Climate change: The summer of hell
“There’s no way to sugarcoat it,” said Tanya Basu in DailyBeast.com. “Climate change is here, and we are living in its burning embers.” The heat wave that gripped the planet in June and July was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Deadly wildfires ravaged the western U.S., while weather stations in southern states registered 23 all-time highs. Records also tumbled across a Europe baked brown by sun and drought, with wildfires even breaking out above the Arctic Circle in Norway. The highest-ever verified temperature in Africa was recorded in Algeria—124.3 degrees Fahrenheit—and in Oman, scientists were stunned by a temperature of 109 at night, the hottest daily low ever recorded on Earth. The heat is front-page news around the world, said Adam Corner in The New York Times, but it’s striking how few people are concerned about climate change. The planet is literally “catching fire before our eyes,” validating decades of predictions from scientists. Why is there no sense of alarm and urgency?
What do you expect? said Investor’s Business Daily in an editorial. Al Gore and the other alarmists have indeed been droning on about climate change for decades, with dire scenarios of global collapse. Eventually people “stopped paying attention,” and can you blame them? “You can only predict the end of the world so many times, after all, before people start to get skeptical.” One hot summer notwithstanding, “we are not doomed,” said David French in NationalReview.com. If you lived through the 1970s, you remember a time when “rivers caught fire” and cities were wreathed in dark clouds of smog. Through innovation, and prosperity, we’ve largely now solved those environmental problems, and with a few more changes—“more nuclear power, anyone?”—“even the alarmists will be forced to admit that doomsday will never come.”
Catastrophic change has already begun, said Joel Achenbach in WashingtonPost.com, and “it’s not just heat.” The same climate models that predicted today’s scorching temperatures also predicted that “extreme weather” events such as heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, and floods would become more common, more intense, and longer lasting. “Theory, meet reality.” Let’s not forget the historic 2017 hurricane season, which yielded three Category 4 or 5 hurricanes that flattened much of the Caribbean, nearly destroyed Puerto Rico, and submerged Houston. Scientists can’t say with absolute certainty that “the scorchers this summer are climate change’s fault,” said Irineo Cabreros in Slate.com, but they have determined that climate change has more than doubled the probability of intense heat waves occurring. There are also the “consistent, undeniable trends” showing the planet getting hotter “at a blistering rate,” which will undoubtedly “have real, dire consequences.”
But how dire, and how soon? asked Kate Marvel in ScientificAmerican.com. Temperatures are rising “staggeringly fast on geological timescales,” but the rate of change is still “relatively slow in comparison to a human lifetime.” Unfortunately, that makes us unlikely to view it as a serious threat worth addressing. This summer should melt that complacency, said David Wallace-Wells in NYMag.com. “We are just beginning to see the horrors that climate change has in store.” If the scientists are right—and so far their predictions have been largely on target—some parts of the planet will become uninhabitable by century’s end, and oppressive heat could cause global economic output to fall by 30 percent or more. Whether or not we choose to face it, or even talk about it, “the transformation of the planet may be the biggest, most important story of our time.” ■