New high temperature records set all over N. Hemisphere – major event. Author Roy Scranton on book “We’re Doomed – Now What”. Dialog with 3 top scientists M. Mann J. Francis & N. Diffenbaugh on what this global heat wave means.
In this program, the recording of Michael Mann, Jennifer Francis and Noah Diffenbaugh was recorded on http://tucradio.org/, 2018 by climatesignals.org and prepared for radio by via TUC Radio, San Francisco, with some audio editing by Alex Smith.
A DUTY TO SURVIVE
In this year of 2018 climate heat, fires, floods, and violent storms have commandeered billions of lives for a new duty to the future – a duty to survive. I’m Alex Smith, returning to my own duty here in the Radio Ecoshock studio. It’s a new season of the best climate scientists, big-picture experts and activists I can find. We will need it all.
Next week we’ll start in on the major science released this summer. Dr. Will Steffen will join us from Australia, as humans hope to steer to a safer climate harbor, before going over the edge into Hothouse Earth. The guests do most of the talking on Radio Ecoshock. I’m just the facilitator. And later in this program we will talk with Roy Scranton about his new book “We’re Doomed – Now What?” But first I want to share the horror stories around the world, as climate-driven extreme events struck around the world.
Nobody alive or dead has ever seen anything like what just happened in the past few months. No human has ever lived with carbon dioxide levels this high in the atmosphere. And that carbon load continues to climb as motorized life and fossil-powered electricity spread across the globe. The human cloud of greenhouse gases found an echo as forests released their carbon on every continent.
Here in British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada, we had our second year of fire emergency. Over 700 large fires burned through the mountains. Gigantic out-of-control blazes lit up the night, and then buried the whole sky with thick smoke, turning the day into night. Thousands were evacuated, turning on their vehicle headlights at ten in the morning.
Our annual family camping trip to nearby lake in the mountains was smoked out. I stayed inside our home for a few weeks, with HEPA air-purifying filters running 24/7. Two fires popped up within a few miles of the Radio Ecoshock studio. We had our photos and cloths packed ready to evacuate. I wasn’t sure I would be in the studio this week to make this program for you.
Thick smoke was blown down into Vancouver and Seattle and Portland. Then it blew back right across the continent, thousands of miles across the Prairies and into Ontario and New York State. Of course the smoke was rained out in the East, where a series of strange storms stoked up alternating high heat with hard-to-bear humidity and then unseasonable cold. Nobody in North America got a free pass to enjoy the summer.
And that’s the thing. During my life, summer was the time of good weather you could count on, except for the occasional thunder storm. Now in the age of climate change, summer is the season to survive.
When I was growing up, old people feared the winter. More old men and old women died during the cold weather. Now in the new climate times, the lore has changed. Old people should fear the summer. That’s true with the heat deaths this summer in Canada in 2018, and the mass heat deaths in Europe 2003. From Australia to California to Pakistan, we will dread the coming of summer. Think about that.
SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE
Before we get to our guest, let’s do a rapid-fire tour of some of the wild extreme headlines around the world, the first year of serious climate change. It came wherever you live, and I’ll cover as much as time allows.
At one point in July the whole Northern Hemisphere seemed ablaze. It may be the first transcontinental fire ever seen. Fires rages in most of western North America, in the Arctic, in Sweden, Germany, Greece, Russia, Japan, and even Australia – where it is supposed to be winter. A global fire-mapping service just blaring red all over. Meanwhile in Africa the annual crop-burning, and in the Amazon and Indonesia, slash and burn to expand agriculture added to the planetary pulse of carbon into the atmosphere. It as all in the same two weeks of July. Here is a graphic by NASA based on fires they can see from space.
Probably you heard about the massive and deadly fires in California this summer. There is lots of media and lots of money in California. Radio Ecoshock has a lot of California listeners. The situation there began with absolute record breaking heat. July 2018 was the hottest month ever recorded in California. It was day after day of temperatures above 100 degrees or 38 C, and then over 110 Fahrenheit, over 43 C.
The summer of 2018 developed into a terror for many Californians, with the Mendocino fire being the largest ever seen in that state. Then, on July 24th, at 119 degrees F, (48.3 C) Imperial California recorded “a new world record for the hottest temperature ever measured while rain was falling,” says Dr. Jeff Masters at the Weather Underground.
EVEN THE UK AND IRELAND SUFFERED IN THE HEAT
Like the fires, heat spread around the northern half of the world. The roof of the Science Centre in Glasgow Scotland melted and flowed down the walls. Roads melted all over. Ireland found it’s highest ever recorded temperature on June 28th.
The UK, normally not a home for heat waves, was baking too – at hot as 37 degrees C. Our UK listeners are not used to that at all. The Mirror’s headline blared The Mirror’s headline blared “UK weather: Killer heatwaves to become the new normal and will treble number of heat-related deaths“. Stores ran out of fans in London. Scientists from the University of Oxford said the Summer of 2019 is the future, with the UK heatwave made “twice as likely by climate change”.
