The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Be Afraid-Be Very Afraid of the Heat…A Book Review
Dear Diary. It’s good to see new books emphasizing one aspect of the climate crisis- dangerous heat. After all, that is what this site’s main subject has been since its inception in 2017. If my warnings and those of others can save lives, so much the better. Journalist Jeff Goodell has written “The Heat Will Kill You First,” which is a harrowing work emphasizing the dangers of excess heat brought about by our continued burning of fossil fuels. I’m recommend this book for your summer reading but do so in the shade. You might get too frightened otherwise while cooking in summer temperatures.
For more gory details, here is a book review from the New York Times:
Extreme Heat Is Here to Stay. Why Are We Not More Afraid?
In “The Heat Will Kill You First,” Jeff Goodell documents the lethal effects of rising temperatures and argues that we need to take hot weather a lot more seriously
- Published June 29, 2023
Heat, according to the journalist Jeff Goodell, has a branding problem — though unlike the desperate politician whose P.R. flack is on speed dial, heat doesn’t need to be better liked; it isn’t loathed nearly enough.
In his fast-paced new book about climate change, “The Heat Will Kill You First,” Goodell denounces the term “global warming” for sounding “gentle and soothing, as if the most notable impact of burning fossil fuels will be better beach weather.” He says that the word “hot” has too many pleasing connotations: sexy, winning, in demand. Sure, hell is supposed to be hot, too; but for those who can afford it, air-conditioning has sapped the metaphor of its power, allowing a hellish heat to seem like a matter of intermittent discomfort instead of eternal damnation.
As this terrifying book makes exceptionally clear, thinking we can just crank up the A.C. is a dangerous way to live. Goodell, who has written about climate change for more than a decade, is currently based in Texas, where “every heat wave is a nail-biter” — including, coincidentally, the one that is happening right now. In addition to the viciousness of the climate-control cycle — we cool ourselves on a warming planet by making the planet warmer — powering all those air-conditioners is like playing chicken with the electrical grid: “If power goes out for long on a hot day, businesses shut down, schools close and people die.”
Goodell’s stripped-down style suits his subject. This is a propulsive book, one to be raced through; the planet is burning, and we are running out of time. Death is a common refrain, and it doesn’t apply only to humans. “When it gets too hot, things die,” an agricultural ecologist tells Goodell. Or, as Goodell writes of creatures that adapt by moving to cooler places: “If they can’t find refuge, they die.” A hotter world puts the most vulnerable at risk — the old, the sick, the poor.
But those seemingly invulnerable people who have faith that their resources will spare them are kidding themselves. “Extreme heat situations” are becoming “more democratic,” Goodell writes. In 2021, a scorching heat wave in the usually temperate Pacific Northwest suffocated salmon and melted asphalt. A warming atmosphere imperils plants and therefore our food supply. “All living things share one simple fate,” Goodell writes. “If the temperature they’re used to — what scientists sometimes call their Goldilocks Zone — rises too far, too fast,” you can guess what happens next: “They die.”
“The Heat Will Kill You First” reads like the hard-boiled sequel to Goodell’s previous book, “The Water Will Come.” Global warming and rising sea levels are connected, with disastrous effects — glaciers are melting and oceans are heating up, causing waters to rise. And these cascading catastrophes have the same culprit: us. “Earth is getting hotter due to the burning of fossil fuels,” Goodell writes early on. “The more oil, gas and coal we burn, the hotter it will get.” He doesn’t waste words when stating this stark, inconvenient truth. The rest of the book is dedicated to showing us the damage we’re causing and what we can still do.
He describes “urban heat buildup” in Phoenix and hurricanes in Houston; he explains how sprawling development has paved over the wetlands of Chennai. Goodell and his traveling companions encounter a hungry polar bear on Baffin Island. He goes to the Sonoran Desert with a volunteer who leaves food and water out for migrants, thousands of whom have died trying to make the deadly passage across the border. After an hour of hiking, Goodell was exhausted, and he “tried to imagine wanting to come to America so badly that I would walk for five or six days across this ghostly boneyard of heat.”
More perplexing, perhaps, are the increasing numbers of Americans for whom a place of extreme heat isn’t a way station to pass through but a desirable destination in which to settle. Goodell says that the only climate risks that Americans are moving away from are storms, including winter storms, while areas of high heat risk, like the Sun Belt, have been seeing their populations grow. Goodell himself moved from the relative cool of upstate New York to Austin, Texas, when he fell in love with a woman who lived in the state he calls “the belly of the beast.” She was spending a few days in New York because Texas in late August “was just too damn hot.” Goodell went from being a guy who hated air-conditioning to someone who is (grudgingly) dependent on it.
So what can we do? Goodell talks to a scientist who is trying to draw the links between human-made climate change and extreme weather more clearly so that we can establish accountability, pinpointing who (or which company) is responsible for, say, a particular heat wave. A Parisian company has proposed rooftop terraces to ameliorate the frying-pan effect of the city’s iconic zinc roofs. Instead of eating climatically disastrous meat, we are told to consider the humble cricket, “which can be ground up and made into a protein-rich flour, or seasoned and fried like shrimp.”
But trying to adapt to cataclysm isn’t enough. Goodell recalls the 2003 heat wave in Paris, when so many people died so quickly under their broiling zinc roofs that the morgues filled up and the city struggled to find places to store all the corpses. Paris had been built in what was long considered a temperate zone and so never developed a “climate culture.” Yet adopting a climate culture, Goodell fears, can also cut the other way, with “suffering and deaths from extreme heat” becoming routine tragedies “we accept and don’t think too much about in our everyday lives.”
Complacency would only compound the horror, which perhaps explains the tenor of this book: scary, yes, though decidedly not alarmist, considering so much of what he describes is already happening. There are plenty of grisly scenes, but I keep thinking about the death of Sebastian Perez, an undocumented migrant from Guatemala who collapsed while working in an open field of boxwoods during Oregon’s heat wave of 2021 as the temperature climbed to 107 degrees.
At the time, farmworker advocates had been trying to get Oregon to implement heat rules for nearly a decade; the state announced emergency rules for outdoor workers a few weeks after Perez died. A lack of action, like the heat, is sluggish and lethal. As one advocate said of such deaths, “It’s enraging, in a slow and violent way.”
THE HEAT WILL KILL YOU FIRST: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet | By Jeff Goodell | 385 pp. | Little, Brown & Company | $29
Here are some “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks, as well as any extreme precipitation reports:
Here is some new June 2023 climatology:
Here is more climate and weather news from Monday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)