It is far too hot. Over the last three years, the cool climate of these islands has spoiled me a little, but at 31.1°C/88°F, I’d be suffering even if I was more accustomed to the heat. It’s at times like this that I find it hardest not to think about what the rest of my life might look like. A fair amount of attention has been paid to the fact that this heat wave is almost identical to a hypothetical 2050 forecast run two years ago to raise awareness about climate change.
In 2020, the @metoffice produced a hypothetical weather forecast for 23 July 2050 based on UK climate projections.
Today, the forecast for Tuesday is shockingly almost identical for large parts of the country. pic.twitter.com/U5hQhZwoTi
— Dr Simon Lee (@SimonLeeWx) July 15, 2022
One of the most consistent themes in climate science over the past couple decades has been the ways in which the temperature is rising faster than expected, and the ways in which that’s causing problems faster than expected. The current heat wave has already killed over one thousand people on the Iberian Peninsula, and it is an absolute certainty that it has killed a great many people in the other affected countries. And, in case you need reminding, there are other heat waves happening around the world at the same time, and we are only halfway through July.
This is at 1.2°C over pre-industrial temperatures.
The rate of warming has been increasing, and it’s pretty much certain that that acceleration will itself accelerate in the coming decades. We are currently on track for a whole host of worst-case scenarios, and what do our political leaders do? Toady up to the same vicious monsters they’ve always aligned with, and push for more fossil fuel extraction.
Either these people actively want to bring about the extinction of humanity, or they are so senile, pampered, ignorant and arrogant that they truly cannot comprehend what is happening. Whether through malice or incompetence is irrelevant – these people are on track to getting us all killed.
In case it wasn’t clear, that’s not hyperbole. The path we’ve all been forced to take will lead to our extinction if we don’t make extremely big changes extremely soon. That extinction could happen a lot faster than a lot of people seem willing to consider.
And it’s going to be a miserable death. I’m writing this at 2am because I decided to just sleep through the hottest part of the day. The sun set a few hours ago, and it has cooled down a little, though there’s still depressingly little breeze. I’m irritable in the heat, and physically uncomfortable. It feels like it’s tiring just to exist, let alone work. Year after year, decade after decade, it’s going to just keep getting hotter. Heat waves are going to keep getting longer, and more intense, which means more and more people are going to suffer and die, and all of this was preventable.
Never forget that.
Never forget the future that these fuckers have stolen from us, and never forgive them for their crimes.
In spite of it all, I still think a better world is possible. I think we can reforge our civilization into one that can actually last, and can uplift everyone. What we can’t do is build that world in the image of the one we’ve got today. Obviously that means a more just and equal society, but it also means radically different infrastructure.
Take this heat wave, for example. Even without melting pavement, the way we live will not work in the climate we’re creating. If we want to avoid massive death from heat, we’re going to need to make air conditioning available to everyone. We also have to end fossil fuel use as soon as possible. Part of the reason scientists have been pushing for a proactive approach to climate change is that the energy transition will itself require a huge amount of energy. That means more emissions. The longer we delay it, the more we’re adding momentum to an avalanche that’s already set to destroy us.
But let’s say we end all fossil fuel use by 2030. The temperature is still going to keep rising. Even if greenhouse gas levels stayed the same, it would be at least 20 years before we reached thermal equilibrium. Ending fossil fuel use will also cause a drop in aerosol pollution, which will cause a spike in temperature, as that pollution will no longer be reflecting sunlight. And greenhouse gas levels are going to keep rising, because amplifying feedback loops, from permafrost to forest fires, are already active.
You know how futurism in the mid-20th century had everyone expecting flying cars and futuristic cities by this point in history? Well, the cars don’t seem practical, but I think we’re going to increasingly going to need cities that allow people to navigate without having to go outside.
I’ve been called alarmist a number of times by a number of people over the last decade, but I think most people have caught up to the idea that this really is an emergency. We really are facing ever-worsening heat waves and storms. We really are facing massive crop failures leading to planet-wide famine. This is happening, and it’s killing us.
And as it does, we have to keep paying rent.
Keep paying taxes to a government that funnels all that money into death and profit, while scolding us for “not doing enough”.
So we have to keep going. We have to keep surviving so we can change things. Personally, I highly recommend shaving your head. When I realized my immigration status didn’t allow me to get normal work, I decided to try out a mohawk, and I honestly like how it looks. I also am a huge fan of how much it helps me stay cool. I sharpened my razor and shaved yesterday, and I can feel every breeze leeching a little heat off of my scalp. I honestly don’t think I can ever go back to having a full head of hair. It’s just too hot.
That’s the one upside, if you can call it that. The meme going around is that we live in a cyberpunk dystopia, but without any of the cool fashion or gadgets, and medical technology. Well, we’ve got some of the gadgets, and I know a number of wonderful people who’ve been able to make incredible changes to their bodies, to improve their lives. Mainly it feels like what we’re missing is the aesthetic and the organized resistance movement.
Fortunately, both of those are under our control.
Support me at patreon.com/oceanoxia for more uplifting content like this! It’s a little sparse there right now, but I’m working on a couple things to make it a more useful resource in its own right, as a sort of supplement to this blog.
Hope if cools a little for you. I just finished a stint of fieldwork on treeless grasslands in southwest Saskatchewan. We were getting peak daytime temps of 32-34 C. Fortunately the humidity was low, it was cooling off to 18-20 C overnight, and we could shift our work to start at 5am so we could be finished and in the shade by 1pm. I and my crew are fit and (relatively) young, yet the heat drains productivity. I can only imagine how it feels for someone elderly or with a chronic condition.
In these temps, the piece of writing that sticks with me is the opening chapter of Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Ministry of the Future”. It is a horrifying sequence describing a heatwave that kills millions. The rest of the book is thought provoking, but it is that first chapter that lays out what waits for us without meaningful action.
I think it’s more a case of groupthink. People take their cues from the people around them, which in this case means the 1%-ers, the party hacks, etc. They’re all looking at each other and they don’t see anyone else getting worked up about it, and so they unconsciously believe that there’s nothing wrong. If they actually seriously thought about it, they might realize that there is, but our species is not known for thinking very much about things, and given how bad our species is at thinking (a.k.a. “rationality”), that’s probably the best strategy for most things.
A second factor is that the changes would impact how they manage things day-to-day, and they’ve spent their lives optimizing their strategy for getting them where they are. They mostly focus on the next day, or the next quarterly report, or the next election and/or primary. In the past decade or so, business thinking has gotten more and more focussed on the next quarterly report to the exclusion of everything else.
tl;dr: the future isn’t real to them, any more than it is to most of the rest of us.
Abe Drayton says
I would add that I don’t think other people are real to them either.
I think there’s a lot of selfishness going on, too. Look at all the people flying around on airplanes and creating new versions of Covid as they go. Look at all the people throwing tantrums because they drove a thousand miles to have a week at a vacation place and there aren’t enough servers at the restaurant. THEY DESERVE THEIR TRAVEL, who cares that their selfishness is burning through our resources and heating the planet.
Abe Drayton says
There’s certainly a lot of that, but I think at least a part of it is also the result of the demand that we continue life as usual. People who have to fly for work still have to make ends meet.