No doubt you heard that Portugal and Spain also suffered through record-breaking temperatures. For a day, Lisbon Portugal was the hottest city on the planet. Greece burned with temperature and then burned with deadly fires.
THE CAUCASUS HEAT WAVE
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia hit a new record of 107.6 degrees. Night time temperatures remained high, which is very dangerous for human health. Several places in the south of Russia beat their all time heat records. According the Capitol Weather Gang at the Washington Post, Tbilisi, Georgia also set their all time high on July 4th, with 104.9 degrees, or 40.5 Celsius.
CRAZY HOT IN AFRICA
As Brian Kahn at earther.com reported: “Weather reports from Ouargla, a city of 190,000 in Algeria, indicate the mercury cracked 51.3 degrees Celsius (123.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday. That looks to be the highest reliable temperature record recorded in any month for all of Africa.”
THE ARCTIC AND SCANDINAVIA
The Arctic is supposed to be the world’s refrigerator. But on July 18, far northern Finland, at 70 degrees North, hit 33 degrees C, 91 degrees Fahrenheit. All of Scandinavia was rocking hot.
The European weather site meteoalarm.eu reported “Norway’s July temperature deviation was 5.3°C, which resulted in the hottest summer since measurements began in 1900.”
Or take northern Siberia where it’s supposed to be cold. On July 5th, temperatures were 40 degrees F above normal, well over 90 degrees or 32C, above the Arctic Circle. That’s nuts. Smoke from Siberian wildfires crossed Alaska, into Canada, and as far away as New England!
Canada was roasting. Toronto had 18 days over 30C, in the high 80’s Fahrenheit – double what used to be “normal”. The morgue in Montreal Canada went over capacity with 84 killed by high heat. Both Montreal and the Canadian capital of Ottawa set all-time record extreme combinations of heat and humidity at midnight. Hot humid nights don’t just cost sleep, they kill.
The world’s highest night-time low temperature of 109 degrees F, 42.7 C was set in Oman on the Persian Gulf.
The hottest temperature ever recorded in Africa – and that’s saying something! – was recorded July 5th in Algeria’s Sahara Desert. It was 51 degrees C, 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit. That sounds like another planet, one closer to the sun, but now it’s our planet.
And let’s talk about Japan for a minute. That country began with an extreme rainfall event which the government called “historic”. Hundreds of thousands of people had to evacuate. Over 30 inches of rain fell within two days. Hundreds died. Rivers overflowed to drown cities and landslides blocked out emergency help.
Canadian scientist Paul Beckwith explains the science behind those extreme rain in Japan in this Youtube video.
As tens of thousands of emergency workers attempted to help, they became the next victims as unbelievable heat buried Japan. Dozens died and hospitals filled up as temperatures went over 40 C, more than 100 Fahrenheit. In the third week of that heat wave, on Monday July 23rd the highest temperature ever recorded in Japan arrived about 40 miles northwest of Tokyo. It was 106 degrees Fahrenheit or 41.1 C.
And just this week Japan was hit AGAIN, this time with Typhoon Jebi, the strongest in at least 25 years. It’s more violent weather.
THE ONE-TWO PUNCH
That’s the one-two punch climate scientists and activists have feared and warned about. Japan suffered never-before-seen rains followed immediately by weeks of emergency level heat. Those are the combinations that could eventually wear down an economy, and civilization itself. We saw that combination all over. As temperatures soared health emergencies clogged the hospitals. Then the hospitals need to be evacuated due to the following wildfires, as happened in California.
By the way it was way too hot in North Korea (where there are few air-conditioners). That country declared a national heat emergency. Hong Kong went over 91 degrees F for 16 straight days. Add the pollution and imagine the stress.
As we move toward our guest interview, I’ll just add one more factor you’ll never hear in an IPCC report or government planning. It’s the fact that a small number of humans thrive on disaster and want to play a part in it. As I was surrounded by wildfires here in the studio, I was collecting news stories. Rising out of that collection was an alarming fact: arson was often part of the emergency, and so part of the carbon burst as well.
Dateline California: a suspect was arrested July 26th in the monster Cranston Fire east of Los Angeles. California: the suspect in the Holy Fire that caused 20,000 people to evacuate sent a text warning “The place is going to burn”. Greece: Deputy Minister Nikos Toskas said there are “serious indications of arson” in one of the fires that killed more than 80 people in July. As mountain-high Denver hit 90 degrees, over 32 C for 20 of the first 24 days, police arrested a man for starting the Spring Fire with about 108,000 acres, 43,000 hectares burned.
And you may not find out it’s arson until years later. Canadian police announced that 29 fires set in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia were set by an arsonist over the past four years. That was unsettling news. There were arsonists in Australia’s bush fires over the years as well.
According to the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry, over 62,000 arson fires are set in the U.S. alone ever year. An article in the UK Guardian in 2009 found arson is one of the world’s fastest growing crimes, up 135% in Britain from 1990 to 2000.
