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Too hot to talk?

Aug 9, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

Even the weather has become a point of political disagreement

Meteorological data from around the country confirms what many of us already wondered: July was the hottest month the United States has ever had.

In Wyoming and lots of other states, the record-setting July nationwide followed a June that set all kinds of new records itself. June might not have been hotter, statistically, than July in Fremont County, but in terms of shock value it seemed even worse. Everything was early this year, from the crabapple blossom to forest fires.

In 1988, the year to which this one is often compared, it was only now, in early August, that the gargantuan fire in Yellowstone National Park began to capture national attention. It would burn until October, consuming 1 million acres.

But this year the fires in the West became a national spectacle in the first part of June, in state after state, including Wyoming. Talk of drought, irrigation shortfall, poor crop yields, hay shortages for winter -- all of it started early as the sun blazed away, often teamed with searing wind. This just didn't seem like Wyoming.

We needn't have been so shocked. The winter was the same way -- curiously, even bizarrely warm for weeks at a time, with an abrupt warm-up in the spring that erased what little winter we had as if it were a trace of chalk on a blackboard.

And now we've joined the nation in experiencing the hottest July ever recorded. What might August have in store, or September?

We live in an odd time in human history when straightforward facts and observations have become points of political disagreement. One of those points is, of all things, the temperature. On top of everything else, we're in an election year -- and that always makes everything hotter.

There has been strong backlash to the scientists who more or less had a clear playing field for 20 years or so on the matter of global warming and the corresponding change in climate. It's hard to say exactly when noticing that the planet was getting warmer became a political idea, or why. It has no more to do with politics than the 2 plus 2 equaling 4. Incredibly, however, even this week's report that July was a hotter month than any ever recorded in this country was met immediately with political resistance, as if it were a new tax plan or a cut in social services.

When we are so tightly wired politically that we can't even talk about the weather without finding ourselves mucked up in the quicksand of partisan debate, it doesn't leave us much to talk about anymore. That's a shame, because talking things over used to be one of this country's strengths. Just now, however, it seems too hot for that.

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