With record heat, drought, Biblical wildfires, and flash floods around the world – did we just pass a climate tipping point? The latest news & science from Canadian climate scientist Paul Beckwith, with reporting from Alex Smith. Beckwith has a couple of degrees and taught climate science at two Canadian Universities. Now he is the single biggest climate science teacher on the Net with hundreds of YouTube video explainers.

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From Ottawa Canada, we welcome Paul Beckwith back to Radio Ecoshock. There is so much catastrophic news in so many countries it is hard to know where to start. And all that comes to a drumbeat of more urgent predictions from the biggest climate science institutions. Let’s start with this:


Underlying a lot of fire news, but also higher food prices, is a long-lasting event that is hard to see, hard to report. I’m talking about drought. Extra drying is popping up in so many places, from California through the Mediterranean – even on the tropical North Island of New Zealand (newly released NASA photos shows browning of the vegetation on N. Island).

Are some places dryer because warmer winters are leaving less snow to slowly feed rivers downstream? On the other hand, some places in the Himalayas are flooding because abnormally hot weather causes record melting of glaciers. How serious is the drought in the American Southwest, and where do you see that going?


We both belong to various mailing lists from news organizations to academic institutions. I often get plugged in after interviewing scientists. After talking to Mark Parrington from the EU’s Copernicus project I get their releases. A couple of weeks ago their satellite-based maps showed the entire Mediterranean Sea surrounded by countries in extreme drought. Sure North African countries can be hot and dry, but this was right up the Eastern coast through Turkey, into Greece and right across Southern Italy to Spain. That was accompanied by record heat, the second hottest July in Europe since records began. It’s no wonder horrendous frightening fires have erupted in so many countries there.

Copernicus: Mediterranean region evolves into wildfire hotspot, while fire intensity reaches new records in Turkey



Ironically the Kemerkoy Thermal Power Plant in the Turkish town of Milas had to be evacuated in the fires. A coal plant could burn down from the emissions it dumped into the atmosphere.

According to NASA,

“More land area in Turkey has been consumed by fire already this year than usually burns in an entire year.”


It was 115 degrees Fahrenheit, 46 degrees C in Greece this past week – their hottest day on record. According to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, his country was “facing the worst heat wave since 1987”. Over 1,000 people died in that heat wave. This time, thousands of residents of Athens had to evacuate as raging fire reached the suburbs. There have been fires across Greece, burning near historic sites, and some Greek islands where firefighting equipment is scarce.


How about that fire hot spot – tropical Hawaii? The biggest wildfire ever seen on Hawaii’s Big Island is slowly coming back under control after burning homes and forcing thousands to evacuate. That was August 3rd. Apparently Hawaii has been drying out over a couple of decades, probably due to climate change. They had 50 mile an hour winds pushing a 200 foot high wall of flame through 100 acres an hour. This is wild, weird stuff for Hawaii.


In drought-plagued northern Mexico, tens of thousands of cows are starving to death. Officials had to cut off water to ranchers in the Northern Mexican state of Sonora, the principle industry there. Scientists predict the desert will take over, with up to 30% less rain than even today, and temperatures going to 122 degrees Fahrenheit or 50 degrees C. Deserts are expanding.


We have talked about drought after drought, with heat events so severe the landscape burns down. But scientists told us a warmer atmosphere would hold MORE water not less. Whatever goes up must come down. How can we see the emergence of new deserts and lose so much agricultural lands to drought, when planetary wetting was supposed to be a developing threat? Paul does some explaining.


Do you think the pandemic emergency has canceled public attention and action on the climate emergency? Have we already passed the time when we could have saved the near idyllic world humans grew into?


Did you ever play the board game called “Risk”? That is where I learned the word “Yakutsk” and where it is, in the far North and East of Russia. Yakutsk has a reputation as “the coldest inhabited place on Earth”. Some Russians go there to get selfies outside when it’s -40 degrees – the meeting point where Celsius and Fahrenheit are the same. Have you been out in that kind of cold? I have.

The lowest recorded temperature in Yakutsk is -83.9°F (-64.4°C), which was recorded in February, 2021. Just a few month later, this July, Yakutsk hit it’s all-time high of 101.1°Fahrenheit. That is 38.4°C. Residents there are not used to that. They suffered. From the coldest to the hottest within months. Should we worry?


