I used to think a “hot dirty night” sounded like “dancing, partying, and/or making love all night” but now it sounds like climate change incarnate.
Yesterday the sky was red/orange all day, today it is yellow brown—both days are dark for September. California and Oregon are on fire right now, which is not unusual for this time of year but the scale is unprecedented. Some fires were started by lightning and others set by arson—in either case the fires have spread and been harder to fight due to climate change induced drying and increased temperatures.
Privilege makes these disasters more survivable to some folks than others, it can be as simple as access to clean air or even to only have bad air but not have your house burned down. Or if your house does burn down, having someplace else to go and/or the funds to stay housed. A study on the impacts from the 2019 fires in the Amazon rain forest in Brazil (an area that has been called “the lungs of the planet”) found the fires resulted from unchecked deforestation and poisoned the air millions of people breathe, affecting health throughout the region including an estimated 2,195 hospitalizations due to respiratory illness. A report called “The Air is Unbearable: Health Impacts of Deforestation-Related Fires in the Brazilian Amazon” was issued in August 2020 and can be accessed herehttps://www.hrw.org/report/2020/08/26/air-unbearable/health-impacts-deforestation-related-fires-brazilian-amazon .
When climate scientists started sounding the alarm over 40 years ago, they couched climate change or global warming as possibility, but it progressively became an inevitability. At all stages, in order to maintain “professional” stance of being reasonable, several possible future scenarios and risks were provided from least to most likely—now the reality has shown even the most dire predictions and scenarios were far too mild. For example, Phoenix had over 50 days in a row that topped 110 degrees and the nights have not cooled off much—with over 12 nights remaining 90 degrees or higher. OK, but some of you are thinking “but that is Phoenix, out there in the Arizona Desert—it is not a fair example.” But this was also hottest summer on record for Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut (second hottest for New Jersey) as well as the hottest summer for the cities of Chicago, New York, Tampa, Miami, Providence (RI), Harrisburg (PA), Portland (ME), and Burlington (VT).
And still many climate scientists are not willing to admit we have passed the tipping point—the point of no return. But we have passed that point with ice sheets melting, glaciers disappearing, the rain forests being cut down and burning and the mid-latitudes drying out and burning like California, Colorado, and even Oregon this year.
Climate change is a continually unfolding crisis– decisive action to limit greenhouse gas emissions was needed decades ago and we didn’t get it, now we are past the tipping point and reaping the rewards.
Ok now for some good news on the environment… We need to celebrate victories like stopping the Atlantic pipeline project and requiring the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) to do more environmental review, those are great victories against the oil and gas corporations and the trumped up administration for their slap dash approvals of these monstrous projects. But, unfortunately, the oil and gas keep flowing and new well permits are issued every day. For example, even while we are drowning in our own exhaust and dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, so far in 2020 California has issued over 1400 oil and gas well permits and over 48 new permits for wells using fracking or other “stimulation” techniques (like cyclic steam injection).
We must keep fighting for survival despite the odds: Keep it in the Ground to protect the living planet and our air, earth and water!