As the Canadian smoke rolled into western Minnesota Friday, it was so thick it appeared to be a wall of rain showers. Clear skies gave way to opaque haze, and temperatures seemed to cool as the sun’s warmth was muted.
From a thousand miles away, the haze of a changing climate sat over Minnesota for much of this past weekend.
While the South and Southwest have been sweltering in record-breaking heat this month, seeing all-time record highs set only to be broken the next day, July has been cooler than average in our northern state. Minnesota saw above-average temperatures in May and June but nothing exceptional or extreme.
Americans aren’t alone is suffering from extreme, deadly heat.
China saw a record high of 104 degrees in Beijing. Adrar, Algeria’s overnight low of 103.3 recently was the hottest overnight low ever recorded in Africa. Residents of Italy, Spain, and Sicily swelter. “Record heat waves sweep the world, from the U.S. to Japan via Europe,” the Japan Times headline read.
June was the hottest on record globally. That record only went back three years to 2020.
June wasn’t just the hottest on record for the land masses of the world; they were also the hottest for our oceans. “One of many hotspots is in the Gulf of Mexico, where water temperatures in some areas hovered around 90 degrees Fahrenheit this week. That’s dangerously hot for some marine species, including coral,” National Public Radio (NPR) reported.
While there certainly aren’t written records to confirm their estimations, climate scientists say that extreme temperatures experienced in early July were the hottest in 120,000 years. That takes us back to a time between ice ages when temperatures were at their warmest. It is going to get even hotter.
“The last eight years were the hottest ever recorded, and forecasters say the next five years will be the hottest on record,” NPR reported.
“Deadly,” “unprecedented,” “alarming,” and “terrifying” are some of the words climate scientists have used to describe the weather the world is experiencing this year.
The world’s current record warmth is being driven not just by the greenhouse gasses from burning fossil fuels. It is also being caused by the emergence of a natural weather cycle in the Pacific Ocean – El Nino. Its formation is a contributing factor to warmer years globally. However, it has yet to reach full strength, and when it does, temperatures are expected to get even hotter.
Climate scientists have warned for decades of the impending global disaster facing humankind if it keeps burning fossil fuels. They have seen progress but not on a scale to slow our path toward more frequent deadly heatwaves, floods from torrential rainfalls, and more severe droughts.
What scares these climate scientists is that the devastating consequences of our forced climate change are becoming a reality decades faster than they expected.
“We have been seeing unprecedented extremes in the recent past even without being in this phase,” Claudia Tebaldi, an earth scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA, told the Washington Post. “With El Niño’s influence, “the likelihood of seeing something unprecedented is even higher.”
While there was just a small chance of 2023 becoming the warmest on record after the first few months of the year, there is now a better-than-even chance it will be the hottest. The 10 hottest years on record have all been since 2010. The five hottest years on record have been since 2015.
Our damage to the world doesn’t just have an impact on humans – it has devastating consequences for all life in the oceans and on land. Even the most remote areas of the globe are left with scars and the promise of future damage. Our impact has created the dawn of a new epoch in Earth’s history.
“Called the Anthropocene — and derived from the Greek terms for ‘human’ and ‘new’ — this epoch started sometime between 1950 and 1954, according to the scientists (with the Anthropocene Working Group,)” the Associated Press reports. It takes a lot to create a new epoch in Earth’s history. “This puts the power of humans in a somewhat similar class with the meteorite that crashed into Earth 66 million years ago,” it reports.
Another index that measures humankind’s impact on the world is called the Living Plant Report. It looks at the resources available globally and how quickly we are using them up. Right now, it says, we are consuming at a rate is 50 percent over what the world can sustain.
“Currently, the global population is cutting down trees faster than they regrow, catching fish faster than the oceans can restock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, and emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide than oceans and forests can absorb,” it says.
There are consequences to what we are doing to the Earth that will have long-lasting impacts on future generations.
“The richness and diversity of life on Earth is fundamental to the complex life systems that underpin it,” Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF, says. “Life supports life itself and we are part of the same equation. Lose biodiversity and the natural world and the life support systems, as we know them today, will collapse.”
When our state and national leaders take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions by supporting moves to support sources of clean energy, they are still attacked and ridiculed. When they take steps to protect the environment, they are criticized. Even though we will be hard-pressed to move fast enough to curtail the worst impacts of spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and destroying wildlife habitat, legislation to move us forward gets blocked or delayed.
We are getting frequent reminders of human-caused climate change today in what were once unprecedented weather events that are now becoming too common.