Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – One of the most visible manifestations of the climate emergency is heat waves. The earth’s climate is incredibly complex, and climate change can produce freezing “bomb cyclones” as well as unseasonably sweltering weather. Still, the past ten years are the hottest in recorded history on average, and extra heat is being injected into the climate by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.
The worst thing about the heat waves that are exacerbated by the climate emergency and by extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is that we are only at the beginning of the heating of the earth. Things are going to get much, much worse before they get better.
Thailand can get hot in April. It normally varies from 85° F. (30° C.) to 99° F. (37° C.). But this April temperatures are reaching 104° (40° C.) in the capital of Bangkok, while in the north the mercury 107° F. is expected. That is not just hot. That is hot . The unusually high temperatures are being caused by a heat dome. But we have learned that some percentage of such unusual heat is attributable to climate change. Scientists have discovered that when high temperatures are combined with very high humidity, that combination will kill you dead. Thailand’s humidity is typically 64% in April.
What struck me was that the government’s way of dealing with this problem in Thailand was to order people to stay home. They are in other words encouraged to “shelter in place,” as we did here during the pandemic.
So we are only at the beginning of global heating, and we’re already seeing governments quarantine their citizens.
Bangladesh has also seen a torrid April. Dhaka reached over 105 degrees F., the highest recorded temperature in 60 years. The April heat spike endangers the country’s rice crop.
Then there are Spain and Portugal, which are seeing the kind of heat this April that typically only comes in deep summer. In Cordoba, it hit 101.8 F. (38.8 C.), a new record for this month. Scientists worry about wildfires, and farmers are afraid for their crops.
That is something we may not think about when we hear the phrase “global heating.” But one of its implications is that global food production could fall substantially.
Climate change, which is caused high amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, turbocharges heat waves. For instance the drought and famine in East Africa in recent decades was made 100 times more likely by global heating.