Climate crisis is already here and hitting hard. The month of July 2021 was abundant with extreme and frequent weather events all over the world, an event chasing event. Heat waves, storms and heavy rains caused fires and floods, as well as casualties and missing persons, and extensive destruction of houses and infrastructure in Germany. But does the story end with just weather, or are we selling it short? Should all these things be attributed to spotty and unrelated extreme events, or is something bigger happening here? In other words, why are we so afraid to admit that we are in the midst of a climate crisis?
Summer has just begun, and from late June to mid-July climate crisis is repeatedly given its signals, with new records breaking all over the globe. Peak temperatures during the 2021 Western North America heat wave in Canada and North America had risen to nearly 50 degrees Celsius, twice the season’s average in the region, and June was recorded as the hottest in history. A few days later, a heavy storm swept across western United States, with temperature measured in the “Death Valley” in California, the lowest, driest and hottest area in the United States and one of the warmest on Earth, at 54.4 degrees Celsius – the highest temperature ever measured on Earth, and equaled a record set last August. All of these have also resulted in hundreds killed and missing, huge fires, significant damage to infrastructure and destruction of homes. An equally frightening finding reported that the north western American heat wave resulted in the deaths of millions of marine life creatures.
Peak temperatures were also measured on the other side of the globe. In the city of Jacobabad in Pakistan, a heat load combining high temperature and humidity, equivalent to 52 degrees Celsius, was measured, and in the city of Jahra in Kuwait, a record temperature of 53.5 degrees Celsius was measured.
Along with the heat waves, strong storms also occured, from east to west. In the town of Atomi near Tokyo, Japan, 313 mm of rain fell in 24 hours, more than the average for the entire month of July (242 mm), and although heavy rains, floods and mudslides are part of the rainy season routine, it was an extreme event. Last weekend, Hurricane Elsa hit the east coast of the U.S. and the Caribbean, with heavy rains, strong winds and flooding, which included flooding some subway stations in New York. A few days later in parts of London it rained in one hour as much as an average whole month, and in Western Europe, especially in Germany and Belgium, heavy rains fell, and rivers overflowed, sweeping dozens of people to their deaths, and creating destruction, in sights which hadn’t been seen there for many years during the summer or even the winter.
The heavy heat does didn’t miss Israel either, and despite the regular heat of the Israeli summer, we are in the midst of a heavy heat wave climbing even higher in recent days. In an uncharacteristic move, the Israeli Ministry of Health and the rescue forces turned to the public and warned them of the heavy heat, and even recommended drinking a lot and avoiding walking the streets unnecessarily.
Undoubtedly, these records “photograph well” and raise the level of adrenaline in the blood, after all, we all like to break records. But even though they are becoming more and more routine, we insist on sticking to extreme weather terminology rather than dealing with “climate crisis”. Perhaps because it is easier to talk about something specific, transient, that is supposedly unrelated to us and not in our hands, rather than take responsibility for our actions and change habits. But even when we finally talk about the broader context, that is, climate crisis, its causes and consequences, as well as the fear that what we are seeing now is just a promo of the future, we, as usual forget in our rush to the next record peak.
Climate crisis does not begin or end with extreme weather events, even if these become more frequent and extreme. Climate crisis is manifested at every moment in small, local and global changes, in routine. These are prolonged and constant changes, which are often not even visible; The change in the average temperature on Earth, the change in the temperature range between day and night, the change in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the concentration of oxygen in the oceans. And these changes, like a domino effect, lead to further changes. The glaciers are melting slowly, drop by drop and consistently, and only recently it had been reported that the part of the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole, in an area known as the “Last Ice Zone”, is also disappearing, against all expectations.
Another report shows that the Gulf Stream driving the Atlantic Ocean water is slowing down year by year, and new research has shown that Amazon forests that were once a major factor in carbon uptake and fixation from the atmosphere through photosynthesis now emits more greenhouse gases due to fires and dying and decaying processes, thus hastening global warming. Of course climate change alongside human development affects biodiversity which is dwindling, in a process that has already been dubbed the “sixth extinction” – only this time it is a man-made extinction. Moreover, a recently published study indicates that the climate crisis is already causing around 5 million deaths each year, which is about 10% of global mortality.
These changes, which happen routinely, are at the heart of the crisis, but they are also the ones causing the extreme events. Therefore to manage the crisis we should also be prepared for everyday change and not just extreme events. Be prepared to deal with the heat and the heavy rains, for example, by adding shading to the streets and focusing on seepage of rainwater and not just drainage. We need to make changes, small and large, in our habits, for example, by reduce animal food consumption and food waste, reducing the use of private transportation and move to public transportation, making electricity consumption more efficient and more.
Climate crisis takes place under the radar, in reality, on our media and in our consciousness, but its consequences are enormous, both now and for the long term. Spot and local weather changes are a sign of wider spread climate changes, and every new record that is broken is a warning light of what’s to come. Most experts argue that we have a narrow window of about a decade left to make necessary and significant changes. The road there must begin with acknowledging facts and dealing with reality.