Climate Primer #20: Impacts of Climate Crisis – 3. Heat Waves

To summarize, climate crisis is the defining issue of the century. Buildup of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Earth’s atmosphere is driving global heating, while a convergence of global crises threatens to rupture key planetary boundaries beyond which organized human life on Earth would be threatened. Although the human activities which drive these converging crises (for simplicity: the climate crisis) are diverse and complex, the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) breaks down the sources of anthropogenic GHG emissions into five high-level sectors. Similarly, the impacts of climate crisis – in their variety and complexity – are almost impossible for an individual to grasp, but I’m at least going to highlight some of the key impacts in posts that will likely run for the next month or so. So far, this sub-series has covered: global heating and Arctic amplification.

Today’s post will center heat waves. As you’ve probably noticed, they’re becoming ever more frequent in the United States, Europe, South Asia, and many other places around the world (including in the world’s oceans, where massive marine heat waves have led to mass die-offs of marine animals and seabirds; here in New York City, a die-off of menhaden earlier this summer was linked to “Sewage, Heat, And Climate Change“). Here’s some of what AR5 had to say on the matter of heat waves:

Although they don’t always receive the same attention as hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes, heat waves are among the deadliest of natural disasters (increasingly, it is appropriate to say “natural disasters” or so-called natural disasters, as both the impact of anthropogenic climate change on these disasters and the ability of scientists to quantify that impact increase by the year). I won’t offer links to articles about the thousands of heat wave-related deaths across Western Europe or in Pakistan in recent years, but I trust that readers are aware of those regional tragedies, as of the growing risk that large parts of South and West Asia will become unlivable for humans by the end of this century if urgent action is not taken now to slow (and perhaps even reverse) global heating.

Finally, my friend Milo McBride has a good new piece out entitled “Too Big to Shale: The Fed’s fracking bailout could yield disaster“; I encourage you to give it a read.

Postscript: For readers interested in the health of the Hudson River and its estuary in particular, Riverkeeper is an excellent resource and has been doing good work since the 1970s.

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