We’ve got time to protect our natural beauty and climate. Now

Don’t let the size fool you. America’s two lead researchers on climate change at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are giving their colleagues the cold shoulder, staging “do-or-die” talks that promise a revolution in the way we get information about air pollution.

Behind closed doors last year, NOAA scientists — for reasons that have yet to be fully explained — suspended accepting long-term data reports that represented the grandest, richest and most expensive set of records the scientific community has ever assembled, publicizing the move with blunt statements that made it clear this represented a sudden existential threat to their work.

This year, they’re going down in flames.

On the heels of intense storm systems this year that have dumped record amounts of waste on land and in waterways, the world’s top scientists are predicting the worst and most frequent type of wildfires in recorded history. That makes it only the latest in a series of storms that are stunting fish populations in fresh water and taking so many lives and damaging so many homes that they threaten to derail efforts to reverse climate change.

The tumultuous weather fits a pattern of increasing risks the climate scientists have long linked to rising carbon dioxide levels. This year, scientists have linked 15 extreme weather events from Hurricane Michael to flooding to fires, documenting overwhelming pressures brought on by much higher concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

Some months this year had more extreme weather — and record-breaking amounts of warming — than any year for which the long-term record is kept since the EPA began counting in the 1940s.

Soaring temperatures, record-breaking fires, epic hurricanes and countless storm systems: All of it is the outcome of burning fossil fuels and producing and releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It’s the alleged legacy of climate change.

And none of the data — especially with the new report on wildfires from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — changes that impression. And some of the changes certainly make the case.

But the scientific method keeps producing new reports with fresh arguments.

Some of the new language takes us into new territory:

Forecasters are now estimating that wildfires will burn more of America’s land area over the next 25 years than they have in any other period in recorded history. That’s an enormous amount of land that will have to be protected by massive expenditures from firefighting agencies and numerous additional precautions for property owners who live in fire-prone states.

The forests that have already been ruined by millions of acres of logging in recent decades will continue to burn more ferociously and deeply into the future as they absorb the carbon dioxide they have released.

And scientists will be able to see clearly — for the first time ever — just how well climate change has already degraded the “average” quality of the air we breathe. They say we will get smaller sea-surface temperatures and heavier downpours, both of which will lead to a broad array of complex and varied negative consequences, including increased rates of wildfires, droughts and flooding.

It’s clear from the record-breaking wildfires that the risk of extreme weather is on the rise. If we don’t start rapidly cutting our carbon pollution to lower carbon emissions, that risk will only get worse.

That’s the hard truth scientists at the two leading U.S. organizations focusing on climate change — the NOAA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research — have warned about for decades. They’ve repeatedly told policymakers about how they cannot pretend a problem like climate change doesn’t exist. They have spent the bulk of their careers looking for and developing reliable and cost-effective ways to deal with the dire risks of carbon pollution. And now they are looking at how they can get the message across.

But until more-than-six-billion climate scientists finally feel backed up by political action to stop climate change, it will be up to the remainder of us to start figuring out how to safeguard America’s natural treasures. Climate change will not go away. And it’s the last frontier in American environmentalism.

By the sound of it, we’ve got time.

Leave a Comment