When heat and drought collide firestorms erupt across the western United States and elsewhere on the globe. The higher the mercury soars, the quicker the fine fuels in the forest become tinder-dry kindling, especially amidst a drought.
113 million Americans are blanketed by a massive heat dome. It stretches from the Mississippi Valley up to Philadelphia, Chicago and arches over to New York City, Boston, Baltimore and the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Temperatures are soaring into triple digits, 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (F) above normal.
Montreal, Canada, recorded its highest temperature since the inception of continuous records dating back 147 years, of 97.9 degrees on July 2. The day before, Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, registered its most extreme combination of heat and humidity.
The young, the elderly, the disabled and those that suffer from chronic respiratory ailments, as well as pets, are all at risk from this extreme heat and humidity.”
Nearly 60 big wildfires are raging across the West, including 29 large uncontained blazes. They are adding mega tons of fine ash into the atmosphere, which makes it more difficult and unsafe to breathe during attenuated smoky heatwaves.
Already, 2.5 billion people endure 20 days a year of intense heat with high humidity. With the world’s insatiable appetite for burning more subsidized fossil fuels and the Trump administration’s plan to increase fracking oil and gas almost 30percent by 2023, my colleagues predict that in the coming decade(s), 5.7 billion humans, or, 3 out of every 4 people, will suffer hotter, longer and more frequent humid heatwaves.
“For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible,” said Dr Camilo Mora, University of Hawaii.
Our body temperature must remain constant at 98.6 degrees. If we exceed it by 4.3 degrees, we are immobilized. If it rises a couple more degrees, we teeter on the edge of death. Right now on Earth, the CO2 equivalent heat rise is 4.3 degrees above pre-industrial times. All animals and plants are struggling to survive. It’s a global climate emergency!
Europe, too, is sizzling. June heatwaves lambasted the UK, Scandinavia and northern France. Glasgow, Scotland, hit 91.8 degrees on June 28, its hottest temperature ever recorded. Belfast, Ireland, registered its highest temperature of 85.1 degrees, also on June 28, and the warmest June in 172 years of record keeping.
Hundreds of English fire-fighters are battling wildfires in the moorlands near Manchester. 5 million people surrounding both Manchester and Liverpool are breathing tiny smoky particles of air, which are lodging deep within their lungs.
Insufferable heat from another huge heat dome has cooked Eurasia. It drove the temperature in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, to 107.6 degrees, a record high for July and tying its record for any month. On June 28, southern Russia also baked in record high temperatures.
July’s forecast for Europe predicts hotter than normal temperatures with more heatwaves. By the way, in 2003, 70,000 people across Europe expired from extreme heatwaves.
Moving further east, last week Xinyu, east China’s Jiangxi Province, was smothered by a heatwave. Its humid subtropical climate was oppressive for 1.5 million city dwellers.
Also last week, Quriyat, on Oman’s northeastern coast, broke an overnight low record of 109 degrees. From June 25 to 27, 2018, Quriyat stayed above 107.4 degrees for 51 hours, another hideous heat record eclipsed. Both the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea are simmering with surface sea temperatures hovering around 90 degrees.
That Arabian Sea heat is wreaking havoc to the east in India. Furnace-like temperatures and the mother of all drought’s is gripping 600 million people with severe water shortages. In 18 months, 21 cities will begin a last-ditch effort of draining groundwater as India fights for survival in its worst historical drought.
“By 2030, India’s water demand is projected to be twice the water supply,”
reported the National Institution for Transforming India.
By then, India’s water-starved population will have conservatively added 187 million for a total of 1.51 billion humans.
We are inextricably part of our mother, Nature. It’s now imperative to protect the remaining pockets of living Nature.
The way to slow down these inferno heatwaves and protect our fresh water is by reducing fossil fuel emissions immediately. Let’s end the $5.3 trillion fossil fuel subsidies now. A zero-combustion global economy post haste.
Dr Reese Halter is an award-winning broadcaster, distinguished conservation biologist and author.