Quoting from the Guardian: “Around half of all arsonists are males under 18; the majority of the rest are males under 30.” They young males often like being outdoors, and set fires nearby. Some are mentally unfit, or have brain damage. Some hope to be heroes fighting the blaze.
Here in British Columbia, the vast majority of wildfires are started by natural lightening. Then we have vehicle fires, including from all-terrain vehicles. Those are self-inflicted wounds increased by global warming. But as the climate heats up, and dries out the forests, we can expect a small number of humans finding themselves capable of huge damage by trying to burn it all down. Be aware.
A CLIMATE PROTEST SEPTEMBER 8
You don’t have to suffer in silence. A group called Rise for Climate is organizing climate protests in many places for September 8. Find out more here.
ROY SCRANTON INTERVIEW – WE’RE DOOMED
You could say our next guest Dr. Roy Scranton has been to Hell and back. Except it’s hard to say where Hell begins and ends. He’s the author of several books, many about war. Before getting his English Doctorate at Princeton, Ray wrote for publications, including blunt blogs in the New York Times. Those pieces tied his experiences in the Iraq war with his awakening to our climate-damaged future.
The Anthropocene is the new geologic age proposed by scientists. In 2013 Roy wrote the New York Times article “Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene.” It’s a powerful article where he compared his entry into Iraq after “Shock and Awe” – to our developing future. What did he see in the war zone that could be in our future?
In that 2013 New York Times blog Scranton said “…we have to learn how to die not as individuals, but as a civilization.” He wrote “this civilization is already dead.” I ask Roy “Who are you to proclaim the death of our civilization?” His answer “just an interested observer”. Also in that powerful blog, Roay wrote “we can learn to see each day as the death of what came before”.
In December 2015, Scranton returned to the New York Times with an update, titled “We’re Doomed. Now What?” That became a book, just published by PenguinRandom House in July 2018. The sub-title is “Essays on War and Climate Change.” Now, climate activists who came up through the Peace movement don’t see that connection. Why does a war writer talk about climate? Is it possible that the military and climate activists will eventually move forward together, out of necessity?
One of Roy’s essays caught my imagination: ““The Idea of Order I Can’t Breathe.” Part of that was published in Guernica Magazine in July of this year. He writes about how very differently Russians and Americans hold the memory of World War Two. But now we have the lens of Russian attacks on American elections. Personally, I think the engrossing scenes of crime and corruption in Washington are a distraction from the major tragedy of climate disruption.
On July 29, 2018, in a talk at the Commonwealth Club of California, (hosted by Greg Dalton) Roy was paired with the Episcopal priest and theologian Matthew Fox. His web site is here. Here are three quotes by Roy Scranton from that talk:
1. “I don’t believe in the human capacity for endless reinvention”.
2. Then Roy said our stressed and complex system “is going to crash and then its going to keep getting hotter.”
3. Scranton also said: “I’m all for despair. I think it’s a good place to be.”
At Duke University in North Carolina, Roy is scheduled to talk with the celebrated Indian author Amitav Ghosh. In 2016, I interviewed Amitav about his book “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable”. Roy and Amitav has been in discussion before, so this could be very good. I’m hoping it will be recorded, and that I’ll get a copy of that audio.
THE CLIMATE BEAT GOES ON…
There was another late summer heat wave in the U.S. East, hurricane Lane in Hawaii, and the big number of typhoons to hit Japan.
Let’s squeeze in the latest with three of America’s top climate scientists talking about how climate change and the melting Arctic are part of the global heat in the summer of 2018. This recording was brought to us via Maria Gilardin of TUC Radio, San Francisco from a Skype conference hosted by ClimateSignals.org.
If I could have called three experts to hear what science can say about this new phenomenon – a global heat wave – these would be the pick. Dr. Michael Mann is the famous inventor of the Hockey Stick graph, but known as an expert’s expert on climate change. He’s been on Radio Ecoshock twice before. Noah Diffenbaugh has also been my guest and he’s very good. Jennifer Francis from Rutgers has pioneered research into the relationships between the melt-back of summer sea ice in the Arctic, and major changes to our weather in the Northern Hemisphere. You can search this site (search bar at the bottom of every page) – to find my two interviews with Dr. Francis.
Please help support Maria Gilardin as an independent radio journalist. She’s brought out solid work for years and years on TUC Radio. I count on her and you should get her podcast and DVDs.
It will take weeks of programs during this fall to cover some of the impacts of the global heat wave. Power grids were challenged or went out. Cows thinned, crops were damaged. People lives were upset or lost. There is even science showing our intelligence is lower during smoke events and that humans are beginning to experience “climate grief”.
Beyond all that, it now looks like major forests are starting to convert to grasslands. That will release yet another burst of carbon into the atmosphere, from tree trunks and branches, as well as more carbon from destabilized soil. It’s a story I’ll have to build piece by piece over this season.
Join us again next week on Radio Ecoshock for climate expert Will Steffen plus Bob Henson from the Weather Underground. I’m Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and caring about our world.