Monday, July 26, 2021

The Weather Is Telling Us Something

This summer the weather has been weird. Emma Brockes writes:

In the depths of winter, at the pandemic’s height, an idea of this summer took hold. It would, we told ourselves, be the summer of outdoors, particularly for children, who had been shut inside on screens for too long. Travelling abroad might be out, but that was fine. If the past year had taught us anything, it was the value of small pleasures, closer to home. On freezing March days, I warmed myself with an image of July and August in Central Park. I would read and commune with nature while camp counsellors forced my kids to spend eight hours a day playing rounders. 
The weather has not been what Brockes expected:

This impression of a sudden departure from normal was no more apparent in New York than on Tuesday last week. City camps were closed that day for Eid and we arranged a playdate in Central Park. “What’s wrong with the sun?” asked my daughter, squinting up at the sky like a badly scripted kid in the first 10 minutes of a disaster movie. We all looked up. The sun was an orange ball, shrouded in haze. The entire park, in fact, was bathed in an eerie half-light. “It looks like the end of the world,” said my friend, and did a quick phone search on air quality. “Oh, wow,” she said. At that moment in New York, the air quality index was 157, well over the 100 threshold for safe-to-breathe. It was, it turned out, the residue of smoke haze drifting over the US from the wildfires in Oregon, and the air quality in New York that afternoon was the worst in the world.

And temperatures have been astronomical:

By the end of June, heat records were being broken all across the east coast – hitting 37C (99F) in Hartford, Connecticut (unseating the record from 1934), and 36C in Providence, Rhode Island and LaGuardia, New York.

This isn't accidental. We've been warned about this for years. Now the evidence keeps piling up:

The huge heatwaves in the Pacific north-west earlier this year were, quite apart from the death toll, accompanied by some startling imagery: that of thousands of shellfish being effectively cooked alive. In California, winegrowers are – it sounds like a joke, but isn’t – putting sunscreen on grapes to stop them turning to raisins on the vine. In the UK, hailstones the size of golf balls fell in Leicestershire and parts of west London flooded.

It's about time we connected the dots. The weather is telling us something.

Image: NASA Climate Change


Anonymous said...

The weather may be telling us something, Owen, but our leaders will ignore it. The fire department's being run by arsonists.


Owen Gray said...

Unfortunately, Cap, as Mark Twain wrote, "Everybody talks about the weather. But nobody does anything about it."

The Disaffected Lib said...

Two recent items in The Guardian suggest that the "growth economy" could falter by the end of this decade, 2030, and some form of civilizational collapse could follow a decade after that.

Researchers have dusted off a report prepared by MIT for the Club of Rome in 1972, 49 years ago, forewarning of collapse and found that it's still quite accurate.

I have long criticized our leaders for their slavish embrace of perpetual exponential growth. Now I wonder if I was unfair. Perhaps they would dearly like to get us off the GDP treadmill but, whether through a failure of will or vision or courage, cannot see how to change course. They might not like this neoliberal economic paradigm more than its vocal critics but they think the throttle is jammed.

Yes, a rapid switch to a circular economy might keep alive the "soft landing" option but how would that be possible in the limited time remaining with other disruptive forces, notably climate impacts, already underway and, whether it's floods, fires and killer heatwaves, set to worsen very soon.

The weather is telling us something. I'm not sure if it's a final warning or a resigned farewell.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the links, Mound. What scares me is the thought that our leaders are resigned to collapse.