In Los Angeles, an all time high temperature of 111 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded. Montreal, Canada, also recorded its all-time high. Death Valley experienced the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, with an average of 108 degrees. Japan set a new national temperature record of 106, and a city in Oman in the Middle East set the world’s hottest nightly low temperature ever recorded at 109. Records fell across the globe, including in places like northern Norway, where the temperature reached nearly 88 degrees.
Sound like I’m talking about this most recent heat wave? Actually, all of that happened last year in 2018. This year is on track to be even hotter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week that June 2019 was the hottest June ever recorded. It’s part of a pattern that’s easy to follow: “Nine of the 10 hottest Junes have occurred since 2010,” the report reads. “Last month also was the 43rd consecutive June and the 414th consecutive month with above-average global temperatures.” For those doing the math at home, that means that the last time we had a below average month with regard to temperature was 34.5 years ago. Ronald Reagan was president.
This month, though it is not over yet, may be on track to be the hottest July, according to a climate scientist with climate research organization Berkeley Earth. That would make it the hottest month ever recorded, as July is the hottest month of the year.
In a story we almost selected to be a Bizarro Brief, scientists will next month be memorializing a glacier — Okjökull, known as “Ok,” — which is Iceland’s first glacier to melt enough so that it has lost its status as a glacier. Researchers from Rice University in Houston will join the Icelandic Hiking Society to unveil a plaque in the former glacier’s honor.
The plaque, written both in Icelandic and English, reads as follows, under the heading of “A letter to the future”:
Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.
At the bottom is a post script that reads “415 ppm CO2,” meaning 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — the current amount measured in the air. For 800,000 years, CO2 fluctuated between 200 and 280 parts per million. It is only around 1950 that CO2 levels got above 300 parts per million, and the number has shot up since then.
What all this adds up to, including the data point of the monstrous heat wave we all experienced over the past weekend, is that human-made climate change is real, and rapidly heating up our Earth. Weather events are becoming more severe and heat waves, which the National Weather Service has found are on average the deadliest weather disasters, are becoming hotter and longer.
Ironically, our increased reliance on air conditioning is likely speeding up the process. As I wrote in this space earlier this year, climate solution book Drawdown has found that poor refrigerant management, including in air conditioning units, is the number one contributor to carbon in the atmosphere.
We can all do our part to try to reduce our carbon footprints — bike and walk more, support locally grown food, turn down the lights — but at the same time, the climate crisis we face requires us to make climate change an electoral priority at all levels of government. We must scrutinize candidates for President, Congress, our statehouse, and city and town halls to find out whether they will support climate-friendly measures, such as looking at 100 percent renewable energy, as Environment Massachusetts has proposed, public transportation, and aggressive climate mitigations.
As is often repeated, the recently-released United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned we have less than 12 years to avoid the most catastrophic elements of climate change. That was in 2018.
This year, 2019, and next, 2020, let’s work to transform our national, state, and local conversations around climate change so that they reflect the crisis we face. Let’s call our representatives and tell them how important climate change is to us. And if they refuse to act appropriately, let’s vote them out.
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at email@example.com.