Discover more from Talking Climate with Katharine Hayhoe
Climate Extremes Make Headlines
No more business as usual, the summer of extremes, and Climate Nan's Caravan
The planet continues to break records this summer, and not the good kind. On four consecutive days last week, global average temperature surpassed all previously recorded highs. Floods, wildfires, and heat extremes are making headlines around the world, from Japan to New England. Despite these extremes, there is still good news, a compelling and growing narrative of change. From music bands to breweries to the Salvation Army, individuals and organizations are altering what they do and how they do it, placing sustainability at the heart of all they do.
Many people, organizations, and businesses are figuring out ways to be better and smarter about what they do.
New Belgium Brewing in Colorado, a signatory of the Brewery Climate Declaration, is cutting their heat-trapping gas emissions by using electricity instead of gas to heat the steam used to brew beer. Musicians and bands like Coldplay are planning tour routes to minimize carbon and installing electricity-generating dance floors at their concerts, and Coldplay just became the first band to ever issue a sustainability report.
Nature lovers are ‘rewilding’ their land – whether it’s a pocket-sized garden in New York City or 30 acres of hillside in Ireland – to provide biodiversity havens and to take up more carbon from the atmosphere. A family in Texas, instead of selling their ranch to the highest bidder to build more houses, worked with the state and The Nature Conservancy to find the funding to turn it into a nature preserve.
The Salvation Army, the largest non-governmental social services agency in North America, is building a net zero facility called Grace Village in Edmonton, Alberta. Powered by solar energy and heated and cooled with geothermal energy, the facility will serve as transitional housing for people with chronic homelessness and provide addiction recovery services.
It isn’t just about doing things differently: Grace Village will save $6 million a year in operating costs. In Canada alone, the Salvation Army has 1400 properties, and the lead architect for this project says this will serve as a precedent for future sustainable housing projects.
Sharing these ideas, and other good news, helps make them contagious!
Climate headlines are everywhere these days and the warmer the world gets, the worse it’s going to get. With record-breaking heat, storms, and wildfires, the impacts of ‘global weirding’ are all around us.
Globally, the earth experienced its hottest day on record this past week. It didn’t just happen once or even twice: for four straight days in a row, from July 3 through July 6, preliminary estimates indicate that global average daily temperature was higher than than humans have ever recorded.
Here’s something even more shocking: these record-breaking air temperatures are the result of only 1% of the extra heat trapped inside the climate system by all the carbon pollution we produce. The vast majority of that heat is going into the ocean, which is also reaching record high temperatures these days.
In June, the North Atlantic Ocean reached its highest temperatures in over 170 years of record-keeping, surpassing the average by as much as 5C. With a naturally-occurring El Niño event expected on top of the long-term warming trend this year, scientists are worried about the speed of the changes we’re seeing in the world’s oceans.
In Canada, nearly two months of coast-to-coast wildfires have already burned an area almost the size of the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia combined (or the state of Virginia, for everyone south of the border). Smoke from many of these wildfires continues to pollute the skies across the U.S. This weekend, Fort Good Hope in the Northwest Territories hit a record-breaking 37.4C or 99F, the hottest temperature ever recorded that far north in Canada.
Texas continues to experience weeks of extreme heat over 100F that has led to at least 13 deaths due to heat-related causes. Ironically, it's wind and solar that are keeping the power grid running. Across the Northeast, deadly floods have inundated towns from Quebec to Vermont. Meanwhile, hail storms across the U.S. in the month of June have 2023 poised to be the costliest severe-weather year on record. These storms aren't getting more frequent, as far as scientists can tell, but climate change may be making hail stones bigger. The giant ones associated with this latest round of storms damaged crops and homes — and injured people, including more than 100 concert-goers at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheater last week — from the High Plains to across the South and Midwest.
It's clear that climate change is loading the weather dice against us. No matter where we live, we’re all being affected; and the more carbon we produce, the worse it will get. That’s why it’s essential to cut our carbon emissions as much as possible, as soon as possible.
INSPIRATION OF THE MONTH
Starting the conversation on why climate change matters to us and what we can do about it is an essential first step to figuring out how we can make a difference. In the UK, “Climate Nan” (that’s British for grandma) tours the countryside in a van, chatting with people about flooding, sea level rise, and what can be done about it.
Part of a campaign to bring local voices into the push for stronger climate policies, Climate Nan visits communities at risk for climate-change related flooding. She invites people into the van for a “cuppa” (cup of tea) to talk about their hopes and fears, and what they can do to tackle the climate crisis.
You don’t have to be a nan, a grandma, or a climate campaigner to start the conversation – just give my TED talk a watch and try it yourself this week!