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Op-Ed: Climate change apparently hasn’t noticed that it doesn’t exist — June 2024 hit 5 billion people hard.

It really is a question of degrees.

'Problematic' Greenland polar bear may be shot
Greenland is experiencing a record heatwave, forcing polar bears to wander further for food. - Copyright AFP/File EVARISTO SA
Greenland is experiencing a record heatwave, forcing polar bears to wander further for food. - Copyright AFP/File EVARISTO SA

The current daily numbers are grim enough. …But when you read in the Washington Post that super-high temperatures are predicted for California “for 7 to 10 days”, you have to join a few dots as you read.

Small pockets of 90+ degree heat along the coast with triple figures inland are the story. “Coastal”, however, isn’t too informative. One of the areas under an extreme heat warning is Burbank, which is a mere 20km or so from the sea.

One look at this global temperature map would tell a not-very-bright house brick if not some much stupider people that there’s a problem. The rest of the world took a massive hit from the heat in June. Tropical areas, deserts, and most of Africa were in record territory. Even western Greenland had unseasonal heat.

This is still very early in the northern summer. If these heat patterns are any guide, the rest of summer, particularly midsummer, will be grim and a half.

Western Europe, which has been an unlikely canary for heat waves recently, hasn’t yet experienced a major heat rise. This area is in roughly the same latitude as Canada and western Russia, so midsummer will be the defining time for heat.

India has already had “unbearable” temperatures in May this year. The country is struggling to cope with a mix of a huge population and inadequate facilities. Current predictions for the rest of summer aren’t exactly stellar.

One of the main problems with heat waves is the total lack of preparedness. Around the world, local authorities are doing what they can with what they have.

You can’t do much if someone insists for decades that there are no problems. Despite 30+ years of weather-related disasters, the idea that the weather is dangerous hasn’t sunk in. When a selfless self-proclaimed genius fountain of truth and integrity like Trump says climate change is a “matter of opinion”, you may need a second opinion.

The rest of the world is evidently no smarter. It shows. In Australia, we had about a third of the country go up in smoke a few years ago. That had never happened before in 200+ years. Railway tracks have regularly physically buckled in the heat. Blackouts were infuriating and common enough. Nobody takes the weather for granted.

California has also been regularly incinerated for years. Russia had huge fires a couple of years ago. China is expecting more severe heat, and Southeast Asia is already experiencing major heat conditions. Wherever you look, “the weather” is a serious threat.

The bottom line here is that billions of people are currently at risk. Not sometime in the future, we’re talking about right now, this minute. Thousands have already died. Unless you live in an airconditioned palace with a backup generator and a few breezy sycophants, you probably would have noticed there’s a problem.

The health impacts of severe heat affect a lot more people.  Even a casual glance at heat health risks would tell anyone the collateral damage effects of heat are long-lasting. Crop failures are another case of collateral damage, severely affecting crop yields, making food scarcer and more expensive.

Let’s try a bit of perspective here:  

The current recorded temperatures in California and elsewhere are within about 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit of the current records for the ten hottest places on Earth. Is it really so incomprehensible that midsummer temperatures could be hotter than they are now? Temperatures of 60C or 140F were recorded in Spain in July 2023. These temperatures are definitely possible.

It really is a question of degrees.

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Disclaimer
The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.

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Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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