation story. And those issues each have a role in climate change.

Globally, the last two decades have been the hottest on record. Drought has been with man since before he wandered out of Africa. But there is a difference between natural and unnatural climate change.

Looking at long term trends since 1880, June 2012 was the 36th consecutive June and 328th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If climate change were to exist, you would see more stories involving items like the prevalent road buckling, drought, wildfires, increased crime, loss of crops and wildlife stories we're seeing more of this year.

None of the items are stand-alone indicators of climate change, but taken together, they read like a grocery list of what you could expect in a climate-changed future.

Two-thirds of the U.S. is in drought, including the hard hit central region of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

At least half of our nation's counties have been declared disaster areas. Much of our nation's corn crop is past the stage to benefit from recent rains and lower temperatures.

For corn, this year will mark the fourth year of declining U.S. bushel yields per acre. Predictions were for a 2012 bumper crop.

Another item of note -- and they've had this problem in other areas of the country -- is road buckling. Even I could find this close to home on U.S. 52 in Winston-Salem, N.C. Roadway surfaces can buckle for a variety of reasons, but extreme heat is one of the main ingredients.

Not only that, but extreme dryness can cause the soil that holds the foundation in place for your home to separate from the soil. That can cause shifting in your foundation.

For water systems, drought not only dries up the natural habitats of fish and wildlife, but causes conditions that fish cannot tolerate. Tens of thousands of fish in Nebraska and Illinois are victims of these conditions.

From this story:

"So many fish died in one Illinois lake that the carcasses clogged an intake screen near a power plant, lowering water levels to the point that the station had to shut down one of its generators."

And, if you're looking to put a number value on it:

"Iowa DNR officials said the sturgeon found dead in the Des Moines River were worth nearly $10 million."

Heat can also cause increases in crime, boosting chemicals like testosterone that can cause aggressiveness. The city of Chicago continues to deal with an outrageous homicide rate, and this summer's heat may have aggravated it.

There's a lot more that could go in this blog from this summer's heat wave.

It's easy to ignore climate change talk when the economy is struggling. And because by the time you have enough proof to do anything, it would be too late. Some say it already is.

I have no doubt that if climate change were to exist, mankind would adapt technologies. But there are problems that foresight can help you deal with.

Worldwide, climate change isn't getting much play. The Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was -- from everything I've read -- a failure. Nothing binding to anyone.