I watched ABC’s This Week on Sunday and during the roundtable discussion the topic turned to the hot, hot summer and the issue of climate change.
The program’s regular panelist George Will, who perhaps is the most respected conservative intellectual in the country, is also famous for being a climate change denier, and not a particularly honest one at that. So, I should have expected his response on Sunday:
WILL: You asked us — how do we explain the heat? One word: summer. I grew up in central Illinois in a house without air conditioning. What is so unusual about this?
Now, come the winter, there will be a cold snap, lots of snow, and the same guys…will start lecturing us. There’s a difference between the weather and the climate. I agree with that. We’re having some hot weather. Get over it.
Ah, if that last sentence doesn’t capture the essence of conservatism, nothing does: GET OVER IT!
Don’t have an air conditioner? Get over it! Don’t have a job? Get over it! Don’t have health insurance? Get over it!
Now, it so happens that I was also watching CNN later that day and crawling across the screen was some notation of the number of folks who had trouble getting over the summer heat; that is, they were killed by it.
I tried getting good numbers on just how many folks died trying to get over the heat, but, naturally, the numbers are hard to get right. Many factors may contribute to a death associated with the heat, besides just the heat. The Associated Press reported last week:
Americans dipped into the water, went to the movies and rode the subway just to be in air conditioning Saturday for relief from unrelenting heat that has killed 30 people across half the country.
I don’t know how accurate that number is, but there have been extraordinary heat waves over the last 30 years around the world and here in the United States, heat waves in which thousands upon thousands of folks failed to take George Will’s advice and get over it.
And I found the following last week in Missouri:
The Kansas City Health Department said five heat deaths are being investigated.
As Kansas City remains in the grips of an unusual early summer heat wave, the suspected heat deaths are soaring.
And moving east on I-70:
The medical examiner in St. Louis says three elderly people have died of heat-related illness in recent days.
People like George Will, who now has a professional stake in the outcome of the debate over climate change (to the extent there is a debate anymore; Republicans have pretty much shut it down) and the strange and extreme weather that goes along with it, can cavalierly dismiss the warnings that real scientists, as opposed to those who play them on right-wing radio and TV, are giving us about the effects of warming the planet via the world’s excessive exploitation of fossil fuels.
But the results of Will’s denial—and the entire American conservative movement shares that denial—is that some increasing number of vulnerable folks will not survive the summers to come, not to mention other extreme weather events like droughts, flooding rainfalls, and derechos.
And throughout all those events, just like throughout the extreme economic events that Americans have endured and are enduring, the conservative response will be: Just get over it.