“Deadly heatwaves, floods, storms, wildfires, droughts, crop failures…This is not ‘the new normal’. We’re at the very beginning of a climate and ecological emergency, and extreme weather events will only become more and more frequent.” @GretaThunberg Twitter July 15, 2021
Thunberg was no doubt responding to the tragic news out of Germany, where at least 120 people are dead, hundreds missing, in floods caused by record rains. From another tweet: “A weather service says about 2 months of rain fell in 1-2 days.” @ajplus
Say what?! Two months of rain in one to two days.
And we’re all well aware of the late June heatwave in the Pacific northwest. In Portland, Oregon record-smashing temperatures started at 44.4 C (112 F), then kept climbing, 45.6 C (114 F) the next day, then 46.7 C (116 F). Same in Lytton, B.C., where the mercury-melting started where Portland left off, 46.7 C (116 F), then climbed to 47.5 C (117.5 F) the next day, then 49 C (120.2 F). A couple of days later, on June 30th, that devastating fire began (it’s still ongoing, along with 300 other fires raging in the province) and, enabled by such hot, dry conditions, it quickly devoured the entire town.
Two of my kids live in B.C., in the Vancouver area. It’s considered a temperate climate, cool and rainy, with average June temperatures not generally rising much above 20 C (68 F). During the heatwave they rose into the high 30’s C, even into the low 40’s C (above 100 F). Most people don’t have A/C; my kids checked into a hotel for the weekend. My daughter told me people were sitting with their pets in their cars periodically, with the A/C going, to keep cool.
Henry Fountain, a climate change reporter for the New York Times, said the other day on The Daily podcast, “What you’ve got to understand about this heatwave is that it was really off the charts. It was extraordinary.”
Consequently, a scientific group called World Weather Attribution, immediately fired up their computers to crunch numbers in the week following, working overtime to provide fresh data for people to understand. Due to the amount of CO2 we’ve pumped into the atmosphere, the Earth has warmed a little more than 1 degree C (2 F) since 1880. So scientists ran models, based on the world as it is and also simulating the world as it would be minus the CO2. Unfortunately, the results were clear: there is absolutely no doubt climate change played a key role.
If this isn’t devastating enough, here’s a recent headline from Global News: “‘Nightmare scenario’: Amazon rainforest now releasing more CO2 than it absorbs”. While most of these emissions are due to human-caused fires to clear land for agriculture, hotter temperatures and droughts have contributed.
I want to sit, cry. Throw my hands up. What can one little human do in the face of all of this? Then, my daughter out west sent Greta Thunberg’s speech from the World Summit 2021, which only served to deepen my climate change depression. She’s such a well-spoken young woman, so passionate about this cause, but regardless of the attention she’s garnered? She observes that the only action being taken by world leaders is “in role playing, playing politics, playing with words and playing with our future.”
Seeking purpose and solace, I googled “what can I do about climate change?” and this came up: “Top 10 things you can do about climate change” on davidsuzuki.org:
- Urge government to take bold, ambitious climate action now. I signed the petition.
- Use energy wisely and save money too! Small household changes range from installing a heat pump to getting an energy audit.
- Get charged up with renewables, like solar, wind, hydro, and biofuels.
- Eat for a climate-stable planet: buy organic, eat less meat, waste less food, grow your own. (We’re trying to grow our own this year. So far, critters have eaten the corn and basil, tomato plants holding firm.)
- Start a climate conversation with peers, family members and loved ones.
- Green your commute.
- Consume less, waste less, enjoy life more.
- Invest in renewables and divest from fossil fuels.
- Mobilize for local climate action. “What our cities do individually and in unison to address climate change can set the agenda for communities and governments everywhere.” C40 Cities. From their website: “Around the world, C40 Cities connects 97 of the world’s greatest cities to take bold climate action, leading the way towards a healthier and more sustainable future.” Founded in London, UK in 2005, some North American notable C40 cities are, in Canada, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver and, in the US, Austin, Chicago and Portland.
- Get politically active and vote.
I’m also buoyed by decisive action being taken this week by the European Union. From the New York Times: “In what may be a seminal moment in the global effort to fight climate change, Europe on Wednesday challenged the rest of the world by laying out an ambitious blueprint to pivot away from fossil fuels over the next nine years, a plan that also has the potential to set off global trade disputes.”
I say let’s take the challenge and “pivot” (have you noticed how popular that word is lately?) away from fossil fuels. Bring on the disputes! Let’s save the planet! NOW.