I used to write a lot about climate change. Until I didn’t anymore. And that happened when I began to experience intense grief and fear over what our future looks like. I think that happened in conjunction with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which, while lauded now by many, fell woefully short of addressing the urgency of the problem and calling for rapid action.
Today, this week, as California sluggishly moves through what the San Francisco Chronicle reports as the worst heat wave in the state’s history, I feel compelled to give voice to my fears. Because holding them inside is causing such intense anxiety. Maybe venting will give me some release.
It’s so hot that life isn’t going on as usual. The world feels drained of energy, as if everything is feeding the ferocious heat. Businesses are closing early. Schools are canceling outdoor activities. And we have fires burning on both ends of the state as we enter what has become the most dangerous time for wildfires in California.
It’s getting damn frightening outside!
And it amazes me that the climatologists and meteorologists who have been working on climate models for so many years, so undershot the hole with their predictions, desperately underestimating the degree and speed with which climate change would play havoc with life as we know it.
Tuesday was a brutally hot day in the North Bay near San Francisco, with temperatures in some towns reaching 116 degrees.
I received an email from a friend who shared how they have been coping with the heat wave: She and her husband are in their late 70s and they haven’t left their apartment since Saturday. She wrote:
“This [Tuesday] morning we did not open one door. We opened one curtain for some light – NOT sunlight. Amazing how cool our place stayed. That’s the way they do it in Italy.”
On my local Nextdoor, a neighbor shared how he watched as a deer drank one of the buckets of water he leaves out for wildlife in just seconds. I also read that when the temperature is 90 degrees, asphalt is about 150 degrees, making it near impossible to walk your dog.
With triple digit temps in many areas, PG&E sent out a disaster alert Tuesday evening to all cell phones urging customers to cut back on electricity or face rolling blackouts. The grid was near capacity. Compliance with their request was sufficient that we didn’t lose our power. Today, they sent messages out at noon, warning of power outages unless the public used discretion in their use of electricity.
Experts have been predicting that global temperature would warm by about 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7° degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050 and 2-4 degrees Celsius (3.6-7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. The heat domes across the globe are blowing that prediction out of the water.
According to NOAA, a global temperature increase of 1.5° could make the hottest days in the U.S. about 5° to 7° warmer than they are now. California and other states and countries are experiencing temperature increases which far surpass NOAA’s estimation.
A new study by climate research nonprofit First Street Foundation predicts that climate change will bring more days with temperatures climbing into the National Weather Service’s “extreme danger” category — when the heat index reaches higher than 125 degrees Fahrenheit, reported CNN.
This year, about eight million people are predicted to be affected by days with “extreme danger” temperatures. By 2053, 107 million people — 13 times as many — are expected to be subjected to that level of extreme heat, according to First Street Foundation.
* People living on the west coast can expect to experience more consecutive hot days whereas those who live in the midwest, southeast, and east coast will experience the highest temperatures.
* In the twenty odd years between 1990 and 2021, southern Asia, central Europe and North America According to the CSI, [Climate Shift Index], a high temperature of 102° on Sept. 1 in Sacramento is about four times more likely to happen now because of human-caused climate change. That’s not to say it would be otherwise impossible, but a rising global average temperature makes it easier to hit 100° this late in the season. The current average high temperature for Sept. 1 is 92°
The CSI is a categorical scale, with the categories defined by the ratio of how common (or likely) a temperature is in today’s altered climate vs. how common it would be in a climate without human-caused climate change. For the positive CSI conditions (which occur much more often than the negative), we assigned a simple descriptor to these events (see table).
Where do we go from here? Just how high can we expect heat wave temperatures to rise in the near future? At what point does global heating render whole regions of the world uninhabitable?