Searing heat, violent thunderstorms, wildfires, smog, power blackouts, crop losses. These things aren't new, yet their recent magnitude raises new questions about human influence on climate.
Climate change is real, despite the stubbornness of a denial movement that shrugs off both the problem and the science that documents it. Although such change is partially inevitable, the question of human influence and how to mitigate it demands a central role in this year's political debate.
Recent heat waves, in Ohio and Michigan and elsewhere, point to greater warming of the Earth. As this part of the country basked in an unusually warm March, northern Michigan's cherry crop was devastated by early growth followed by frost. Now comes word that 90 percent of that state's apple crop is destroyed.
Problems associated with climate change are not limited to extreme events. There are more subtle signs. Growth of toxic algae begins earlier, stays later, and becomes more dominant in the western Lake Erie region.
An additional month of dredging is scheduled for the second straight year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to keep the Toledo shipping channel navigable despite excessive silt that enters waterways after storms.
Ozone-induced smog, allergies, and diseases transmitted by mosquitoes also drive up costs. Much of northwest Ohio remains abnormally dry or in a drought, even after hail and heavy thunderstorms swept across the region this week.
Lobbyists have convinced lawmakers -- at least, those who want to be convinced -- that much of the evidence of man-made climate change is merely anecdotal. They have blocked cap-and-trade legislation that would provide incentives to industry to reduce emissions related to warming.
Scientists at such major companies as Dow Chemical, General Electric, Duke Energy, and Chrysler acknowledge climate change exists. They have contributed to proposals that would curb greenhouse gases, but too many elected officials would rather gamble with the planet's future instead.
Ohio is in a unique position to be heard on climate change during this campaign. A federal appeals court ruling last week upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Ohio is one of the nation's largest users of electricity and one of the largest emitters of such gases.
There never will be a moment of instant epiphany, of universal agreement that the science behind climate change is legitimate, even if it is reflected in a catastrophic flood from rising sea levels. The prudent, even conservative, thing to do is to take precautions now.