Siberia has been swept with fires again this year. The smoke has formed into giant plumes dragged over the Arctic, and lately back through Alaska on their its around the upper Northern Hemisphere. We may see another round of darkening of sea ice, glaciers and Arctic snow. See this article in the Siberian Times.



The super hot weather in the far north melted more snow, faster than ever before. The whole ice world is giving up fast. That has meant strange floods in some Northern communities, and many more instant lakes that pop up across the Tundra. Will that increase the amount of methane coming from Arctic lands as the permafrost thaws?

We have new reports from scientists warning of record melting on Greenland this hot summer. In her Vice article Becky Ferreira reports:

“The territory’s ice sheet has shed about eight billion tons of meltwater a day since last Wednesday, twice as much as its normal seasonal melt rate, due to temperatures that are averaging 10°C higher than past summers at this time. These single-day deluges of water are equivalent in volume to a two-inch-deep flood across the entire state of Florida, Polar Portal reported.”

Paul Beckwith has been tracking the disappearance of sea ice for at least a decade. He gives us a brief update.


Did you see this report from NASA, released July 7, “Study Projects a Surge in Coastal Flooding, Starting in 2030s” – all because of a “wobble” in the moon? The actual paper in Nature Climate Change is titled “Rapid increases and extreme months in projections of United States high-tide flooding“ with Philip R. Thompson from University of Hawaii as lead author.

The Houston papers warn that city and others could experience many flood tides. A multibillion dollar flood control project called “the Ike Dike” is probably doomed to failure. They didn’t plan on that.


The politicians are so hopelessly far behind the reality of climate change, most people don’t want to hear about it any more. The most powerful industrial countries of the world, the G20 just met. Scientists warn that if the world adopts the energy policies of Australia, Brazil, Russia and China – were are headed for extinction-level heating of 5 degrees C. Of course the G20 did absolutely nothing concrete to slow emissions or prepare for climate impact. Why have climate politics become the dismal science?

All the institutions leave climate to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Conference of the Parties. That’s convenient, because neither has slowed emissions or climate change either. With COVID obviously out of control, I ask Paul if he thinks the COP26 conference will happen in Scotland this November. Paul has already arranged his pass and travel arrangements for COP26. He will go if the conference survives the pandemic.

This year there will be no Stuart Scott at the COP to bring in the uninvited voices, like James Hansen, Greta Thunberg, and yes Paul Beckwith. Stuart added a needed dimension to those COP meetings. Sometimes those alternative press conferences become the main platform really.


I ask Paul about some of the climate science papers catching his eye, and what he covers in recent YouTube explainer videos.


No doubt you have your own opinion by now. Listen for Paul’s answer.

Do you think the pandemic emergency has canceled public attention and action on the climate emergency? Have we already passed the time when we could have saved the near idyllic world humans grew into?


Last week I said watch Lake Oroville, California where the reservoir was draining down to bedrock. This week it finally happened: the power plant had to shut down for the first time since it was built. That means massive hydro power offline in California, about 800 Megawatts that has to be purchased out of state, generated by who-knows-what.


I end this program with a letter to Radio Ecoshock supporter in Australia.

Thank you for your support for this show. The summer of Hell keeps on coming here. A city of 40,000 (where my daughter lives) was put on Evacuation Alert yesterday, due to a giant fire approaching the city. Smoke has been too thick to breath there, with street lights coming on automatically at the end of the afternoon, triggered by the unnatural dark. Thankfully a couple of cooler days ended the Alert. But of course everyone still has their go bags and photos near the door.

I don’t have to tell anyone in Australia what fires are like. Meanwhile, I have been watching the pandemic spread in Australia, along with lockdowns. This Delta Variant is almost like a new virus, it spreads so easily and so fast, even in a puff of air. We are double vaxed but still being careful, wearing masks when going out, avoiding any gatherings or indoor experiences.


Some powerful science is arriving. The IPCC Working Group 1 issued it’s latest summary of climate science this week. I hope to interview the lead author, especially as he has also just published a separate study showing heat waves more and more extreme will develop on our current warming path. Listen next week to Dr. Erich Fischer from ETH Zürich for the latest.

The temperatures for next week are projected to hit 37 degrees C here. It is hard to imagine some future years will be even hotter than that. We need pressure to act from above, and a billion small lives changing – away from the species that loads the atmosphere with carbon. Above and below. As with public health, the broader public must agree to changes, while leaders lead. If one or the other is missing, we fail.

Best, Alex
Radio Ecoshock

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