Brighton & Hove Albion

Fires, floods and storms: America’s ‘everlasting emergency’ has begun

Apocalypse Right Now would be a fitting title for it, Maureen Dowd told the New York Times. This climate horror summer feels like the “first, dizzying 15 minutes of a disaster film”.

It started with the hottest June in history: temperature records were not only set in hot places like Death Valley (54.4 ° C), but also in places as mild as British Columbia (49.6 ° C) and Seattle (42, 2 ° C) broken. Charged rainstorms followed, causing massive floods in Central Europe and China and turning the streets into raging rivers.

And now we have forest fires ravaging Siberia – Siberia, for God’s sake – Canada and the Pacific Northwest, where Oregon’s Bootleg Fire has so far consumed an incredible 400,000 acres of forest, in a flame so intense it has its own weather system – including thunderstorms, which start more fires. The inferno also created a continent-wide cloud of smoke that is now reddening the sunsets and making it difficult to breathe as far as New York.

Forest fires have long been a part of the California forest environment, said Gary Yohe on The Hill, but their scale and numbers have increased tremendously in recent years. Nine of the ten largest have performed since 2012. The August Complex Fire, which broke out in August 2020, became the largest in California history, quickly followed by four more fires that became the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth largest: they were still blazing in October. And now the Dixie Fire raging in California could overshadow them all.

The likelihood that this accelerated pattern of outbreaks was due to anything other than climate change is tiny. That is the only consolation of this “catastrophic summer,” said Sofia Andrade on Slate. More and more people are now perceiving “the existential threat posed by the climate crisis”. The gloomy scenarios that climate scientists are projecting for 2030 or 2040 are “already there”.

In fact, scientists are now wondering whether their computer models of climate change were an order of magnitude too conservative, Andrew Freedman said on The Pacific Northwest heat wave that killed nearly 200 people and melted power lines in Portland, Oregon with staggering temperatures of 46.6 ° C was “so far from the norm” it has led experts to reassess , which is possible. For example, a phenomenon that climate models did not foresee is a “stuck” jet stream that, instead of moving the weather, includes rainstorms, heat waves, cyclones and droughts for extended periods of time.

The aftermath of such a disaster has been made worse by climate change, Ilan Kelman told the Washington Post, but the disasters themselves “have more to do with human beings inadvertently standing in the way of nature than with nature itself.” Natural fires, as well as prescribed burns, are actually required to clear forests of dry wood; the big human mistake is building dwellings in forest fire zones. Cities need to build walls and new drainage tunnels to limit damage from swelling rivers and rising seas. And places like Portland need to set up refrigerated shelters to protect the elderly and vulnerable during heatwaves.

“Adaptation” has long been a “dirty word” for eco-activists, David Wallace-Wells said on They see it as the task of the struggle to decarbonise society and stop global warming. But this summer’s “crazy showcases of climate horror” expose this as the wrong choice. Efforts to replace fossil fuels need to be accelerated dramatically, but it would be “criminal not to focus on tackling climate change” now that summer has become a mass disaster event. People are already suffering and dying from heat of 47 ° C, biblical floods and decades of drought. We have to help them. The “permanent emergency” has begun.

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