So hot, turn on the aircon? No! Do not get used to hotter weather


Firefighters light backfires to slow the spread of the Caldor Fire in California on Aug 23, 2021. The wildfire, which began on Aug 17, has burned through more than 33,000ha. Heatwave-sparked fires have also been burning in Europe and even in the Arctic Circle – and the world can only expect more such disasters as it heats up. — Reuters

One of the most useful traits of humanity is our ability to adapt to anything. Whether it’s a time of drought, war, or a pandemic, humans have shown that they can get used to anything. Which has served us well in the past but might not help us so much in the future.

This is because the existential threat to humanity posed by the climate crisis is not a danger we can adapt to and simply live with.

Early in August 2021, the United Nations released the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and calling it a “code red for humanity”. The report, which was put together by thousands of scientists, warned that global warming past 1.5°C could cause catastrophic affects, like “heat so intense that crops fail or people just die from being outdoors”.

This scenario of 1.5°C warming will be reached by 2040. Or even earlier if emissions aren’t cut sooner. And guess what path we’re on? Yup, we’re on the 1.5°C warming sooner than 2040 one because we continue to do nothing about this disaster we see coming.

The reasons we do nothing are plentiful, but part of why we’re doing nothing now is surprising, I’ve discovered. I’d come to terms with the fact that people don’t care about climate predictions of the future. The effects of glacial melting, the drought conditions and the increase in extreme weather will all be felt far off in some distant future. Besides, aren’t these predictions just alarmist? Maybe things won’t get that bad?

Well, we are now living in that future. A world where temperatures have risen and extreme heat events have become more frequent and severe.

And now every summer we are treated to multiple regions of the world suffering through wildfires, headlines commonly reporting on regions running out of water (Cape Town in South Africa a few years ago, then a region in India, and just this week an area in the United States), and the Internet is full of clips of giant blocks of ice breaking off glaciers and masses of ice flows that used to help to keep our planet cool.

You like disaster movies? Good. ’Cause we’re living in one. The disaster is ongoing and the increased temperatures are causing it and yet we do nothing. This is in no small part because we have got used to it. The wildfires? That was shocking a few years ago, but then it was just news about somewhere else, and this year, it’s less shocking and just accepted. It’s summer, the world burns. That’s what happens. But that’s not what is supposed to happen.

Even this dire new report on climate change from the UN. It’s just a series of reports from any number of organisations around the world that say climate change is here, it is now a climate crisis, and it is a very real threat to our lives as we know it – and so what? Just another report telling us what we already knew. Huh, the world is gonna end? Yeah, I get it. Now let me check my crypto.

Our ability to adapt to our surroundings is working against us. Let me be absolutely clear, there is no adapting to an out of control warming world. The recent report discusses the effects of a rise in temperature of 1.5°C but we are on track for much hotter than that if we do nothing. Or if we drag our feet.

The runaway train of global warming cannot be stopped instantly. You cannot adapt to a world where the temperature continues to increase. How can you? The fire storms, the increased hurricanes, rise in sea levels, all of it will continue to get worse and worse and worse.

Don’t for one second think, “Oh wildfire season is here for some remote region I’ve never been to”, because as things get hotter and hotter the chances that your home could burn get better and better. Once the world gets to a tipping point, things will change fast and then there will really be no going back.

There is no adapting to this new world, not living as we do now. We can adapt to it after the populations of entire continents are displaced and after who knows how many of us have been killed. Then adaptation will be possible. Are you ready to roll the dice and bet you won’t be one of the ones affected by the climate crisis? You shouldn’t be.

But we’re not doomed yet. We’re badly off. But not doomed. We can still minimise many of these effects of global warming if we can put pressure on governments to make battling the climate crisis a priority. We need to not get comfortable with this climate change future, because if we do, it’s curtains for life as we know it.


Big Smile, No Teeth columnist Jason Godfrey – who once was told to give the camera a ‘big smile, no teeth’ – has worked internationally for two decades in fashion and continues to work in dramas, documentaries, and lifestyle programming. Write to him at lifestyle@thestar.com.my and check out his stuff at jasongodfrey.co. The views expressed here are entirely the writer's own.

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global warming , extreme weather , IPCC

   

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